From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:
Usually on a Sunday afternoon during spring, watching auto racing would be viewing option No. 5.
The first four, in no particular order, would be a Yankees/Mets game, NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs and PGA Tour. With fresh batteries installed, the TV clicker would get its usual workout from noon to 6 p.m.
However, this spring is different, like no spring we’ve ever previously seen.
With just about every major sport entity shut down — except for pro wrestling, some selected horse racing and mixed martial arts — since the second weekend of March because of the coronavirus pandemic, NASCAR made a highly anticipated return Sunday in the Real Heroes 400 at Darlington, S.C., without fans at the track. Racing was absent for 10 weeks or 71 days.
Saying I’m a casual auto racing fan is the understatement of all understatements.
Listening to cars go zoom, zoom and zoom in counterclockwise fashion around an oval was delightfully refreshing to my ears shortly before the 4 o’clock hour Sunday. This version of zoom for a total of 293 laps was suddenly more important than the Zoom platform on the internet.
Fox-TV analyst Jeff Gordon said during the race that the roaring engines were the “sweetest sound.”
Considering my TV diet for the past 10 weeks has been Bonanza, M*A*S*H, The Andy Griffith Show, Green Acres and Perry Mason — mind you, all great programs of the past — it was euphoric to watch a live sporting event on TV again.
Classic games hold a special place in a fan’s heart, but vintage contests can only go so far in the drama department, especially when the result has been known for some time.
I didn’t care who was the first driver knocked out of the race — which was Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on Lap 1 — or even won the race, which was Kevin Harvick. Seven-time NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson, who announced earlier that 2020 will be his last season as a full-time driver, ran an excellent first 90 laps before crashing into a wall, ending his day. He has now gone through 100 races since his last victory.
Like everybody else, I will have more than a “passing” interest in the TV ratings, which will released later this week.
After Sunday’s Real Heroes 400, which was NASCAR’s fifth event of the 36-race season that’s set to end in November, the circuit won’t have much time off with four more races over the next 13 days, making up for the painful void.
Another Cup race is set for Wednesday night, also in Darlington. The action switches for two races at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.
Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org