January 25, 2010 | 11:21 A.M. EST
It's more than the usual pre-season optimism when every driver and team feels like they have a chance to win the Daytona 500 and the championship. Or when fans stuck in the winter ice age that has gripped the country simply long for the sound of a sweet sounding racing engine.
NASCAR has taken many positive steps to cure the general feeling of malaise that engulfed the sport when the last checkered flag of 2009 flew.
Jimmie Johnson's historic run to a fourth straight title didn't do much to shake up the NASCAR fan's case of the blahs and some will argue simply added to it.
And despite what i thought to be some pretty good racing in the second half of the year and a few damn interesting story lines to follow, I think it's safe to say NASCAR ended 2009 in a funk.
But on the heels of the many actions and announcements that have taken place in the last several weeks, I believe there is a real sense of optimism and even relief from not just fans but drivers as well.
Ditching the rear wing for a spoiler shows NASCAR is listening to fans, who have complained about the exotic look of the Sprint Cup car since the new machine debuted in 2007. A more traditional stock car appearance will go a long way to win back some fans who left the sport simply because they felt the only place for wings in NASCAR was at the concession stand.
Drivers have so far praised the look as well as the potential for improving the product with better racing certainly a positive ramification the sanctioning body is hoping to achieve with the change.
Restoring bump drafting in the corners at plate tracks as well as NASCAR taking a more hands off approach in policing the sport has also been music to the ears of both those in the stands as well as behind the wheel.
If the "Rubbin' is Racin'" mentality can return to the sport, that too will be a major shot in the arm for a fan base that has been very vocal about the lack of excitement and driver personality at times.
We're still a couple weeks away from hitting the track at Daytona but you can feel the extra anticipation this year, which feels miles removed from the doom and gloom economic picture we were staring at for the start of the 2009 season.
Let's get the cars on the race track.