Note to family friends: on the following dates this year, do not try bothering to contact me. I will not answer. You’re welcome to come join me, if you wish, but on at least these five dates, I will not be fishing, I will not go hiking, I am parking my aging keister on the sofa to watch racing- NASCAR style.
Fellow fans, you know what I’m talking about: every sport has its special dates on the calendar. Baseball fans have the Red Sox vs. the Yankees, NFL fans have a keen eye open for when Peyton Manning and Tom Brady square off. The NBA has the Lakers and Celtics. Truth be told, given my profession and this little sideline here, I never miss a race, but then there are those races that are special, kind of like mini-Super Bowls.
Daytona 500- Daytona International Speedway, Feb. 21, 2016- Frankly, I get geeked up about Speed Weeks, period. The 500’s qualifying format is confusing as hell, but the Sprint Unlimited and what are know as the Can Am Duels whet the racing appetite for racing’s Big Daddy. Daytona is the birthplace of speed, so just that sense of history negates that crapshoot that is restrictor plate racing. Oh well. Every driver wants to win every race, but there’s NOTHING like the Daytona 500.
STP 500- Martinsville Speedway, April 3, 2016- After a few weeks racing out west, it’s back to one of NASCAR’s signature tracks. When you think of STP, you think of Richard Petty, when you think of Petty you think of racing greatness, when you think of racing greatness, you think of what you often get at the little paper clip shaped half-miler. Need I say more?
Geico 500- Talladega Superspeedway, May 1, 2016- This is NASCAR’s mardi gras. Think of this as a NASCAR fan’s Halloween. There is something more than a little bad about this place. Otherwise sane race fans settle in for this event, and all manner of propriety goes out the window. Oh yeah, then there’s the race. Lord only knows who will win it. When this date comes up, even NASCAR’s lesser lights get ready to shine.
Coca-Cola 600- Charlotte Motor Speedway, May 29, 2016- we get NASCAR’s marathon race on the same day as the Indianapolis 500. You’ll never see the couch on this day. I will not be leaving. This race is a question of will and the fortitude to get to the end. For as long as you are out there, conditions change, putting crew chief and driver to the test. You win this race, and you’ve done something.
Coke Zero 400- Daytona International Speedway, Sat., July 2, 2016- Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s another plate track. There’s just something special about holiday, or holiday weekend racing. It hearkens back to the days of the old Firecracker 400 race.
Crown Royal 400- Indianapolis Motor Speedway, July 24, 2016- Admittedly, the racing is rarely breath-taking, but this is one of those races that is clearly about the place. Maybe I’m an old romantic, but there’s something spectacular about the sight of race cars side-by-side on the re-starts. Then there’s also the kissing of the bricks.
Cheez-It 355 at The Glen- Watkins Glen International, August 7, 2016- Not only am I a sucker for road courses, the racing here has been scintillating the past several years. Remember the days when Marcos Ambrose and Juan Pablo Montoya were chasing each other down? How about that finish featuring Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick. This track really gives you something different. The right and left turns, the bus stop, and on and on it goes. Underrated race track, in my opinion.
Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race- Bristol Motor Speedway, August 20, 2016- The night time is the right time at Bristol. Not only do you get short track racing, you get short track racing on a Saturday night. This race always gives out its fair share of thrills, and even some extracurricular activity once in a while- usually with Brad Keselowski or Kyle Busch in the middle of it.
Bojangles’ Southern 500- Darlington Raceway, Sunday, Sept. 4, 2016. Darlington. Labor Day weekend. There’s nothing more for me to say. It’s a NASCAR thing.
Federated Auto Parts 400- Richmond International Speedway, Sept. 10, 2016- The 3/4 miler is my favorite track. I love Saturday night racing. Adding to the drama is the chase qualifying. Sometimes the quality of the racing is a bit of a crap shoot, but more often than not, the racing does not disappint.