Racing Withdrawal
The Diary of a NASCAR Junkie

 by Doug Belliveau
January 23, 2001

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The holidays are over. The dead of winter seems to drag on forever. I am having severe stock car racing withdrawal symptoms. I yearn for the roar of the engines and the smell of racing fuel. Victory Lane has been vacant for far too long. Daytona cannot come soon enough. I am, like most other fans, a NASCAR junkie.

With such a long NASCAR Winston Cup schedule, you think there would be very little down time between racing seasons. So why is it that the three-month break over the winter seems to last years? I offer a brief weekly diary of my withdrawal experience: 

Bobby Labonte - the 2000 Winston Cup Champion

November 12 - Tony Stewart wins the Pennzoil 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Bobby Labonte celebrates his first Winston Cup championship. Congratulations Bobby - you had a great season. Now only one more race left and then I can take a break from racing. 

November 19 - Jerry Nadeau wins his first career Winston Cup race at the NAPA 500 in Atlanta. With so many different winners and many great rookie performances, 2000 was a fantastic season! Now it's time to get prepared for Thanksgiving.

November 26 -  Ahhh……peace and quiet on a Sunday. No loud engines blaring over the television or correspondents trying to shout conversations with crew chiefs. I can finally relax on my couch and watch some football. Unfortunately I have to let my belt out one notch because I ate way too much turkey on Thanksgiving.

December 3 - My wife is happy because I actually got some things done around the house. It's amazing what you can get do without the distraction of watching four hours of racing. The new coat of paint in the family room looks really nice. It's very hard to even think about racing in the beginning of December. 

December 10 - Today was a good day to relax and recover from last night's company Christmas party. I sat around the house again and watched some football as my favorite team is in the hunt for a playoff spot. Now my wife is nagging me about getting the Christmas tree up. I know the kids will help decorate the tree for the first 15 minutes, then conveniently disappear and make us finish the rest. That was one fantastic Awards Banquet up in New York. Many of the speeches were very inspirational. Winston Cup should be proud of its new champion. Hey look - a television ad for NASCAR coverage on Fox. 

December 17 - I can't believe Christmas is only a week away. I better get out there and finish my shopping. I still haven't purchased anything for my wife. Guess I can't lounge on the couch today. Tonight we will go see the Christmas pageant at church.

December 24 - We got a little bit of snow here in New Jersey, just enough to glisten on the Christmas lights in the neighborhood. We spent Christmas Eve night at my sister-in-law's house. We ate, opened some presents and then ate some more. I love Christmas time! This will be one busy weekend while traveling to my parents and other relatives. The kids are more pumped up with adrenalin then a tire changer during a pit stop.

December 31 - What a great Christmas we had this year. All of our holiday travels were safe and now I'm recovering from all the celebrations. As usual, people know what presents to get me - anything related to NASCAR. Last year my brother got me a special edition jacket with Dale Earnhardt Jr's Superman paint scheme. That jacket attracts a lot of attention! This year I got a daily NASCAR calendar with stats and facts. This really helps during the off-season, as it provides interesting reading. College Bowl games are on the tube, but I can't say they hold too much interest for me. We're off to a friend's house for a nice quiet family New Year's Eve party. I can't wait to stuff myself with food and drink again! We received a big snowstorm in the northeast yesterday. Some areas of New Jersey got as much as two feet of snow, which is unusual, especially this early in the winter. My kids are enjoying sledding, but my back is starting to hurt from all the shoveling. Sometimes I wish I could be down in the South sunning myself.

January 7 - Finally the big holidays are behind us, and things have calmed down a bit. I just watched the NY Giants beat the Philadelphia Eagles. I knew I should have bet my co-workers on the game. It would have been like taking candy from a baby's mouth. We got a few more inches of snow again this week. As much as I like snow, this is getting a little old. The shovel is falling apart from all the abuse it is taking.

