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Thursday, February 5, 2009

NASCAR fans have plenty to be excited about as the 2009 season kicks off

I love the smell of burning rubber in the morning.

Each year, around the end of January, the heart of every NASCAR fan starts to beat a little faster as they await the return of the sport we all know and love to our television sets and local racetracks. We know that once the cars hit the track at Daytona, we’ll have our fix for the next ten months.

Call me crazy if you want, but this year I’m sensing even more excitement among race fans as the season is set to kick off this weekend with the Bud Shootout.

Maybe it’s all the team mergers and alliances formed in the offseason that have fans wondering who’s going to succeed at these new teams in 2009, and who’s going to fade into the background and be forgotten.

Maybe it’s the hope of so many fans that someone will finally dethrone the dynamic duo of Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus, who have claimed three straight titles.

Maybe it’s the economic uncertainty in this country that has everyone a little down and even more in the mood for some good old-fashioned entertainment of the 200 mph variety.

Maybe it’s the curiosity about whether drivers who made big gambles by switching teams, most notably Tony Stewart, can live up to the hype and high expectations surrounding their new endeavors.

Maybe it’s the fans wondering whether a driver fresh out of high school can really make an impact in a series that historically has never been kind to drivers still fighting acne. Is he really as good as "sliced bread"?

Whatever it is, I’m on pins and needles as we wait to see what happens in 2009. The world of the Cup series is a lot different than it was just months ago, and I don’t know what is going to happen. Outside of confidently saying Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch will each win several races, there’s very little that is guaranteed.

Will a driver nobody is talking about step up out of nowhere and snag a couple wins?
Can the Dodges get back in the Chase?
After the 55+ teams try out at Daytona, how many will show up every week? Will the fields ever be short or contain several start-and-parks?
Will the testing ban allow smaller teams to have a better shot at competing with the big boys, or will it hurt those smaller teams?

Only time will tell us the answers to these questions and so many more.

Whatever happens, I’ll put my money on one thing: It’ll be entertaining to watch it all unfold.


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