All last week a lying imposter teased us, whispering that winter was done and spring had come. The air was a caress. Crocus shoots pushed through the earth. Grass greened, birds awoke, the sun shone too benevolently by half, a warm hand on your shoulder that winked and said, "Hi. I'm really April, you know."
As if, because all of us knew that, come Saturday, snow would be flying again. The furnace would kick back on. And for the Blob, especially, there would be this sense that spring had jumped the gun -- because for the Blob, spring never begins until today.
Sunday. At sometime past 1 p.m. When 40 damn fools get their muscle cars out again, and wind 'em up, and the blat and snarl of unleavened horsepower goes up to the Florida sky above Daytona International Speedway.
Happy Daytona Day, as NASCAR is billing it. Happy unofficial first day of spring, is how the Blob bills it.
Dale Jr.'s out there again, thankfully, and, look, there's Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin, and both the Busch boys, those goobers. There's Brad Keselowski, another goober. There's Kevin Harvick. And sitting on the pole, right where it belongs, there's old No. 24 -- except it's not Jeff Gordon in the seat now, it's Bill Elliott's boy, Chase.
Pretty soon they'll be freight-training around the place, and it'll be spring on my television screen -- or, better yet, summer. The Daytona 500 is where winter exits stage left for me, and if NASCAR doesn't thrill me the way it used to, it's still useful in that capacity.
Who's gonna win?
Hell, I don't know. Plate races are always a crapshoot, and maybe never more so than this year, with NASCAR itself jimmying with the natural order of these things with its three-stage nonsense. The dopes still think they can regain the un-regainable -- the absurdly unsustainable success of the late 1990s and early 2000s -- and their latest crack at it is to make the points system even more confusing than it already was. So a third of the way in today, they'll stop everything and count up points. Then they'll do it again at the two-thirds mark.
How did this come to be? I don't know how it came to be. I'm guessing a couple drinks too many at some midnight hour might have had something to do with it, though.
In any case, predicting Daytona just got a little harder. I'm guessing Chase Elliott doesn't win, because the polesitter hardly ever wins Daytona. You can bet Junior will be up there at the end, because he always is. And unless they get caught up in one of Daytona's usual messes, so will Hamlin and Logano and Truex and J.J.,and probably one or two guys you didn't count on, because that's how it goes at Daytona.
Wind 'em up, boys. Spring's awaitin'.