During the build up to this year’s Daytona 500, I’ve sensed that something is different about 2009. I wonder if I’m the only one that feels it. There is an air of importance surrounding this NASCAR season that I haven’t felt before. Sure, there have been important years. 1998 was the 50th year of NASCAR; they had a huge hype machine set up with a huge media campaign. If 1998 had been boring or uneventful it would have reflected badly on the sport. Perhaps NASCAR wouldn’t have grown into what they are today. 1998 turned out to be a great year. Dale Earnhardt won his first and only Daytona 500 to start the season and Jeff Gordon won 13 races to tie a modern era record. The sports top two stars put on a show for the ages when the chips were down. The chips are down again, but this time things are different.
2009 may turn out to be the most important year in NASCAR history. With our country in deep recession and unemployment skyrocketing, people have less money to spend on entertainment. The entertainment they are paying for had better be good. If NASCAR has another ordinary year, it risks its own survival. The Bud Shootout was a good start to the season. It was an action packed race that set records for leaders (14), lead changes (28) and cautions (8). The cars appeared to be very difficult to drive. Good. If the American people are going to pay to see people drive as entertainment, the drivers had better earn their money. There was no doubt about that Saturday night. The cars were all over the place and the race was fun to watch. Kevin Harvick was victorious in a race that was very enjoyable.
Let’s hope NASCAR can keep the ball rolling and its big stars perform in a big way. If the sport can put forth a full season of great entertainment, the American people will be thankful and the sport’s recent rocky history will be erased.