Race Weekend Central

Happiness Is: Business & Redemption

The clamoring over having Cup drivers race in the XFINITY and Truck series made NASCAR alter the participation strategies going into this season.  The change helped insofar as that the Cup interlopers weren’t winning every race because their participation had been limited.  Oh right, that’s not what has happened.  The idea was that limiting Cup driver participation in the two ‘lower’ series would allow the regulars in those series room to breathe and to be better able to showcase their talents.  The problem is that it hasn’t quite worked out as planned.  

The XFINITY series more so than Trucks, has still endured having to hand out the trophies to Cup drivers on a consistent basis.  As such, the governing body announced that they will be further limiting how many races those drivers with Cup experience may race in the other series.  This move seems like trying to put a spare tire on a Ferrari and believing it will drive the same.  (Just kidding, we all know that if a Ferrari ever has a failed tire someone shows up and replaces it for you while you drink your macchiato.)  These new limits won’t do much to really change who wins.

The first problem is that Cup drivers with fewer than five years experience are exempt from having their racing limited.  That means that hotshoes like Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and others are free to do as they will.  Then there’s the fact the Cup drivers with more experience will likely cherry pick their races in a way that will probably spread them out over the course of the season.  This whole thing seems silly.

The real question is: What are the viewership numbers for races when Cup drivers are present versus those without?  While many may still liken the Trucks and XFINITY to minor leagues, the analogy doesn’t quite work when the minor leagues are dependent on major league players helping to foot the bill.  

Happiness Is… Business.  The racing the past couple weeks, Indianapolis and then Pocono, has to be considered, at the very least, entertaining.  Whether or not the racing was great may be something up for debate, but both venues provided a place for racing spectacle and that’s a great thing.  Watching Kyle Busch race through the field to close out the Pocono race was one of the remarkable drives in a while, as he basically Ginzu’ed the field, slicing them up on the way to the checkers.  Sure, KyBu haters can pick it apart but whatever, everything can be picked apart.

In the interim before racing resumes at Watkins Glen this weekend has been filled with the other side of the sport, and where big stories are happening.  First, Dustin Albino’s coverage on the fractured relationship between Gray Gaulding and BK Racing that illustrates some of what happens with the less monied teams is fascinating.  That many of the comments in the social media ether point toward BK Racing head Ron Devine being a problematic owner makes one wonder of his place in the sport.

Will Matt Kenseth find a home for next season or is there more at play in the sport? (Photo: Zach Catanzareti)

Then there’s the Kurt Busch contract situation with Stewart-Haas Racing, one that could be all ado about nothing, or could point to the financial stress that bigger teams are facing.  Such an issue may appear to be a small one, no different than that of Matt Kenseth but ostensibly looks more serious in regard to the monies needed to be successful in the sport.  

The larger view is that the charter system is one that needs further scrutiny to determine who and to what extent it is helping, as the business of leasing charters becomes just as profitable as running a team.  And a final note on the business side, is the notion of car counts, where only 37 cars are entered for the Cup race this weekend.  Is it possible that NASCAR is just too big?  Too many races, too many cars, too many sponsors?  

While much of all this stuff may point to some kind of nascarmageddon, that is not the case.  Rather than being distracted by who may have a new sponsor for a race or two, we are now getting to see how the long game is being played and whether or not that plan works.  If anything, while many may express derision toward the sport, now is the time to watch more closely as a market correction must be on the horizon.  

Happiness Is… Comeback.  Many of you probably haven’t been following along with what’s been happening in Formula 1, which means that it is even less likely that the testing session this week at the Hungaroring has caught the overall attention of the motorsport populace.  There is a story, however, that is worth following regardless of your specific predilection of motorsport.  

Robert Kubica has been testing with Renault and showing rather stout promise.  So what?  Well, Kubica was one of the rising stars of the sport, one with what many people in-the-know would call ‘undeniable talent’.  The problem for the Polish driver was that he was saddled with a poorly performing BMW team and then with a reeling Renault program after the “Crashgate” scandal robbed their coffers.  Yet Kubica showed himself to be a notable driver and at one point was rumored to be taking a seat at Ferrari.

Prior to the start of the 2011 F1 season, Kubica was driving a rally car for fun when he suffered a serious crash – one that left him with a broken shoulder and hip but most notably a severed forearm.  That accident looked like the end of his career as he battled to get feeling and strength back in his hand.

Now Kubica is testing a Renault with the prospect of potentially taking one of the seats for next season.  While Renault had gifted him an opportunity to drive an older car earlier this year, this test is a true measure of whether he may be taking to grid again.  So far the results have been promising, as Kubica was fourth fastest in Hungary…against drivers that are familiar with this year’s model and who have enjoyed a lot more track time.  For all the washouts and crashouts that exist in motorsport, it’s good to see someone who might be able to make a comeback.  

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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Noticed on Brad Kes’s twitter feed a insane comment from Jeb Burton of all people..REALLY JEB BURTON who was giving Brad crap about what ever his opinions were regarding Cuppers in the lower series. Brad from what I remember just made a point to JEB and Jeb did not like it. You will have to look it up…too much to print here, if it is still out there at all. The point being from my viewpoint. JEB GOT quickly to where he rose and failed at (something which his ego seems not to get) was clearly because of who his father is! JEBBY, is no WARD, or even JEFF. The arrogance that JEB put out there as if he was one of the hungry guys without a soul to notice him and complain about was absurd! He says the Cuppers ARE DENYING HIM!!!!!! JEB, imo..you proved what you are made of, and did not make the cut, in the lower series AND CUP! You had insiders helping you along for years! Shame on him! Jeb has caused more “curious” late race wrecks than any other the past year. Brad basically said, there are other “series” to shine in and mentioned the lower series. JEB WAS OFFENDED, it seems. Which offends me, after watching JEB!

The umberage I have with JEB BURTON of all people squeeling like a pig about Cuppers is the fact that he was springboarded above others into the CUP series because of who is father is, and he was a freaking dsiaterer. The “tweets” from Little Jebby wreaked of entitlement, and well pissed me off!


Kubica getting a chance from Renault to see if he can still do it is indeed one of the feel good stories of the year. While he indeed was one of the top young talents in F1, its hard to think that the injuries suffered in his crash didn’t effect him.
Best of luck to him in pursuing his goal. But to prove that he is better than some of the new talent that has entered the sport will be a huge challenge.

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