Yo yo yo. DRINK, ye BASTARDS®. I'm just surfacing after getting back from Kansas Speedway last night and going head first into a pile of day job today. Got my project that was due today DONE, so I have a few hours to contemplate the majesty of the weekend in Kansas.
Program note: no discussion of Danica below and no Festival of Name Dropping ("Great to see [recognizable name] at Kansas")! Covered that well and truly this weekend. So let's instead talk about Kansas Mayhem with a little IndyCar schwerve thrown in at the end, ye BASTARDS.
The Cirque du Kansas -- So that was kind of different. One thing I've learned that MANY NASCAR fans abhor the MOST is long stretches of green-flag racing. Just watch The Twitter. After about 35 laps of green the "we need a caution" Tweets start. I saw some at the beginning of the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas. Then we had 14 yellows and I didn't see those tweets any more. But I did see "great race" tweets at the end. So, clearly, a lot of yellow is not a bad thing for a lot of NASCAR fans.What about fuel mileage races. A lot of race fans have a love/hate relationship with fuel mileage races. If you have pit stops, then saving fuel will be an issue in the race. Just a fact of life. Unless you have 14 yellows, and then sometimes it will STILL be an issue.
As for me, I was entertained at both races. I like races with a lot of unpredictability in them and the Kansas Festival of Sheet Metal had that up the wazoo. A driver I follow closely (Johanna Long) fell victim to that unpredictability when her front tire blew sending her into the wall. SHIT. Several other cars during the weekend had tire issues, but many teams said tire wear looked good, so was it bad rubber or a certain driving style that caused tires to blow or what? Hard to say.
The track itself, much scrutinized for how the new variable-banking pavement would perform, added to the unpredictability of the race. Cars spun on their own all day. Most drivers praised the track and said it would get better as it got older. I recall when Iowa Speedway opened up, the first IndyCar race on that track was a one-groove race that I thought was horrid. I even said if it wasn't better in year two I wouldn't be attending year three. But in the second year had a groove and a half. Then the third year had two grooves most places on the track, then the fourth year it had two grooves all the way around. Most think that's what will happen at the Kansas track as well.
Also the racing had drama involving crashes or brushes with the wall and huge comebacks. Ricky Stenhouse, who won the Nationwide race, came back from issues early in the race to win. Matt Kenseth who won the Cup race did the same thing. And Jimmie Johnson's epic charge from the rear after he spun on his own was also highly entertaining.
Finally, there was fuel mileage in Nationwide, but that just added to the drama. I'd rather have the suspense of "who will run out of fuel" than just have someone who is three mph faster than everybody just dominating. When Kyle Busch ran out of gas coming out of turn four and Stenhouse streaked by to win, that was pretty epic.
So, aside from about four too many yellows in reach race, I thought it was a good show. Definitely better than last year, which I also attended, which was a predominantly yellow-less deal. I think NASCAR had to resort to the debris cautions in that one. Odds are pretty good I'll roll back to Kansas next year to see how it goes again.
The Right Kind of Drama -- This weekend also illustrated the two kinds of drama that a racing series can go through, one good for business and one not so good for business. First, the good -- in NASCAR. Just one example of the drama: Matt Kenseth won at Kansas. Kenseth is leaving Roush at the end of this season for Joe Gibbs Racing for reasons he's not really defined. Kenseth had been with Roush for 14 years, so I'm wondering who broke up with whom (insert swirling speculation here). If the team said "Matt, go find another place to race" then this is a pretty good way for Kenseth to go out, winning two out of the last three and maybe more yet. Nobody knows for sure why they are parting ways, and Kenseth sure isn't acting like he's getting squeezed out. Here's Jenna Fryers article on the drama.
Still, it's riveting to watch a guy who is breaking up with his team start to win with said team. Kind of like when Darrian Grubb got news that he was getting the boot from Tony Stewart's team ... and then crew chiefed Stewart to a title. Grubb is now the crew chief for Denny Hamlin and Hamlin is P3 in points while Stewart is P7. So Grubb could become the first crew chief in NASCAR’s modern era to win consecutive Cup championships with two different drivers. That would be a serious "what do you think of me now?" moment for Grubb. Intriguing to follow.
The drama in IndyCar is not so positive. It's the whole "Tony George trying to Buy IndyCar" story, which I talked about here. Jenna Fryer covered well here today. Jenna argues that IndyCar SHOULD be for sale to someone. Perhaps not Tony George, who carries a ton of negative baggage, but SOMEONE with business acumen and skin in the game who can operate the series in the firm way needed to make it grow.
I agree with Jenna. Nothing like the "fly or die" sense of urgency that comes with owning a business. I own the smallest business there is, a one-man company, and I am crystal clear of the consequences of me failing to work hard, find clients, keep clients happy, etc. etc. If you don't have a sugar daddy board to fall back on, if you know any red comes out of your pocket and maybe hurts your family, or could even kill your business, you're far more motivated to make the tough calls needed to get the thing going in the right direction.
Plus, if you OWN something you are the boss. IndyCar needs a strong boss who ultimately has the final word, even if that means telling pissy team owners to get the F out. Collaboration and taking ideas from everyone etc. etc. are very needed, but when push comes to shove, somebody has to be the final authority. Business by committee don't work.
But, as others have mentioned, if something is for sale that has very little value, nobody will buy it. IndyCar doesn't even have a record of breaking even to attract bidders. Plus the Indianapolis Motor Speedway needs IndyCar to survive because they need cars to run on their track in May. Usually if you sell something to someone, they own it. And if goes belly up, well that's their problem. But with IndyCar, if IMS sales it and it goes belly up, they are screwed hard. But still, some kind of sale with safeguards to someone who is motivated to make it work would be a good move. In the alternative, as Jenna says, the board should say "Randy Bernard is our guy. We love him and we'll burn down anyone who effs with him."
That's all I got. Time to have a beverage and contemplate life. Feel free to emote below. Thanks always for reading my rantings.