After going more than two months without any major sporting events, Sunday cured the withdrawal I had been suffering from.
NASCAR may not be the top sport in the country, but it was one of the nation’s first to come back after the coronavirus had sidelined competitions for what seemed like forever.
I made sure to get up fairly early to get the “honey do’’ list done before race coverage was set to start at 2:30 p.m. I even gave myself an extra hour by telling my wife it started at 1:30 p.m. (I really wasn’t sure at the time).
Sitting comfortably in the recliner, the roar of the engines quickly reminded me why I started watching the sport — besides getting to watch Jeff Gordon win race after race back in the good old days. On Sunday, the sights and sounds of Darlington Raceway — “The Track Too Tough to Tame’’ — were a treat for the eyes and ears.
The track lived up to its name on the very first lap as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. crashed out. Eighty-eight laps into the 293-lap Real Heroes 400, seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson also had to leave the race after an accident.
The crashes would have brought cheers and boos from certain fan groups, but there was none of that this time around as fans were not allowed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Outside of the racing, the entire feel of the event was a bit strange. Broadcasters were doing their jobs from another state and the lone TV reporter in Darlington, S.C., used what looked like a 4-foot microphone pole for his interviews. The pit crews and everyone else allowed at the track also wore face masks to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Regarding a lack of fans, the only part that really made things seem different was the post-race interview with winner Kevin Harvick.
Harvick burned out and did doughnuts on the track after his 50th NASCAR Cup victory before eventually climbing from his No. 4 Busch Light Ford. That’s the point where the driver usually stands on the door frame and the crowd roars their approval.
This time, however, it was basically silent as Harvick looked into the stands a few times expecting to hear the cheers that never came.
“I didn’t think it was going to be that different, then we won and it’s dead silent out here,’’ Harvick told the Associated Press. “We miss the fans.”
The fans — myself included — miss seeing the races in person, but that will come with time.
I’m loving it for now with another race last night (that was delayed by rain), and three more races this month, which is being accomplished by racing on Wednesdays.
I’m also looking forward to the return of baseball, basketball, hockey and football — and whatever other sport I can watch from my living room. Please let it be soon!
I know this shows just how addicted I am to sports, but I’ll admit to that due to the circumstances.
Now I have a reason to turn on SportsCenter when I get home at night.
I no longer have to watch reruns of the Denver Broncos Super Bowls or the Slipper Stairs world championship on The Ocho (ESPN 8).