George Will once said that the baseball off-season was, for him, a “void”; actually he called it “The Void,” a singular absence I can well understand. Of course, the off-season in NASCAR-land grows shorter every year, but racing fans feel it all the same. We had to deal with the fact that one Jimmie Johnson owned the past four seasons, 2009 being the true record-breaker. It’s the stuff of history no matter how you happen to feel about Johnson or Chad Knaus, or for that matter the Hendrick organization in general. And now we’re dealing with Danicamania (she apparently had a good final day of testing today, fifth quickest while Mikey Kyle was the last-day pacesetter), while nine other women joined her for the ARCA test, including the twin nieces of Derrick Cope (note to the two of them: lose the blue eye-shade, ladies). Times are changing.
If you’re a fan of motorsports at all, you’ve seen those empty grandstands. It’s a reflection of the economic times in which we live. It’s also a sign NASCAR’s been getting further and further from what brought them to the dance in the first place. Double-file restarts are a good thing, and a nod to NASCAR’s roots in short-track racing. I’ve said this here before, but more short tracks on the Cup schedule, to say nothing of Nationwide and the truck series, would be an even better thing. Don’t you miss the old Busch series running at South Boston and Volusia? OK, there’s the Camping World East/West series. Both are underfunded and you can tell by the paucity of cars they get for some of its races. They’re no replacement for NASCAR’s “junior” series, much as I enjoy seeing them.
So: Will Jimmie Johnson win the Cup title for the fifth time in a row in 2010? Who’ll knock him down? That’s why they run the races, naturally, to find out for sure, but the season ought to be interesting. Has NASCAR “hit bottom” in economic terms, or will we see more empty grandstands? Right now the Racing Void’s 55 days from officially ending, and right now February can’t come quickly enough. I say that with all due apologies to everyone associated with NASCAR….