Race Weekend Central

Happiness Is: Silliness, Inevitability & Overload

The past Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race was somewhat of anomaly for the series.  The past few weeks had been a testament to messing with modern TV scheduling as the races ran well beyond a half hour after their scripted time.  That the races have been running long is a concern that should merit some attention during the offseason – especially as the breaks between stages sure look to be something that can be remedied.  

One of the flipside aspects of this issue is that with the races starting later in the day, many fans on the east coast may set about to cooking and eating dinner, making the sport a secondary concern and establishing a pattern of nonchalance toward the series.  Sure, many may DVR the race but the dinner interruption is likely real for many in the eastern time zone.

But Michigan gave us something different: a race that ended before the time limit.  It actually can be done!  Who knew?  The jesting here is to point out that some of these events are just too damn long and that races likely shouldn’t be an all-day affair.  The cup race this weekend at Sonoma should be an interesting challenge to that notion.  

With Dale Earnhardt Jr looking to the future, who’s going to take his ride? (Photo: Russell Labounty/NKP)

Happiness Is… Silliness.  This upcoming Silly Season may be one of the best we’ve had in year; if you’re looking for intrigue in that department.  When Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced his retirement, it was but just one domino in what looks to be a wild market for drivers and teams.  While Earnhardt has endorsed Alex Bowman for the seat there may be question as to whether he’s ready for it.

There’s so much more to play out in this regard.  While it’s likely that Brad Keselowski is going to re-sign with Team Penske, would it be a surprise if Hendrick Motorsports went after the driver that was formerly in their stable with JR Motorsports?  Another name that has been mentioned to take over No. 88 is Matt Kenseth whose contract with Joe Gibbs Racing expires at the end of the year.  Then there’s always the Carl Edwards rumors, who may or may not have been associated with every car except the 48.  

All of that is just for one car.  The fact that Kasey Kahne is struggling for sponsorship may mean he’s gone.  Here’s the kicker, rather than contract, it makes sense for Hendrick to keep that car alive even with a so-so driver, because if the car isn’t raced or the charter behind it not leased out, then NASCAR takes back the charter with no compensation.  That means that even if contraction is a smart way to go from one business perspective, losing charters is a different issue – something the likes of Stewart-Haas Racing may not want to do.  

That just a scant few names have been mentioned belies the fact that Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, Darrell Wallace Jr., Kurt Busch, Danica Patrick, and Carl Edwards are all names being mentioned in the shuffling or non-shuffling of seats, nevermind those in XFINITY or Trucks.  Should be interesting.  

Happiness Is… Inevitability.  Jimmie Johnson re-signed with Hendrick Motorsports last week.  The only thing surprising about his three-year contract extension is that it was even news to begin with.  Was there any doubt that the seven-time champion would be continuing his tenure with HMS?  Not really.

What is surprising is that Johnson didn’t go out and win at Michigan.  The only thing that may have been interesting regarding Johnson’s contract situation is whether or not Lowe’s would re-up.  At this point, Johnson and HMS are the model of a franchise with no peers.  His three year deal should give him enough time to pass his former teammate Jeff Gordon and take over third in wins, possibly second, while also possibly (likely) setting the new record for championships in Cup.  

One caveat.  If anything could be learned from this past weekend, it’s that Michigan is Johnson’s unhappy place.  For fans who keep looking for ways to keep Johnson from reaching title #8, the answer is to simply make the playoffs 10 races held at Michigan.  Maybe

Happiness Is… Overload.  This weekend may not have the cache of Memorial Day weekend with the best day in motorsports but so what.  Instead, this weekend just happens to be a wonderful alignment that is full of racing for three days.  Formula 1.  Trucks.  XFINITY.  IndyCar.  Cup.  And all good tracks.

The battle between Ferrari and Mercedes resumes on the streets of Baku in Azerbaijan.  This race is the second at the street-circuit and one that features the longest straight in the sport.  The tight confines looked as though they’d encourage a number of accidents last year but nary a one.  That doesn’t mean they’ll play as friendly this time around.

Both Trucks and XFINITY are racing at a track that should have been included on the Cup series years ago, Iowa Speedway.  It’s rather disappointing that Cup doesn’t visit because the races held there have tended, overall, to be good ones.  Keeping the motorsport action in the center of the country, IndyCar returns to Road America in Wisconsin.  The series hadn’t visited the track in a long time before making their way back last year.  It’s a track that needs to remain on the schedule so fan reaction will be important.  Then there’s Cup, doing that weird thing they do just twice a year, turn both left and right.  The racing at Sonoma has been rather wild the past few years and the hope is that trend maintains.  

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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