The green flag dropped. The field took the first turn and in a matter of minutes it began to string out. Cameras zoomed in on the leaders, taking in the sponsors splashed across the fenders and the afternoon moved along. There were pit stops, engine failures, frustrated teammates and at long last a victor.
Funny thing is, the race I watched ended with Helio Castroneves climbing a fence next to a sign emblazoned with “Dan Wheldon Way,” instead of a drawn out wait for NASCAR to call the soggy race official and Tony Stewart the victor. The fact is, I never watched the Cup race this week and unfortunately I will admit I didn’t miss it at all.
I could make some derogatory comments about the 2-miler near LA, but that really wasn’t the reason. Life interfered. I just couldn’t squeeze in my usual dose of NASCAR and found myself tuning in ABC because even if I couldn’t watch the usual suspects take their parade laps I could watch somebody race.
However, taking the time to enjoy the IZOD Indy cars for the first time since the infamous crash at Vegas last year, I did get to watch racing for the simple fact of racing. Not to cheer for a particular driver, watch the points system change on a weekly basis or wonder which team would park before lap 10. I have no real emotion invested in the pointy cars, just simple curiosity as a fan of all things that go fast.
But, I did actually watch the race in St. Petersburg from flag to flag. It kept my attention. I can guarantee you had I been around to watch the Fontana parade, I would have been wandering around the house looking for laundry to fold. I know what I’m going to get at California. Three-wide racing, when the cars get close enough to one another to do something about that, long green-flag runs and the occasional fuel-mileage deal. I know the end to the story before it even begins.
For me, St. Pete provided a new track and even new cars! Hey! Did you see the new fenders on the Indy cars? Unlike the horrid attempt by NASCAR to make the Sprint Cup cars fly, the new body parts on the Indy cars are actually attractive.
I could read sponsors and numbers on the side of the cars, something I don’t recall being able to do when the series visited New Hampshire Motor Speedway last summer. I took a moment to think about attending a temporary road-course race for IndyCar and thought it would at least be a new experience.
One of the charms of NASCAR remains the adage that you never really know what might happen at the track. The problem with the advent of the cookie cutters is the unexpected tends not to happen as often as it did in the past. Predictability and repeat non-stellar performances at the same venues year after year wear on our nerves. We become disenchanted.
Otherwise, I wouldn’t have completely abandoned all thought of watching the Auto Club 400 on the DVR.
I’m not saying the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg provided better entertainment than the Sprint Cup event. It was different, that’s all. I spent about 2.5 hours watching single-file racing, with the leader usually seconds ahead of his pursuer. The coverage was marginally interesting. I heard there were rumors of passing in the ranks, but ABC didn’t show it to me.
All in all, my Sunday afternoon (March 25) contained its requisite amount of racing, without knowing ahead of time what this particular track had in store for me. And something new is always intriguing, at least the first time around.
However, if a NASCAR fan is easily swayed from their traditional weekend diet of stock cars turning left due to years of uninteresting feats at a particular locale, the powers that be ought to start thinking outside the oval. Don’t abandon a location forever, just change it up a bit! Stock cars on the streets of Baltimore anybody? I’m thinking that might be an excellent place to start.
About the author
The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.
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