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Some things in life are simply unavoidable: clocks strike twelve daily, there’s always somebody at the traffic light who forgot what the accelerator is for, breakfast foods are somehow the most boring and exciting menu items at the same time. And NASCAR may take a winter hiatus; however, our favorite sport always returns before we have a real opportunity to forget all that we love about it.
With the arrival of the new Gen6 cars at Daytona International Speedway and the familiar sounds of DW and Larry Mac filling my living room during testing, I pondered what other inevitable sights and sounds we’re looking forward to this season.
1.) Cars that look like… cars.
Yes, even with all the primer black, bright green ethanol stickers and undeniable stock car appearance of the latest iteration of the NASCAR Sprint car, the new Gen6 looks like.. Chevys, Fords and Camrys. They do! The rear end is chopped off, just like so many other vehicles parked in show rooms. It’s refreshing to see the R&D center got something right!
2.) Pack racing at the plate tracks.
Well, the waltzing is over. With the new aero packages and bumper shapes, the prom will not make a return trip to Daytona or Talladega this year in the Cup Series. Instead, the drivers have car control — or a lack of it, in some cases — and that means three-wide, crazy ass pack racing is back.
I’m sure the Big One will still play a major role in these events, but it’ll be riveting to watch them arrive at that moment.
3.) Hours and hours of references to everybody’s favorite GoDaddy girl.
Well, there’s no denying Danica is a pretty woman. The camera likes her, and the relationship seems to be mutual. For no other reason, I’m sure the production truck will make sure to capture her attempting every mundane task imaginable as she works her way through her “rookie” season. Already, we got to see her climb under her No. 10 to inspect a part.
Imagine that… a driver checking out their ride. Clearly award-winning coverage.
4.) Brad Keselowski putting it out there that everybody else is just a wuss.
5.) Jimmie Johnson “playing it safe” and still ending up in the mix come November.
I’ll just comment on the two of these together. For years now, Johnson and Knaus have been masters of the head game. They will “try out new stuff” early in the season while logging one or two wins to ensure entry into the Chase. They don’t ever act too worried, because the No. 48 will definitely be in the postseason come September.
Meanwhile, last year it was clear that our current champion Brad Keselowski liked to utilize the more obvious frontal attack in the “messing with the competition” world. Bad Brad enjoys sounding bold, boastful, and cocky. This week he was already teasing JJ and Co. for hanging out back during the drafting test; in response, they said they were just avoiding conflict for the Lowe’s Chevy.
Yeah, maybe it is an overly conservative approach to testing out the new car. But look who has their brand spanking new Gen6 Chevy still in one piece.
It seems like Chad and Jimmie ain’t so stupid after all. But it’ll be fun to see this back-and-forth play out all season long.
6.) More jet dryer jokes than you can hit at Daytona
It’s been an entire year, and yet we still can’t seem to drop the subject. I’ve already seen more highlight reels of the most impossible NASCAR moment this year than of Brad and Jimmie fighting for the Cup. Don’t hold your breath; it’s not stopping anytime soon. Nobody is going to fail to mention the infamous explosion given any kind of opportunity.
7.) Pre-eason, pre-race and in-race segments that attempt to explain our sport to us.
Even though sometimes I bemoan the existence of some of the more simplistic tire segments, when the cars arrive in February to start qualifying for the Great American Race, I need these back-to-school bits. I shall never be able to explain to somebody else how the 500 grid is set. I don’t know if I want to give up that many brain cells in the attempt.
Now, with the Top 35 rule in the bin, all sorts of new safety equipment and the usual musical chairs of drivers, I feel like these basics are required more than usual. Rolling out the chalkboard isn’t such a bad idea, after all.
8.) The hope that we will see great racing at some point this year.
I know not every Sunday will bring an instant classic; there are more trips to the track I remember for the BBQ than the action on the track. However, there are enough edge-of-my-seat memories that I continue to tune into SPEED, FOX, ESPN and TNT as the NASCAR schedule requires.
Last year, I made the trek down the Bristol. You know, the weekend where Danica admonished Regan Smith and Kenseth actually ticked off Smoke enough to get the ex-Champ to throw his helmet. I have pics of mods on the high banks, the rubber from burnouts on the track surface and a blizzard of confetti floating down in the August night. There are memories of the sounds, smells and lights.
That one magic weekend was enough to get me all revved up for another year of racing and to look forward to…
9.) A green flag on Feb. 24th.
Yes, it’s going to happen. First there’s going to be the Rolex 24, some short track action on the Superstretch, loads of aimless on-air chatter by the SPEED crew, a batch of new TV ads, some last-minute driver and crew chief shuffles and a week of coverage all building up to the moment when we gather together at the track, in our living rooms, garages and now even on Twitter — the time when we all raise up our voices and give the command.
“Drivers! Start your engines!”
It’s going to be a great season!
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