OK, maybe not so long ago. But back when California didn’t grace our racing calendar, when the race after Daytona was truly the start of the season--we’d hunker down and get to it. It was probably cold. The skies were likely grey in the southeast. But the roar of the engines came to life and the race was on! While California is known for its sunny, temperate weather 95% of the year, there’s something special about February in the area around Fontana… it rains. Yep, I know you know. I know the weather service knows. Why doesn’t NASCAR know?

The California Dream: 70 Degrees and Sunny

Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away…

OK, maybe not so long ago. But back when California didn’t grace our racing calendar, when the race after Daytona was truly the start of the season–we’d hunker down and get to it. It was probably cold. The skies were likely grey in the southeast. But the roar of the engines came to life and the race was on!

While California is known for its sunny, temperate weather 95% of the year, there’s something special about February in the area around Fontana… it rains. Yep, I know you know. I know the weather service knows. Why doesn’t NASCAR know?

I pondered that question while I watched the jet dryers deploy for the third time on Sunday evening. And then I pondered some other favorite things to hate about this weekend.

Well, maybe not hate. Perhaps that is too strong a word. Things that irritate.

1.) Even though Jeff Gordon managed to give Matt Kenseth a run for his money, somehow we were left with a familiar ending to this California story. The leader crossed the line with far more than a car length between him and the second-place vehicle. I don’t have anything against Kenseth, per se, but Geez Louise! Can’t my driver catch a break? Are we destined to watch this race year after year with the same ending?

BOWLES: CAN JEFF GORDON LEAD HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AGAIN?

2.) While perhaps not so much a direct result of the location, Kyle Busch’s remarkable double-win on Saturday in the Camping World Truck race and the Nationwide race served to remind me that the smug youth still has more talent than any single person has a right to. I thought perhaps there was something familiar about him standing in this Victory Lane… I was right. Twice in 2008, Rowdy made sure that California, Kyle Busch and victory would be used in the same sentence.

3.) Wildlife… Did you see the gray fox scurrying down the track during qualifying? Now that was worthy of a camera shot. The clever little guy made a bee-line for the break in the fencing and vanished before he could be turned into road pizza. Road pizza…hmmm… furry creatures… camera shots… If I hear a certain rodent’s name one more time, I might get out my lawn mower and go on a mission to turn that new cartoon menace into chop suey. Enough said.

4.) Hooray for Hollywood! Yes, I am a movie buff. My NASCAR collection is only overshadowed by the endless array of DVDs and videotapes. And yes, who wins the Oscars is vitally important to my way of life. However, putting drivers on the red carpet to ask what designer they’re wearing stretches the imagination. Maybe Ricky Bobby broke the boundaries between Charlotte and Hollywood, but don’t you think we should leave it at that?

5.) Look at all those fans! OK, when the cameras are clearly showing empty seats, it behooves nobody to tell the viewers that the stands are almost full! 78,000 out of 92,000. That’s the sad truth.

There we have it. Year after year, Fontana provides the same show. A parade in the rain in front of more than a few empty seats with the backdrop of Hollywood giving the race a halo of unseen glamour. Hmmm…

I’m not exactly sure what I’m looking for in the “real start to the season,” but I know it should be something a bit more than what I’ve got.

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