Friday, February 10, 2012

NASCAR New Year’s Day approaches

The calendar might already say 2012, but for NASCAR fans the year might as well not start until the third week of February.

That’s when the eyes of the NASCAR world turn to Daytona Beach, Fla., to celebrate the coming of a new racing season.

There will be parties, concerts and television specials, but most importantly there will be race cars circling the greatest speedway ever built at 200 mph.

Oh, I get chills just thinking about it.

Practice for the Budweiser Shootout will begin Friday to kick off Speedweeks, followed by the 75-lap race Saturday night and qualifying for the Daytona 500 on Sunday.

Sometimes when we anticipate something so much it feels kind of weird when it actually happens. That’s often how the beginning of Speedweeks feels.

NASCAR has one of the shortest offseasons of any sport, but those 97 days between Homestead and Daytona are always feel like the longest days of the year.

Now, less than a week from now we will no longer have to dream about what Kasey Kahne will look like in his brand new #5 Farmer’s Insurance Chevy or what style of racing drivers will use at Daytona this year. The lights will be on and the cars will shine as they flash by the start/finish line to kick off a satisfyingly full 2012 racing season.

This weekend also marks the last weekend without a Sprint Cup Series race until April. NASCAR pushed the start of the season back one week this year to eliminate the early off week at the beginning of the season.

That should make the start of the season even better because there won’t be an interruption until Easter. In past years it was frustrating to wait all offseason for racing and then have an off week after only three races.

Even if it was a dreary winter without much joy, at least there will be a race for the next six weeks in a row.

By that time leaves will be on the trees throughout the country and many neighborhoods will be filled with the sound of lawnmowers on Saturday morning.

Until then, let the wonderfully green grass of the Daytona International Speedway tri-oval and the palm trees in the background fill your television set for the next two weeks.

Speedweeks at Daytona always feels like the first step in the push toward spring, and there is going to be nothing better to start that push than having a full field of drivers start their engines next Saturday night.

Regardless of what the weather says, get ready to say goodbye to winter and hello to the beginning of a long stretch of exciting Sunday afternoons.

Welcome to the real beginning of 2012.

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