For this sports fan, the event calendar is perfectly laid out. Just as the euphoria of the Packers snagging the Lombardi Trophy wears off, it’s time for the  Shootout, the Duels, the Great American Race – complete with all the hoopla that follows it. It’s like going from one Super Bowl to the other. I, for one, can’t wait.

Frankly, I made it a point to “check out” this offseason. I kept my eyes open for some of the major developments, but did not resort to the usual dumpster diving for stories I had in years past. It paid off. I’m refreshed, unfettered from all the pining for a racing past that can’t be recovered and a racing future that cannot be predicted accurately in a world where change occurs more quickly than a qualifying lap at Bristol. 

This weekend is kind of like NASCAR’s New Year’s Day. The slate is clean, and anything can happen. David Ragan starts out with the same number of points as Jimmie Johnson.

Speaking of which, this could very well be the year the champ gets caught. As it is, he had race his heart out to win the last one. I’m not really a fan, but props to Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick for pushing Team 48. I get the feeling somebody from HMS will become truly relevant again, and give Johnson a run for his money. The question is “Who?” I, for one, can’t tell you. All I know is Rick Hendrick has a lot of freakin’ talent inside his tent.

I can’t wait to see what the new surface at Daytona will produce when its green flag time. I can’t help but hope Petty’s organization will run a lot better with The King operating as more than just a benevolent figurehead. I can’t help but wonder if Carl Edwards’ furious finish in 2010 means a better 2011 for the 2008 Cup runner-up.

The best part is the speculation ends and the racing begins. Not a moment too soon either. It’s pretty sad when a suspended driver’s apology to his step-mom is the big headline of the day.

If I really wanted that, I’d tune in to “Real Housewives.” I’m not that desperate.