The 2009 Season Opens Not With a Bang …

Sunday’s Daytona 500 had its moments and provided at least a few set-pieces for further discussion — Hello, Junior. This is Brian. Brian Vickers? Remember: payback’s a bitch. Unfortunately, the race wasn’t quite the rousing start fans had hoped. Or NASCAR needed.

Since 2005, NASCAR’s TV ratings have fallen by 21 percent. And, as anyone not dead yet knows, NASCAR is in a world of hurt. And while the seemingly-full stands Sunday were a welcome departure from the acres of empty seats we’ve grown accustomed to, NASCAR’s first real test comes Sunday in southern California (admittedly, a tough market in the best of times).

NASCAR needed Sunday’s 500 to be a nail-biter, it needed more Earnhardt/Vickers moments, it needed Kyle Busch to dominate through the checkered flag, do his burnout and then stand on the roof of his car welcoming the crowd’s hatred.

What NASCAR didn’t need was a rainout; it certainly didn’t need to compound that problem by waiting all of 15 minutes to declare the race over — what, you couldn’t have held on for another 30 minutes before making the decision?

Lastly, while Matt Kenseth is a good guy and an excellent driver, a former champion, he is not the galvanizing personality NASCAR needs to help shake these doldrums. For a while there on Sunday, or at least the 88 laps Busch led, NASCAR had a chance to start the season with the bang it needed.