So, the season is gonna suck because there’s a whole flotilla (I’ve counted 16 in the Daytona 500 entry list) of one-horse or new start-up teams. Right? Fans left and right are bemoaning the problems with field-fillers and all the trials that come with this lower echelon of NASCAR. But I don’t think it’s a problem.
Personally, I don’t recall racing way back when where every team that started the race finished. In fact, in days of yore when the living legends of our sport were still behind the wheel, it was a weekly fact that about a quarter of the field would retire due to blown engines, exploding brake rotors and insanely loose cars. And just like today, the same 15 superstars competed week in and week out for the coveted Cup.
Field fillers don’t lower the standard of competition. They provide a depth to our sport that is missing when all 43 teams come from corporate garages.
It’s the American Dream. The vast majority of citizens grow up in this country wishing for something better than what they’ve got. Whether it’s the grass next door, belonging to the championship Little League team or achieving above and beyond what our parents did, striving for that golden trophy is part of what defines the American culture.
No, I don’t expect Joe Nemechek’s Toyota to win the Daytona 500… but he could. It’s a possibility. The potential of grandeur for the little guy – a moment of brilliance – the chance to dream.
The men and women that are bringing their hopes to the track in the form of an untried team are really bringing the best of themselves. It is one thing to sit in the cockpit of a Hendrick or Roush machine, confident in years of expertise and victory. It’s quite another to hang all your hopes on the sheer desire to strive for something unique and glorious.
Our sport is not like the stick-and-ball sports. Instead of living within the strict confines of established teams, acknowledged by the governing body of MLB or the NFL, NASCAR allows every red-blooded racer the chance to put their stuff on the line. There’s no directive to send your team to the lower levels for a few years. You are permitted to stand next to the very best. You are allowed to run under the bright lights and fly, if only for a minute.
It’s this dream that draws the one-horse wonders to the track. They desire but one thing – the opportunity to excel.
Perhaps we, as fans, need to remember that and allow ourselves to cheer for the little guy from time to time. Yes, it is always wonderful to win. But sometimes, it is just as awesome to compete.
No, the season is not going to suck. It’s going to be great!