NASCAR in Wonderland

by Monte Dutton

This is the time of year when everything is going to be better. In part, this is because the NASCAR season hasn’t started.

The same driver who fretted and commiserated over the notion that Daytona International Speedway was going to be repaved is now describing that occurrence as the greatest thing since the first NASCAR track (Darlington Raceway) was paved in 1950.

“It’s so smooth. I think we might race four-wide. On every lap. Five wide on the last lap. Guaranteed photo finish.”

The same guy who said brand loyalty was something of an obsolete concept is now exulting because changes in design are going to “promote brand loyalty again.”

The same guy who once declared that the Chase should only be open to legitimate contenders is now poised to jump up and down and use party favors while chanting, “The more the merrier! The more the merrier!” Pep rallies come to mind, and they actually might be just as interesting, and more festive, than the current press conferences in which all the drivers do their best Robert Gibbs and recite talking points.

With six you get egg roll, and with pep rallies, you get a band, cheerleaders and pompons. Guys such as I might balk a little at having to clap along with the fight songs, but there would be enough radio and TV networks to throw together a decent card section.

“The weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.” It doesn’t just apply to the weather. The fire will get even more delightful in a couple weeks when NASCAR media attend a tour (and despite it being a “tour,” much of it will be in the same place).

More than the season might be brand-new.

There could be a new Chase, a new Nationwide format, a new fuel, a new engine, new front ends… NASCAR might even take credit for the Carolina Panthers’ new coach, the START Treaty and a vital new breakthrough in video gaming.

It’s a shame, really, that Lawrence Welk died before he could raise a baton in NASCAR.

It’s what the off-season is: “Wunnerful. Wunnerful.”

Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston (NC) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week ( features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at ‘ 2011 King Features Syndicate

The track at Daytona International Speedway is now as smooth as a baby’s rear end. Or so the story goes with NASCAR’S pre-season yay-sayers. (John Clark/NASCAR This Week photo)