We NASCAR fanatics believe there are only two seasons: racing season and waiting-for-racing season. Unfortunately, the latter coincides with the season known to normal people as winter. During the very time when you need them most, the cars are at home in their garages so that most of us would simply go into hibernation from after Christmas until mid-February if we could.
This year has been even worse than usual with the tear that Mother Nature has been on. Here in Indiana, we've experienced blizzards with 16 inches of snow, howling arctic winds, white-outs and snowed-ins. We've had ice storms so that my back door was frozen shut and wouldn't open no matter how hard I slammed my shoulder against it. I was finally forced to go down my front steps, out into the street, around the front and then the side and up my drive to get to my car - roughly half the distance of a city block. Yesterday morning, it was 11 degrees below zero. When I closed my eyes, I pictured a crew of elves shoveling bales of dollar bills into the furnace. I've now paid my Mystery Shoveler as much as I paid my lawn service for a summer's worth of mowing. My driveway is almost exactly the width of my car and lined by two snow walls. I wouldn't dare venture outside without a coat, hat, gloves, scarf and boots.
The worst part of all this is the lack of stimulation. Looking out my windows reveals a landscape of unrelieved gray and white - tree trunks standing stark against the snow. An overcast sky from which the sun seems to have permanently take its leave. It would be easy to convince yourself now that you only imagined a world of warmth and color and excitement.
Of course, the television is boring too without racing. Mom works crossword puzzles and watches the History Channel search for the Truth about the Shroud, UFOs, the Lost Tomb of Some Pharaoh. I read and rarely turn on my t.v.
Now, finally, we have made it to Speed Weeks in Daytona where it all starts again. The rumble of vehicle engines that aren't snow plows. Rainbow-hued cars and firesuits. Sunshine, ocean waves, palm trees. And optimism which is what we need most of all.
Everyone is an optimist in February at Daytona - drivers, crew chiefs, owners and fans. Every team is exactly even with every other team with the 2011 season looming brightly ahead of them. They will win a race, make the Chase, hoist the championship trophy come November in Homestead. It is all possible. Heartaches will eventually interrupt this plan for smooth sailing but not yet.
And so for them, for us. The snow will melt; the air will warm; the sun will shine; the flowers will bloom - and your driver has as good an opportunity to be a champion as any other....for now.
The new season - racing season - arrives and brings happiness with it.