The Long Off Season is Finally Over

It’s almost time. Late in the week and over the weekend, engines will roar at Daytona International Speedway as Speedweeks continues. Of course, it’s a little different this year. It will be the last Speedweeks for Jeff Gordon and the first for Mike Helton with his new position at NASCAR. Carl Edwards will go from Ford to Toyota in Cup for the first time and Elliott Sadler and teammate Darrell Wallace Jr. will move from Toyota to Ford in the Xfinity Series. As much as things stay the same, there are a lot of changes.

The biggest change is the Sprint Cup car itself, but we won’t know how that will go until the second race of the season at Atlanta since the Daytona car is essentially the same as last year. Qualifying for the front row for the Daytona 500 will follow the procedure used at the rest of the tracks last year for the first time. The two qualifying races on Feb. 19 will determine the rest of the field in what has to be the most complicated formula in racing. We love it because they’re finally racing again. One has to wonder if any of the usual suspects will not make the field much like Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at Talladega last year. We will soon know.

Will Kevin Harvick continue to top the speed charts? Will the change of scenery lift Carl Edwards to the heights that rocketed Matt Kenseth to the most wins in 2013? Will Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski continue to win multiple races? Will Roush Fenway Racing make a comeback or will they continue to flounder? Will Tony Stewart rebound to his usual winning ways? Can Ryan Newman play the consistency card once again and contend again? Will Jimmie Johnson become dominant again and win his seventh title or will Jeff Gordon, in a final run, beat him out? This guy is getting excited already, and it hasn’t even started yet.

The first real race of the season is on Saturday night in the Sprint Unlimited, which has invited most of the world to race in the short race that once was a race for pole winners. No more. Almost everyone is in the pool, except for teams who just don’t have the finances to run one more race at Daytona. That said, from Friday’s practice until the Great American Race (thank you Ken Squier for making that popular) on Sunday, Feb. 22, every race fan will be glued to the television, and hopefully with gas prices being so low, a few more people will actually show up in the stands. It’s NASCAR season again and this reporter is pumped!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

Ron Fleshman
Ron Fleshman has followed NASCAR racing since attending his first race at Martinsville Speedway in 1964. He joined the Motor Sports Forum on the CompuServe network in the 1980s and became a reporter for Racing Information Systems in 1994. In 2002, he was named NASCAR Editor for RIS when it appeared on the World Wide Web as He can now be found at Ron is a member of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association. You can find Ron following and reporting on the top three NASCAR divisions each week. As a lifer in his support of racing, he attends and reports on nearly 30 events a year and as a member of the motor sports media, his passion has been racing for 47 years. He lives with his family in rural West Virginia and works in the insurance industry when not on the road to another track.

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