Darkness Before the Dawn

 
The sports world is supposed to be an arena that gives us a break from the world and its crappy realities. And while there are any number of diversionary NASCAR stories to occupy our imaginations – Jimmie Johnson’s epic three-season run comes to mind – the unfortunate truth is that none of those is enough to overcome the real world.
 
Within the last 24 hours, it was announced that the Wood Brothers have lost the Air Force as a sponsor on the No. 21, just the latest and perhaps most lethal monetary blow to one of the sport’s founding families and legendary teams; Richard Petty announced that there will be no merger for his namesake organization, further jeopardizing another of NASCAR’s most hallowed teams; and Bill Davis Racing reportedly laid-off 40 people who worked on the No. 22 car.
 
This wave of depressing news comes amid reports that hundreds of team employees will be out of work as of next Monday and follows layoffs at Hendrick Motorsports (including Jimmie Johnson’s spotter) and Dale Earnhardt Jr’s Nationwide team – if Haves like Hendrick and Junior are letting people go, imagine what life is like for the Have Nots right about now.
 
NASCAR’s decision on Friday to ban testing in 2009 could be seen as just another blow to an already reeling sport; however, it could also be a sign of better things to come: Not only has NASCAR taken an active and direct step to help teams financially (it reportedly costs $100,000 per car per day to test, meaning teams will save millions), but the ban could be viewed as something like the Darkness before the Dawn.
 
Testing is crucial to on-track performance: It gives teams a chance to verify what the computer simulations have already told them. If the sanctioning body is willing to take the drastic step of eliminating this important piece of the process, you have to imagine things can’t get a whole lot worse.
 
At least, here’s hoping.