COLUMN: So the season hasn't really started yet, huh?
Suddenly it all starts at Phoenix
Right up until the Daytona 500 takes the green flag, everyone in NASCAR treats it as the most important undertaking since rival explorers tramped off to discover the South Pole. Then, as soon as the ultimate odyssey runs its course, talk turns to Phoenix and how it’s nice for “the real season” to finally start.
For what it’s worth, I’m still basking in the excitement of Daytona Beach, which is part of the reason I’m watching Phoenix from the comfort of an easy chair. I’m still pondering how the best way to repair melted asphalt is scrubbing it with Tide.
I understand the desert mindset, though. One of my pet topics is how NASCAR’s greatest race annually has almost nothing to do with everything that comes afterwards. In 2009, Matt Kenseth opened the season with victories in the first two races, never won again and failed to make the Chase. The second race then was in Fontana, Calif., but given the history, I wonder if Kenseth really wants to win the Subway Fresh Fit 500.
Perhaps Kenseth isn’t superstitious.
Ryan Newman said, “Although Daytona is our biggest race, I think that most people will tell you that the season really starts with the second race just because it seems to be a better gauge in determining what you have compared to other teams.”
Even Kenseth downplayed Daytona as soon as he finished his week of mingling with the stars of stage, screen and Hollywood.
“I always feel like after Daytona, no matter how it goes, that you get to Phoenix and start the rest of the season,” he said. “Daytona is our biggest race of the year, and you put a of effort and emphasis on that, and I feel like, once that is over, you come here and get ready to get serious about the next six or seven months and hopefully try to get qualified for the Chase.”
By the standards of other tracks, Phoenix isn’t even a “500.” It’s a “312” because 312 miles is 500 kilometers. Either that or the Daytona 500 is an “801.”
It’s going to be an entirely different race, if for no other reason because surely this time a jet dryer is unlikely to explode.
Monte Dutton; 704-869-1841; twitters.com/montedutton