A new season. A new group of people and combinations. A new rules package. A new reason to hope for more entertaining action.
We can only hope that this time they will succeed.
Now, before we get all gooey talking about the good ole days when they raced door to door to the line every time, that is a false memory. Unless you were a fan of Ned Jarrett, his 14 lap win over Buck Baker in the 1965 Southern 500 had to have been as exciting as watching Tom Brady leading the Patriots against the Ardrossan High School Bisons. I hope it was a very nice day to sit in the sun to view something like that. The next best cars were a further five laps behind.
More than a decade has passed since everyone and their celebrity pet hound had it bad for NASCAR. To be honest, that might have been a very lovely blip on the sport radar. It was a time when those in the south, and a few elsewhere, those who had followed the action for thirty years met up with the celebrities who had been hooked for all of 30 minutes. Big television contracts, big sponsors, big hype and exposure, and even big expenditures were to follow. For a while. The huge television deals still have five years to run, but the sponsors are dwindling along with the fans, the ratings and the exposure. Now, they have to be concerned with those expenditures. What they need to do is capture white lightening in a bottle once more. Can it be done?
Reduced engine horsepower and aero ducts to promote tighter racing is one plan. That is the aim on most of the tracks over a mile long, with the Daytona 500 an exception. Expect a taller spoiler, a larger front splitter with a bit of an overhang as they seek added downforce and more stable handling. The guy who celebrates on Victory Lane might not be the same name as the guy in the history books. With the top two cars, and a random third, taken for inspection at the track post-race, a major transgression will mean disqualification. That means instead of a win a team could be relegated to 40th place, and it might take up to two hours before the final positions are made official. That won’t delay the post-race celebrations, but how will fans react to seeing the shaking bubbly and the tearful interview, only to discover the son-of-a-gun had no business celebrating? If that happens too many times, a lot of people won’t be very happy. While some would love for it to happen, when Tom Brady got the Super Bowl Trophy no one was going to take it away.
Teams come and go. Drivers come and go. Crew chiefs come and go, or simply move on. The big story, though, are the fans. They also come and go but will some who left come back? Will new fans be enticed to check it out so the tracks will finally stop tearing down grandstands? Will the racing be such that you wish to capture each and every moment of the experience, with no desire to fast forward to the end?
Some of those answers could start coming our way this Sunday at the Daytona 500. Here is hoping all our hopes come true.