The drivers got together at the big track down in Florida last week.
Again and again and again.
It was the precursor for today’s season-opener for NASCAR’s season, the much-anticipated Daytona 500. The Super Bowl of Sprint Cup racing starts the season for the top stock car racers on the biggest teams in the richest series in the most famous association of the sport in the United States of America.
Yes, in this curious-to-the-outsider sport, it must be explained that the most legendary race comes first, not last, like the Super Bowl in football or World Series in baseball or Stanley Cup in hockey. Not even the Chase for the Cup, still sort of new playoff ladder for the championship, can can change that.
Still, to give the drivers a warm-up of sorts and the fans a chance to watch a week ahead of time, NASCAR stages a non-points race at the big Daytona track the Saturday night prior, FOX gladly puts it on the network, and the cars go around looking for real trying to win the prize money.
Daytona is a superspeedway with long straightaways. To keep the cars from going too dangerously fast, the engines are throttled with restrictor plates. This is done by NASCAR officials in the name of safety. And yet it leads to drafting-style racing, with the drivers filing behind each other two-by-two at the critical junctures in an attempt to cut wind resistance and built better speed. And that leads to closer quarters, sudden sideways moves, and a lot of accidents.
They call it the big one.
There were several big ones at the end of the Sprint Unlimited, behind eventual winner Denny Hamlin.
Nobody got seriously hurt.
The cars, unbelievably to me sometimes as I watch them hit each other and spin and slam into the walls, are safer than ever thanks to technology and rules changes.
The walls are safer because of new materials and rules changes.
These all came after arguably the most popular driver ever, Dale Earnhardt, did after his car slammed into the wall during the Daytona 500.
There are more accidents but the sport is safer.
So odd, this sport. But intriguing, still. Go to a race live and feel the rumble from the engines when they flip that switch the first time. That’s what got me when my dear wife Karen talked me into going to Pocono Speedway a dozen or so years ago.
At one race we attended at Dover, we saw Joey Logano’s car tumble end to end over and over and over. When he walked out of it, I stood and cheered so hard.
Hamlin is one of my favorite drivers, along with Greg Biffle, Joey Logano and Brad Kesolowski. But I can substitute last year’s champ, Kyle Busch, or his brother, Kurt, into my picks in our weekly family pool at a whim. Karen usually pulls for Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth. Her fourth guy, Jeff Gordon, retired after last season. I’ll find out early today who she’ll substitute in our four-racer slate, five bucks a week, winner takes the whole pot after the champion is crowned in November.
Here’s the link for the photo of Denny Hamlin in Victory Lane.
Would you rather watch auto racing on TV or drive your own car fast, and why? If you have a favorite driver, who is it, and why? What’s the scariest moment you’ve ever had on the road?