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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

2010 NASCAR season soon to be on track

We race fans are about to satisfy our 'need for speed,' dogging us since Homestead.

The off-season is a thing of the past and Speedweeks is underway, with all eyes on the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, FL.

Race teams and fans alike are gearing up as the racing crescendo builds toward the 52nd running of the Great American Race -- the Daytona 500 -- NASCAR's equivalent of the NFL's Super Bowl.

The green flag will drop on the most prestigious event in stock car racing at noon, Sunday, Feb. 14. I can't wait. I have been waiting for this for what seems an eternity.

First the Budweiser Shoot-Out. I can't wait for my first glimpse of the #39 with Tornados and Oreos on board. It will be so exciting to sit down on Saturday night to enjoy a race again.

Second in the racing trifecta to kick off the 2010 season will be The Gatorade Duels, the twin 150-mile qualifying races that will determine the starting grid for the Daytona 500. Does it get better than this?

Big changes on tap for 2010

NASCAR as a sanctioning body has been criticized for trying to exert too many rules and too much influence in the sport. I like that they have decided to back off this year, perhaps allowing drivers to settle their own differences on the track. Woohoo, this is gonna be fun! More beatin' and bangin' and trading paint. The result could be more aggressive driving, more fierce competition, and all-out better racing. It will be interesting to watch how certain drivers are put in their place by the others. I just hope the good drivers are penalized by the newcomers.

The COT car, which, designed with safety in mind, has proven itself. Drivers have been able to walk away from some horrific crashes, such as Ryan Newman's barrel-roll crash at Talladegawhen his upside-down race car finally came to rest on Kevin Harvick's hood. Newman's fans were also horrified during the spring race at Talladega when Carl Edwards' airborne car flew into Newman's windshield. While Edwards' car itself was diverted back onto the track by a catch fence designed to do as its name implies, some flying debris did cause injury to some spectators.

Talks about the dynamics of those accidents have led to the possibility that the wing on the back of the car will be replaced by a spoiler. The improvement will certainly provide a pleasing aesthetic change. That is not a lone fix for the problem of the car getting airborne, however, so other innovations are also being considered to keep the car from taking off like a jet taking on a runway. Safety, for both the drivers and the fans, remains one of NASCAR's top priorities.

And there will be newcomers

NASCAR will see plenty of new faces, in the cars and in the garage area. But, probably the one most talked about will be that of Danica Patrick, the driver who made a name for herself as an IndyCar racer, GoDaddy girl, and more recently as a swimsuit model. She has decided to join NASCAR for a limited season in the Nationwide series, driving for JR Motorsports, owned by NASCAR's most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

With new drivers, new sponsors, and a multitude of changes in store, the 2010 NASCAR season is here and is one to watch. Personally, I can't wait!