Race Weekend Central

Happiness Is…Homestead, Drama & Offseason

That’s a wrap.  The 2016 NASCAR season is now one for the history books, with Jimmie Johnson now level with other seven-time champions.  Though many are apt and willing to argue with Johnson’s place in history, questioning the format under which he won each title, his name will still be inked as the one in the history books, or Wikipedia, or wherever else you may be looking.

Some pundits argue that parity in the sport has never been greater, which makes Johnson’s accomplishment(s) all the more impressive.  The argument here being that Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt benefited from weaker fields and blah, blah, blah.  One of the fun things about sports is that it is rife for arguments.

For a sport like baseball, there’s arguments between eras, like pre- and post-integration, or pre- and post-designated hitter, or live ball or dead ball.  Then there’s the whole steroids aspect that adds another element.  The disputes may be warranted but they matter little, what is cemented in history is set, no editing allowed.

And that’s how things stand in the Cup series: Jimmie Johnson is now a seven-time champion.  

Perhaps one of the more intriguing aspects of the NASCAR season involves the XFINITY series and Daniel Suarez rising to be its champion.  Teammate Erik Jones had received the lion’s share of the publicity throughout the year and he’s now fitted for a cup ride with Furniture Row Racing, but Suarez is the one who came through in Homestead.  Jones, in contrast, seemed to wilt during the finale, struggling before making a late push – one that was thwarted when Cole Whitt spun his tires.

Suarez became the first Mexican driver to rise to the mark of champion in any of the national NASCAR touring series.  While nationality shouldn’t be a marker for anything special in racing, as Formula 1 has seen all kinds of flags raised in championship celebration, in NASCAR it does seem like a big deal as no one other than an American has hoisted any of the big trophies.  

Poor Johnny Sauter, all he did was win the Truck series title, but in comparison to the other two, his win didn’t bring any caveat of being significantly historic.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that it matters any less to him or his fans.

Quite the wild weekend then.

Let’s get happy.

Happiness Is…Homestead.  Each year when NASCAR heads to Miami there’s a slew of articles questioning whether or not the series should use the venue for its finale.  Citing its location or the fact that it’s a 1.5 miler or who knows what, the questions come and there’s a sense that maybe it’s not the best place for righting the last chapter of the season.  Well the races this weekend once again proved the doubters wrong.  There’s nothing wrong with Miami, and one could argue that it deserves a second date in comparison to a whole lot of other tracks.

(Photo: Zach Catanzareti)
Multiple grooves? Yes, please. Homestead Miami may be underrated. (Photo: Zach Catanzareti)

One of the main reasons for its entertaining racing is the progressive banking.  While other tracks, looking at you Michigan, boast of their ability to have multiple grooves and allow the drivers to showcase their skill, the banking at Homestead allows for close racing.  Watching Kyle Larson run the high line, tip-toeing against the wall, while the championship contenders played things safer, showed a wild division between race lines.  That situation also seemed to raise the question of why other drivers failed to follow Larson.  Regardless, Homestead may not always put on a nail-biting finish, but the track does foster competitors to be competitors and find different ways of making their cars work.

Happiness Is…Drama.  For whatever it’s worth, and for many of you it may be very little, this past weekend provided tantalizing aspects of drama.  The late race XFINITY caution, the questionable caution in the Cup series, and even the battle in the Trucks made for some interesting excitement.  Being angry or enamored with these things is all part of being a fan.  And now there’s the offseason to bring about all sorts of new drama.

Robby Reiser is out at Roush-Fenway Racing, an organization that looks like it’s crumbling, with little to no way of stopping it.  The series still lacks a title sponsor, something that continues to perplex the media and followers of the sport, as it is in many ways an indication of a product that is lacking the cultural cache it once enjoyed.  But hey, it’s all part of the fun, right?  Every sport has its drama, and that is one of the reasons they’re interesting.  Between now and the Daytona 500, already fewer than 100 days away, there’ll sure be twists in the narrative.  

Happiness Is…Offseason.  That’s it.  The show’s over.  The curtain has fallen.  The trophies awarded.  The last laps run.  There’s nothing left of the 2016 NASCAR season other than whatever sponsor silliness may occur or following whatever Dale Earnhardt Jr. storyline may pop up (sure, he’s planning on racing, but is it really going to happen?  His concussion saga is a strange one).  Otherwise, what’s left?  Not a whole lot.

So congratulations on making it through another NASCAR season.  Some of you may not be back, dissatisfied with a product that has strayed from its roots.  Others of you may watch next year with leery eyes, wondering why you’re watching but still sucked into the enjoyment of watching drivers and cars go fast, battling at tracks all over North America.  And some of you will be excited, eager for Daytona’s Speedweeks, happy for each race weekend.  Regardless of your position, enjoy the break.  Take a moment to get away from the sport.  Enjoy time outdoors, or reading, or with family, or whatever your particular hobby may be.  Learn a new skill.  Hone an old one.  Meditate.  Don’t meditate.  Just be sure to enjoy yourself.  Tempus fugit.  

Enjoy the holidays.  

About the author

Ava Lader headshot photo

As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.

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Speaking for myself I find the moves on the business side of things to be more interesting than the on track action. Perhaps the search for cubic dollars and engineering talent is more competitive.
But of course thats just me.


“The series still lacks a title sponsor, something that continues to perplex the media and followers of the sport

Brian wants too much money! I’d be interested to know just how much more Brian wants.

And we get to look forward to more of Brian’s “brilliant” ideas on how to improve “the product”.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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