January 14 - Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and I have off from work. I love three-day weekends because they are relaxing. And I'm happy because the Giants have just whooped up on the Minnesota Vikings and are Super Bowl bound. But even with that excitement, something seems to be missing. I keep seeing the Daytona 500 commercial on Fox. There's something about the cars whizzing by the camera at 200 mph that just stirs the soul. I see that Fox brought Darrell Waltrip on during the half-time show to talk about the upcoming NASCAR season. He looks good on camera; he is composed and rather funny at times. I still can't imagine what it will be like not to have him behind the wheel. I can no longer deny that racing withdrawal is beginning to set in. The good news is that I attended the Pennzoil Motorsports Show yesterday. But it was only a temporary fix, like cheating on a diet by eating a big piece of cheesecake in the middle of the night. In the morning, you inevitably have to go back on that lousy diet.

The snow was fun at first - but enough is enough.

January 21 - Enough of the snow already, it's really starting to bother me. We got more nasty weather this past week, including sleet and freezing rain in addition to the snow. The heater in my house doesn't seem to be working right. I'll have to call for a service appointment. I haven't washed my car in several weeks and it's really starting to depress me. Occasionally I get in my Pontiac and pretend I'm Mark Martin, attacking the Inner Loop at Watkins Glen as I drive through my neighborhood. But now I can't even drive fast because the streets aren't clear enough! If only I could turn the television on and get a taste of racing. But that's okay; I can make it four more weeks. In the meantime I'll visit the website forums and discuss who will win the Daytona 500 and who's the best NASCAR driver ever. I wish I could be checking race result stats instead, but you can't have everything. 

January 28 - Okay, the forums are starting to get a little monotonous. All the fans are getting tense and impatient. They need more real issues to debate, such as who caused the accident in the race or why Chevrolets were faster than the Fords. At least there's only two weeks before the Budweiser Shootout takes place. I've been reading about the Dodge testing at Daytona. They seem to be a little slower than the other manufacturers so far. If only I knew who to pick for my AndrettiRacing fantasy NASCAR team. I want to win the big money this year and get my picture taken with Mario. Will the Dodges come through this year? Congratulations to the Giants as they squeaked by the Ravens in the Super Bowl. That was one of the most lame halftime shows I've ever seen. At least some of the commercials were funny. Please, please, please give me racing to watch!

During the bleakness of the off-season, this is where I yearn to be - in the middle of the action.

February 4 - The bleakness of winter has really put a hurting on me. I feel trapped inside my house, with no racing on television to soothe me. It almost feels like a race I once attended on a humid August day. At the hottest time of the day, the vendors ran out of ice. I desired a cold drink to parch my thirst, but there was none to be had. Preseason racing shows are much like the warm soda I had to drink that day. It may have been wet, but it sure wasn't all that satisfying. Only one week until real honest-to-goodness stockcar racing. If only I could do something about my hands shaking all the time. I'm going to get on the web to study all the new paint schemes and sponsors for 2001. I don't want to be caught off guard next week; I need to be able to instantly recognize all the competition.

February 11 - It's time for the Shootout and the start of Speedweek at Daytona! I've made it to the homestretch. Hundreds of thousands of fans flock to Florida and I sure wish I was one of them. This cold dreary weather in the North is for the birds. Maybe I should try to convince my wife to move further south. But that would mean we'd have to bring her mother with us. Maybe we'll just vacation more often in the South instead. 

February 18 - Like a contestant on Survivor, I've finally made it off the island after three months! Drop the green flag already and let me salivate in front of my television set. There goes Labonte, Rudd, Gordon, Jarrett and Earnhardt flying by the cameras. And there's the familiar chaos in the pits as the leaders jockey for position. During the course of the race, my face changes from pale to flush, as if my lifeblood is beginning to return. It's almost like a patient who is recovering from an illness after taking their medication. And yes, my familiar hoarse voice is returning as I scream at Jeremy Mayfield for blowing his engine with five laps to go, and console with Ward Burton when he inadvertently meets the wall on turn 2.

The Daytona 500 is like experiencing Christmas morning as a kid. You wait months for it to come around, and then you're never disappointed when it finally arrives. My only problem is that I'm going to have to go through this whole withdrawal process again in November. But for now, I'm going to get my fill of racing for the next nine months. Only in America can you get that kind of exciting racing entertainment. Is this country great or what?

Oh, I forgot to tell you about the results of the Daytona 500. You wouldn't believe how the Dodges performed……..

The author can be contacted at dougb@autoracing1.com

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