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NASCAR is always in season

by Cathy Elliott
Friday, June 27, 2008


Cathy Elliott
Everything from fresh fruit to football enjoys a peak season, although increasingly some of them can't make up their minds regarding exactly which season best applies.

Major League Baseball, for example, while billing its players as "The Boys of Summer," continues to refer to the season-ending World Series as the "Fall Classic".

What's the deal, baseball? Make up your mind, already. You can't have it both ways.

On second thought, perhaps you can. NASCAR has handily skirted any such seasonal confusion by spreading itself evenly across all four.

Unless you're one of ice hockey's dozen or so fans, the professional sporting landscape during the winter is rather desolate. Winter is the season with the shortest days and the lowest average temperatures. In the northern hemisphere, it is the only season which spans two calendar years, making it seem even longer than it actually is.

The time of year immediately following the Super Bowl leaves some sports enthusiasts cold, in more ways than one. Baseball's Opening Day seems such a distantly futuristic and unreachable concept it might fall under the direction of George Lucas rather than (MLB commissioner) Bud Selig. The NBA's All-Star Game will be played in February, marking the season's halfway point, but this will come as a huge surprise to most of the sports viewing public, who thought the league got cranked up sometime around Mother's Day.

Enter NASCAR. The hottest sport in America is not content to wait until the winter ice thaws on its own. Instead, it charges in to hurry things along, at a speed of 200 mph or so. The Daytona 500 steals March's slogan along with its thunder, roaring in like a lion in mid-February to rouse race fans from the sound they hate most -- silence.

Cold as it may be, in NASCAR terms, winter is pretty darned cool.

Hot (OK, marginally warmer) on the heels of winter comes springtime.

Spring is the season of renewal and growth. Many plants bloom at this time of year, some even when snow is still on the ground. These bright flowers pop their heads up and look things over, and some of them get pushy and shove their way to the top, earning some early attention.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has its own rites of spring. These early bloomers work to accumulate as many driver points as possible in order to get a healthy head start. In a sport filled with inevitable peaks and valleys, burnouts as well as blowouts, it's never too soon to let your true colors show. (It is also no coincidence that hurricane season begins in the spring.)

Summertime, the season with the longest days, warmest temperatures and largest crowds of vacationers of the year, also includes some of racing's most popular destinations, with events like the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard in Indianapolis, the night race at Bristol, and the Pepsi 400 at Daytona on the Fourth of July weekend.

Some NASCAR drivers and their teams conclude this season with a golden glow, while others just get burned. Everyone agrees, however, that while summer isn't exactly a day at the beach for everyone, it is definitely one hot time of year for racing.

After winter comes autumn, the season when the nights become noticeably shorter and the weather substantially cooler. During the calendar year's "winding down" period, however, NASCAR is doing just the opposite as NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition is heating up and reaching its height.

The poet John Keats described autumn as a time of "mellow fruitfulness."  While in NASCAR it is certainly true that fall will be fruitful indeed for one driver, it is anything but mellow. Rather, it is the season when competitors literally reap what they've sown, as the top 12 drivers who have raced their way into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup are now vying for ownership of the champion's trophy.

It's sort of the ultimate Harvest Festival, when you think about it.

At some point in the year, almost everything has its moment to shine. Racing, in its own unique fashion, has found a way to encompass all of them. It effortlessly bridges the gap from flip-flops to snowshoes, reminding us in winter and spring, summer and fall, that NASCAR is always fresh, in stock, and never, ever out of season.

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