As hard as it may be to believe, considering where the sport was at the midway point of March, the season for NASCAR has actually caught back up to where it should be. Four races into the season, a checkered flag didn’t wave…instead a black flag, and then the red.
For two months, not one pit stop, restart, or G-W-C attempt. There were zero Gatorade showers with the teams, pictures taken of the winners, burnouts at the flagstand. Most of all…over 70 days with fans not rooting for their favorite drivers.
The sport returned, but to silence in the grandstands. It was not till weeks later when even a small snippet of fans would be in the seats, yet still felt different.
Racing two times a week, sometimes at the same track, then not one but three double-headers in two days with one car.
Despite all the challenges this year, from on the track to stunning developments outside the track, or within the garage, NASCAR has caught up on the time they missed, and have made it through 25 races when it seemed the season was lost after just four. There has been no shortage of stories in the garage, from the dominance of Hamlin and Harvick, to the struggles of Kyle Busch. There’s the emergence of Bubba Wallace, and a rookie class that is as competitive as it is tough.
There’s the impending retirement of a champion who still, despite everything, is maintaining his word and calling it a career. The same driver, along with another, each had to sit out one week when the virus caught them.
Now, all that is left is to make a field of playoff drivers who want to win a championship.
Already, one driver is a champion, but wants to be the ultimate champion. Yet so many others are going into Saturday night trying to survive long enough to compete for the opportunity to just compete for a championship. Three spots remain, yet so many are in contention to take those spots, or even potentially steal one away with a victory, making it just that much harder to secure an opportunity.
It comes down to 160 laps, three stages, trust and the hope for survival. The season started at Daytona with fireworks, and a hospital stay. The regular season comes full circle at the same facility, and hopefully a much different finish.
After this, it comes down to 16 drivers, 10 races, and in the end it goes to winner-take-all when the season comes to a close. But, one must not look ahead too far, otherwise that opportunity will suddenly be gone.
Who will win, and who will make it in? Let’s dust off the World’s Center of Racing and let the good times roll…a shout out to all those effected by Hurricane Laura.