With no race this weekend it was a bit of a weird feeling. No command to fire the engines, nor anthem and invocation to start the afternoon; it just felt boring.
At the same time, it made me realize that this season has been dragging on because unlike the last few years, NASCAR only gave the Monster Energy Cup Series two weekends away from the track, whereas the last few years it has been three weekends off. So, that means the top tier series has been in competition since the week after Easter until this past weekend, which is one week until Labor Day, and that is one special weekend for me since it’s my favorite track.
But the one thing about being on the road for so long, with no break in between, is that there’s really no time to enjoy being away from the track.
Drivers are at the mercy of the schedule, and it’s been that way for a long while. It’s the nature of the job, and they accept that. But, it also means the possibility of missing out of major moments in life, that have nothing to do with racing.
I remember back years ago when Jeff Gordon was at Sonoma and it was the same week his wife, Ingrid, was expecting their first child together. Gordon knows his job is to be at the track, but even he knew that if he got the call that his wife was officially in labor, the driver suit was coming off and he was not going to race.
Priorities were definitely in order in his life, and considering that Mark Martin was the guy who got the nod as the fill-in driver in case Gordon had to leave, it wasn’t like the team was going to be hurting on experience.
But to be away all that time from enjoying life, living weekend after weekend from a motorhome, and having sponsor obligations, appearances, autograph sessions, plus testing, it’s a rough life.
Is it rewarding…absolutely. That’s why drivers enjoy doing what they do, and then continue to do it year after year. They sacrifice so much to do the job they love, and know in the quickest of moments it can be taken away.
At the same time, when the schedule was released no driver was happy that 2017 went back to having just two weekends away from the speedway to enjoy the pleasures of life that didn’t deal with four tires, car setups, and pit stops. Not being able to enjoy that on a more regular basis, especially since the off-season is practically nonexistent, is tough on these guys and girls. They too want time to spend with family, friends, and do something that gives them joy.
Am I complaining, no, but more showing concern.
At least this leads into the final stretch of the season, and when the checkered flag finally waves at Homestead come November, teams finally get to actually rest, and know for the most part, they can enjoy their time away from the speedway, and have a great time over the holiday season.
With that, I shall return to my usual column next week, especially when next weekend is my absolute favorite track, and favorite weekend, of the entire year.