NASCAR's off-season this year, seems a little less painful than in years past when I couldn't stand waking up on a Sunday morning without the prospect of satisfying my racing fix. This year was different. I almost relished the end to this racing year. There was plenty of aggravation during the 2012 season.
Perhaps my disfavor can be explained by the less than stellar performance of my favorite driver--Ryan Newman. Don't get me wrong--I am as big a Newman fan as ever--but I recognize that everybody has an off year sometimes. After all, he had plenty going on to distract him this year. Not only was he in line for a new contract with Stewart-Haas Racing, but sponsorship for the 2013 season was precarious when the U.S. Army decided not to back the #39 car due to budget constraints. I'm really not too upset about that, by the way. He and Krissie were also preparing for a new addition to their family. All that can weigh on a guy. Once Ryan's contract was settled, sponsors stepped up and Ashlyn, the Newmans' second child was born, Ryan seemed to be back to his old self, ending the season with four top 15 races; the last two were top fives.
I have to say that despite Newman's end-game rally, I did not enjoy the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Championship. Though I continued to watch each race, it was not with my normal enthusiasm. In fact I even wrote recently about favoring an end to the Chase. During this season, and frankly leading up to it, NASCAR rulings haven't always been fair or consistent; results of the championship run were way too predictable; and Ryan didn't make the chase. Truthfully, by the time the season concluded, I was actually ready for a racing respite.
I must have gotten over it, because sometime after Homestead I input Feb. 24, 2013 into my desktop calendar. I am counting down to the start of the season and the Daytona 500, just 48 days away now.
I just learned however, that due to NASCAR's latest rules, not only will Newman not be participating in the Shootout, but neither will this year's champion, Brad Kezelowski or Clint Bowyer, who finished second in points. What is up with that? NASCAR seems to go out of its way to make aggravating decisions--at least as far as I'm concerned.
I just can't help but wonder, if Dale Earnhardt, Jr. hadn't won a pole in 2012, I wonder how the rules would have been tweaked to accommodate...just sayin!
It is one thing for my personal disappointment that Newman won't be included in the Shootout, but the Champion?
While the Shootout isn't a points race, it is a fan favorite. I'm just not so sure this year, this fan will be watching!