No one drags out a season opener like the crew in Daytona does. NASCAR parcels out a handful of races over a two week period from the end of January until the middle of February. Speed Weeks is the official end of winter for a race fan. The days are getting longer, and the sun is much warmer in Daytona than you would expect. Hold off on that last one, going to be in the 30s at night down there this weekend.
NASCAR has finally determined that the economy may be affecting the live attendance at their events, but being broke should not keep fans away from their TV sets. So, the powers that be have brainstormed a bunch of new rules to enhance the competition. Some of the new twists are promising, and I bet that we will see more changes during the year if the ratings stay down. NASCAR has never minded changing rules as they go along.
Where are the next generation of drivers coming from? So far this year there are two drivers signed on as Rookie of the Year candidates. Terry Cook and Kevin Conway. Both are with underfunded teams and neither will be in the Daytona 500. I'll also predict neither one is around when the series returns to Daytona in July.
Two new TV series this off season have stoked interest in auto racing. 'Madhouse' is a recap of last year's wild modified series at Bowman-Gray Stadium. By far, the best racing show ever. The other show is not bad either. 'Jimmie Johnson 24/7' on HBO follows JJ and Chad Knaus for the month leading up to the Daytona 500. This show gave a great behind the scenes look at the champ and his team.
Fox TV airs the first half of the season, and just like Groundhog Day, nothing's changed. After wincing through their Bud Shootout coverage last week, I can see that they think the way to deal with falling ratings is to play the same cards over and over. Is no one else insulted that they think so little of the NASCAR audience that they foist the same fourth rate announcers and directors off on us year after year? One bright spot.... Digger was mighty scarce during the Shootout.
You may have heard, Danica Patrick was in the ARCA race last weekend. Much like her Indy starts, she led no laps, and finished sixth, in one of the best cars. She now will appear in the NNS race on Saturday. She is not ready for that level of competition, on that track, right now. But, there is no such thing as bad publicity. What are a few broken bones and torn up race cars anyway?
The Sure Thing
Daytona 500 winner.........Tony Stewart
Dark Horse.........................Matt Kenseth