Didn’t we just get racing on Wednesday night? It literally once again feels like the sport got back under way, since once again the series is running three races in a matter of eight days. Difference is, unlike at the return, racing is going to three different tracks, each with their own unique aspects.
Yet this time, it still feels weird heading to a track that got rescheduled.
Ever since the championship battle, even before the current format of a winner-take-all race was developed, the season would come to a close in Miami, a finale that had Ford’s name all over it. The irony in all of that is that since Ford sponsored the event, only one Ford driver has won the event. That came in 2018 when Joey Logano beat out the big three that season to take home his first championship, and the first for Ford since 2004.
But now, the season is traveling back to Homestead very early, and even then it is a bit different since it is later in the season than originally slated. In fact, this was the race that was to be ran after the run out west in California, Vegas, and Phoenix.
Then the pandemic took hold and the only racing Homestead saw was on the virtual platform, with Denny Hamlin holding on a challenge from Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Still, this race will feel different since it is during a different time of the season, however there is one aspect to this race that will be a much needed, and much appreciated, for everyone.
It is official, as Homestead is the first race since the sport returned to have fans in the stands.
Well, it’s only 1000 military personnel and their families, but still that is an important step in the right direction for the sport. Getting fans back to the stands, even in a limited capacity, will give the drivers a sense of relief. Seeing a burnout finish and hearing no roar from excited fans, or hearing some boos in case something happens to a driver they follow, just feels weird.
Even if it ultimately is a couple thousand fans in the bleachers, spread out to have the inevitable “social distance” between them, it’s a positive moment. After all, it’s one of two races that will have fans in their seats.
It has to feel weird to the drivers too, especially since they have to look into a camera to say they appreciate the fans. Seeing their reaction to infamous moments from the fans is something almost engraved into their DNA. Think about the reaction Chase Elliott got last year with his win on the Roval, after putting it in the tire wall on a restart and storming back to lock into the second round of the playoffs. Try and picture that with no one in the crowd…hard isn’t it?
Although it won’t be a huge crowd, it still will be another familiar surrounding for all involved, and especially the one who goes to victory lane.
Let’s get racing.