Opinion: Are You Ready for a Break?
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on December 9, 2013 | 12:18 P.M. EST
Jimmie Johnson celebrates with fans last week in Las Vegas. After this week's test at Charlotte, NASCAR will take a break until next month. (Photo: Getty Images)
I am thoroughly enjoying the off-season.
There’s certainly been more than enough news to cover, report and write about in the three weeks since the final checkered flag of the season waved at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Outside of taking a long Thanksgiving weekend with the family, I’ve still co-hosted “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio every morning. But it’s been refreshing to break away from the norm of races being run every weekend, as is the case from February through November.
After a year that can really only be described as bizarre, taking some time to step away from the sport might be the best way to truly appreciate NASCAR.
There was no way anyone could have predicted the weird 2013 campaign that finally just came to a conclusion. While it wasn’t all bad by any means, there was enough controversy and even scandal to last the next five years.
The promise and anticipation of the Gen-6 Sprint Cup car was quickly erased at Daytona by a frenzy around Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. dating, a story that still inexplicably gets pushed to the front of the line by some.
Then came penalties, appeals overturned, suspensions, drivers injured and finally the mother of all issues with the Richmond “Spingate” mess that put the sport’s very credibility in peril.
That’s not to say there wasn’t some great racing throughout the year all through NASCAR’s top tiers and more than a few memorable moments.
However there’s something to be said for down time as a way to help generate interest in any sport. This week’s winter meetings will give Major League Baseball fans a burst of activity (after a pretty eventful last seven days) that will no doubt pique attention. But it’s been relatively quiet on the baseball front since the Red Sox clinched the championship around Halloween.
Other sports like the NBA, NHL and even the mighty NFL also hit the brakes for a period of time when the games are over for a year. Trades, free-agent signings, and training camps obviously dot the off season. But players and fans are allowed to take a breath and actually miss their favorite sport at some point.
But the NASCAR machine seemingly never slows down. This week only two days away from officially crowning Jimmie Johnson 2013 Sprint Cup Series champion in Las Vegas more than 20 teams were scheduled to participate in a crucial test session at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Rain pushed that test back to Wednesday.
Other organizations are off dialing things in testing at Nashville or the Arizona proving grounds for fear of falling behind the competition once the opening bell rings after the New Year. That’s when things pick up in earnest with Daytona Preseason Thunder testing, which rolls into the annual media tour in Charlotte and the NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
It’s actually a testament to NASCAR’s growth and popularity that it has become a 24/7, 365-day-a-year enterprise. Watching how things develop and evolve over the next several years is going to be interesting indeed. Change appears to again be on the horizon on a variety of fronts.
But there’s nothing wrong with taking a moment away to reflect. The beauty of NASCAR today is it will always be here when you come back.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.