Happiness Is…Holding. One of the things that continues to be a big discussion point surrounding NASCAR are the TV ratings. These numbers point to viewership numbers but are also the key component for gauging fan interest and the sport’s overall ‘health’. Once again, the Cup race this past weekend at Auto Club Speedway set a new low in viewership, maintaining the trend that has dogged the sport for the last few seasons.
Because the whole point of this column is to attempt to find the brighter side of things, the silver lining, the positive reasons that we pay attention to this sport, the one thing that should be noted is: the Cup race was the most popular sporting event outside of the NCAA basketball tournament. Hence, in many ways, everyone involved shouldn’t be feeling shameful, or slipping into despair, or dousing themselves in gasoline with a match ready to set themselves alight.
No. March Madness is a monster, one that takes over people’s attention with an onslaught of media coverage and the accompaniment of the massively popular brackets, a de facto play-along game. That NASCAR was holding its own against college basketball before the tournament started should be recognized and embraced. What will have to be watched more closely are the numbers attached to the summer races when the sense of TV competition is comparably less.
Happiness Is…Trucks. A long, long time ago, in a land of peaches and honey, some strange vehicles raced on worn and friendly track. These peculiar vehicles, sort of like cars but different, were left behind while their brethren rushed west seeking to conquer the faraway lands. But behold, the cars have returned to their eastern abodes and with them have brought back to life the odd racing machines.
That’s right, after almost a month of slumber, the Camping World Truck Series returns to play at Martinsville, the short track that can. Can’t remember who won the last truck race? Neither can most people, but that doesn’t matter, and you can blame that on the quirky schedule that NASCAR develops (to seemingly drive the series into the ground).
Even with everything that NASCAR has tried to do to the series, see: caution clock, it continues to offer some exciting racing. That the drivers have been sitting on the proverbial sidelines getting their internal engines revved just adds to the elements that should compound the race. No doubt they’ll be some early wrecks but perhaps the trucks can give the cars a run for their money.
Happiness Is…Edsel. Honorary starters and drivers are a common and varied thing in NASCAR. Just last week, Katilin Olson, of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The Mick, served as the honorary pace car driver for the Cup event. This weekend, the position is given to someone with automotive and racing roots: Edsel Ford.
What makes Ford’s appearance interesting isn’t the fact that he’s the great grandson of Henry Ford, or that he’s on the Board of Trustees at the Ford Motor Co. No, what is particularly weird about Ford’s visiting and pacing the field at Martinsville is that: a) he has never visited the track before, and b) he has never driven a pace-car before.
Don’t these two things seem odd for a person whose life has been centered around the automobile? While it’s doubtful that anyone gets geeked up for whoever the honorary person is at each event, this one seems like it was a long time coming, and in many ways at a track where history is a focus, having a person who figures in the overall auto history of the country is rather fitting.
Happiness Is…Time. For those of you…ha, whatever. Only 238,000 people tuned in to NBCSN for the Formula 1 race broadcast from Melbourne, Australia, last weekend. Those numbers are paltry, yet they are still up from last year’s iteration, where the race garnered 221,000. That the time zones and race airing came in the middle of the night for most people surely hindered the viewership as has been discussed by others.
What is funny is that NBCSN is happy about the results because they can point to an increase in viewers and one that continues to show a slow, steady climb of the popularity of the sport. Ferrari’s win certainly should help the popularity. The change in leadership will be something to continue to watch as the influence unfolds during the season. Throw in the fact that Justin Timberlake (ooh, he’s so dreamy) will be performing at Circuit of the Americas when F1 visits Austin, Texas, later this year, and everyone should be happy.
About the author
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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