Racing’s Back! Let’s Head to Texas!

After a 2 1/2 month hiatus, NASCAR brought racing back with a 400-mile race at Darlington won by Kevin Harvick.

I don’t expect many of you watched much of the race. I wasn’t planning on it, but to my surprise, my 19-year-old son Kevin, thanks to YouTube, somehow became a NASCAR fan over the time of quarantine. Don’t worry, he still loves IndyCar and can’t wait for the 500 in August.

I thought the race was pretty blah. They still had too many cautions for my taste and unless it’s Indy, I don’t have the attention span for a race that went almost four hours. The race would’ve been much better had it been 300 miles.

Still, it was interesting to watch the broadcast and think of how things will be when IndyCar takes to the track at Texas in three weeks’ time.

I’m not going to lie, it was a bit bizarre too. The post-race interview with Harvick in front of empty grandstands was awkward, and it’s difficult for the broadcasters — in this case Mike Joy and Jeff Gordon — to get into the energy of the race when they are in a studio and not the booth.

I think they should be allowed on-site and social distanced in the booth. It’s not any different than hosting media in the press area, which did happen yesterday. I know that there are more people in the booth than just Mike and Jeff, but I think that’s a change they should make going forward.

But, that’s the new normal for right now so if we want racing on track, this is how it is going to be.

By the looks of it, NASCAR did what it could to keep everyone as safe as possible, with health checks, masks and distancing, but with several hundred people in a confined area, you can only do so much.

The conversation that is going on in the NBA and Major League Baseball right now is if they get back to playing this summer and a player tests positive for COVID-19, what happens next? Do you shut the league down again, or test, trace and keep going?

So far I haven’t heard any discussion from the racing sanctioning bodies, and I’m curious to know, especially given they will be racing four times (or more if they run support races) in the next 10 days. For IndyCar, gathering as much information as it can over the next three weeks will go a long way towards having a successful season.

Because that should be the ultimate goal: safely putting on a full season that crowns a champion at St. Pete on Oct. 25. I know a lot of people in the paddock, and I care about them.

Most importantly, I don’t want to see the drivers lose a season off of their careers. We can be fans forever, I plan on writing forever, but the drivers don’t have that luxury. They can’t say “oh, I’ll just tack a year onto the end of my career”, because that’s not how it works with professional athletes.

It’s like the scene in the baseball movie “Moneyball”.

Their careers are finite, and at some point, they either tell themselves or someone tells them that they can’t do it any longer. Alex Rossi won’t have an Age 28 season ever again, and Josef Newgarden an Age 29 season.

Tony Kanaan is still doing it at 45, but he’s not the same driver he was when he was 30 and 31 in 2004-05. He won five times and posted 20 podiums in 33 races between those seasons, and was the 2004 champion and 2005 runner-up. Even if he was in the best ride in the series, I don’t know if he could approach those numbers.

That’s not any indictment of TK, whose legacy is already set in stone. It’s just the reality that time catches up to us, even someone who is the ultimate Ironman.

As I write this, Texas has announced they are open for pro sports on June 1, which means the IndyCar race is now officially on. That’s good news. What will be even better news is that things go well enough to move on to Road America, Richmond, and onward throughout the summer.

The blueprint has been set, now it’s time to get started.

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