There was an off-season for NASCAR…honest. It consisted of watching an ever increasingly intricate shell game called the Silly Season. For every week that I resisted the urge to approach the keyboard with my latest impressions of driver, crew chief and sponsors shuffles, another slew of announcements appeared in my email notifications. I wondered if February would ever get here. It seemed so far away, especially with the complete lack of winter in the Northeast to otherwise occupy my mind with shoveling and ice control.
Well, I did manage to discover the next best thing…Daytona Testing! Do you remember this wonderful brief tease in the middle of the cold weather blues? It used to happen every year before NASCAR decided they needed to control every last inch of the car, inside and out. Thank heaven for fuel injection and the two-car tandem! Without those unpredictable elements of the upcoming season Darby, Pemberton and Helton probably would have called off the parade of black and gray cars around the high banks of Daytona International Speedway yet again.
But they didn’t. And lo and behold, I walked into the living room and look what was whizzing around the track, filling the air with that reassuring rumble and purr of a high-performance engine? Yes, even the bright green of Danica’s ride made me smile….rookie! @Orangecone kept up the clever comments while Wendy Venturini shared Matt Kenseth’s off-season fu-manchu with all of racing’s truly addicted fans.
I settled in for an afternoon of single-car runs, some tandem tests and even a bit of pack racing. I really struggled to put Mark Martin in the No. 55 and kept reminding myself, no, ‘Dinger is not in the No. 43. He’s in the No. 22! There he was, speeding around the track with Keselowski as Penske appeared to have a hold on this new restrictor plate engine and air flow combination.
We were reminded that Montoya can still cause a wreck, even when nobody is racing for anything. When Junior’s No. 88 suffered some damage, he climbed into the No. 48 for a few more laps. He always did love plate racing.
Let’s face it, after even the brief hiatus that we call an offseason, we already missed the smiling faces and familiar accents of Hollywood Hammond, Larry Mac and I was reminded Rick Allen always makes a racing broadcast better. No annoying FOX kitch or ESPN self-plugging of other sports. Racing. Racing. Racing… bliss.
Now I’m ready for the green flag to fall on the season. The preseason test did that; got me all excited with a taunt and tease of new mixes of drivers, numbers, chiefs, sponsors. But the winter is not quite over. Weeks remain in our hibernation. NFL reigns supreme for a while longer. Basketball has time to find its rhythm from its belated start to their season. The Bruins have time to notch up a few more suspensions and the Red Sox have a little more time to piece together something resembling a team (Good Luck!)
There remains enough days until Speedweeks for a pleasant haze to hover over memories of the testing. Irritation caused by commercials repeated too many times and drivers opening their mouths too often has yet to settle in. These are the happy days full of anticipation — knowing that there are even better days ahead. 42 days until the Great American Race. 42 days of wind, snow, ice and believing there will be sun shining on a pack of cars flying into the corner at insane speeds. 42 days… and counting!
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