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Miller Time

After long wait, roar of engines fills my heart

Round and round fast cars roll — to delight of patient, eager fans like this author
By Zack Miller | May 18, 2020

Seventy-one days of silence. Seventy-one days of patience and anticipation.

Finally, the wait — my wait — came to an end for NASCAR fans around the world.

NASCAR announced on April 30 that May 17 was the day auto racing fans had longed for, as cars were destined to return to the track. Sunday came and the two-and-a-half week anticipation paid off for three-and-a-half hours of racing which delivered long-awaited and amazing entertainment to millions.

Man was I excited. NASCAR is one of my favorite sports since I grew up with it in my life, but my wife, Meagan, was about to lock me out of the house because I kept reminding her NASCAR was back. She is a casual viewer, but does not enjoy it to the extent I do.

I would  be lying if I said these past two months without sports was not a challenge, especially when one of my favorite sports — NASCAR — had to shut down until the organization worked out the protocols on how to continue in this world of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

The iRacing filled the gap for the seven-week layoff, but it was not the same, as my hunger for real racing was not satisfied despite the same drivers competing in the virtual world.

On Sunday at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, things were not the exact same at the track as before the pandemic hit, which was expected, as drivers and crew members wore masks, announcers did not sit high above the track, the national anthem and invocation were done virtually, but the most significant difference: no faces in the crowd.

You can read about other NASCAR safety implementations here.

Kevin Harvick won the race after dominating the second half in front of the pack, and he made note during his post burnout interview it was not the same without the cheers of fans to congratulate him.

All in all, though, the broadcast went off without a hitch, and also included the use of a drone to give a new perspective on the action, something which would not have been possible if there were fans in the stands and infield, due to a Federal Aviation Administration rule established in 2016 which prohibits the use of drones if operated over people.

This week, and the next month in general, I will be a "kid in a candy store" because of all the races scheduled to make up for the shutdown.

The Cup Series — the loftiest level you can reach in NASCAR — has four races in two weeks, with Sunday's at Darlington the first, followed again by Wednesday night's at Darlington, and then two at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina on Sunday, May 24 and Wednesday, May 27.

Sprinkled in between the four Cup Series events are Xfinity Series and Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series races, which means my "itch" will definitely be scratched.

While surfing through Twitter after the race it was interesting to read the number of new fans generated who had never watched NASCAR.

I had figured going into the race on Sunday this was an outcome due to the lack of other live sports, but did not expect to see as much positive feedback from the first-timers.

I did think to myself, if you enjoyed watching it, attending a race brings a entirely new appreciation and enjoyment to the sport, but obviously attending a race is not in the cards at the moment.

With at least one sport I love back in the fold — while baseball, hockey and basketball continue to figure things out — it feels like I have gained a lost piece of myself — my heart and soul — back from the grip of coronavirus, and, boy, do I hope everything works out like it did Sunday as the sport races into the future.

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