Race Weekend Central

Fan’s View: Looking Forward to the 2010 NASCAR Season

On Thursday afternoon, I was enjoying – yes, actually watching and enjoying – last year’s Coke Zero 400. Kyle Busch was leading that 4th of July spectacular we enjoy each year at sunny Daytona, with the announcers reminding me just what an incredible year M&M’s boy was having… and then, SPEED interrupted my fun and cut to the NASCAR Media Circus Meet Your CEO Day.

Oh, well. As the dutiful little NASCAR writer that I am, I sat through the entire 90-minute Q&A session, hanging on every word. During the broadcast, there was talk of spoilers, bump-drafting, restrictor plates and some minor discussion of fuel injection. I ate it up. I looked at my calendar and counted the days to the Shootout. I could almost hear the roar of the engines. And then, Wendy Venturini gave a smiling signoff, promising all the good things to come during the upcoming season.

I walked away from the interview feeling a little happy and more than a little excited. Unlike many of my peers, I have not spent the past week wandering through garages and infields. My life has moved forward full of snow, cold and the interminable winter. I really desired something to give a spark to my world – and NASCAR looked like it would do the trick.

Yet on Friday morning I woke up, turned on the telly, and frowned. Running in a little ticker at the bottom of the screen, it said, “NASCAR approves more crashes.”

I sank into my couch and growled. It just had to happen, didn’t it? I was not going to be allowed to enjoy even a single day of blissful anticipation for the racing season.

But there’s more. The little sports reporter made his five-sentence segment about how NASCAR, by legalizing bump-drafting, was guaranteeing more wrecks… and apparently, that’s the only thing NASCAR fans want, so there we go.

Already, the rot was setting in.

Honestly, couldn’t we just leave that little jab at my sport in the closet where it belonged? At least until the field wrecked on the last lap of the Daytona 500 because somebody bumped somebody else in an effort to push them past the leader for the checkered flag? Oh, wait…  that’s been happening regularly as long as I can remember at plate tracks, bumping allowed or not.

See? There went my happy-new-season fan. I was now slouched on the couch, arms crossed over my chest, and just pissed off at a completely misleading and poorly executed summary of Thursday’s proceedings.

NASCAR is one of the few joys in my life, complete with all its myriad imperfections. In fact, it’s those quirks, mistakes and ever-undulating regulations that are part of the complete entertainment package. It’s at this time in late January, when the paint jobs are hot off the press and I have yet to figure out who is driving which number, that I tend to reach into my memory to find those racing moments that transformed me into the racing fan that I am.

I look forward to the first flyover, the echoed “amen” off the stands, and “Drivers, start your engines!” That anticipation is part of the glory of a new year. I try to shelve the lingering aftereffects of last season, focusing on the new and untried. For there has to be a journeyman who will have their breakout season, a rookie who will shine, a veteran who will stumble and a media darling who will say something they shouldn’t. But those stories are unwritten. The jeers and cheers have yet to be earned.

So, I beg of you, media members and fans alike, before you fire up the “What was NASCAR thinking?!” machine… could we all take a moment to look forward and smile? For there’s a reason that you turn on that television each week between February and November. I know it… and so do you.

We love racing.

And that is a good thing.

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