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Oh, So Long...

It's been two years since Fontana last got to see any NASCAR action... But that all changes.. now.

By Brian Kennedy

Fri, Feb 25, 2022 09:44 PM PST

Featured image by Gabriela Moya, at the NASCAR event in Fontana 2020.

Two years  ago, right  before the outbreak of Covid that shut  down much of the world, Fontana hosted a NASCAR race at Auto Club Speedway. Two miles of bumpy, uneven pavement. Three hours of dive-bomb moves into turn 1, out of turn 1, into turn 2, and so on.

Perhaps a sixty-percent capacity crowd watched, fascinated, but totally unaware that this was a last gasp of normalcy at least for a couple of years. That was March 1, 2020. Now here we are  again, and as many as eighty people are going to strap themselves into cars Saturday and head into a turn at 180 miles an hour. Why would they do this? And what will happen to them? 

Chances are, they’ll all make the turns, because these are no ordinary cars. They are NASCAR “stock” cars, racing in the Xfinity  and Cup Series. For the Xfinity drivers, this will be their second race of the year. And, to get up to that eighty number, add in the drivers of the Cup series, who  will practice and qualify Saturday, but race on Sunday.

Along with the spectacle on track, the weekend will feature concerts, a Fan Zone with stuff for people of all ages from kids on up to do, and other attractions, just like two years ago. But I’m guessing that more than a few of the people gathered will be doing these things with a mindset that is multiple layers deep. It’s not just “Who’s fastest?” anymore. It’s “Is this normal life?” “Is everyone else thinking what I’m thinking—that this giant distraction needs to be put into  context somehow?”

In other  words, no matter how normal, how familiar all of this will feel. No matter the healing that will take place from the blights (of many kinds) that have plagued us over the time since March 2020. No matter how precisely like every pre-Covid race weekend this one will be. None of this can ever be taken for granted again. So if you’re going, then have maximum fun. If you’re participating by watching on TV, enjoy the action. But remember that this is all extra - these are the things that we add to life to make it interesting. Life itself is located off the track, except for those actually driving the cars.

And that returns us to the racing. A week ago, Austin Hill won the Xfinity Series season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway in a thrilling finish where fellow driver Myatt Snider went flying, belly pan on full display, into the catch fence, on the closing lap. Inevitably, this cause a flipping spin, but Snider climbed out with no visible damage and only a complaint of a sore ankle.

Knowing that can happen, you might well ask, Why  would anyone do this? Because they want to drive even more sophisticated cars, those in the NASCAR Cup Series, and this second-tier series in the logical pathway there. Drivers have never considered the possibility of an accident - that’s what allows them to do that aforementioned 180 mph dive into turn 1 at Fontana, or anywhere else where speeds get up to that level.

This weekend, there are two races, the Xfinity cars going off at 2pm local time Saturday, and the Cup cars starting at 12:30pm Sunday. The rest of Saturday is taken up by various practice and qualifying sessions, so it should be a full day of action. Sunday, the big boys get the spotlight, but the pace is a little easier than it used to be. Garages open at 9:30, where in my recollection, that used to be 7am. Anyway, it’s fun to be on the spot when the doors roll up, and I’ll be there and will report on what I see.

Whatever happens, and nobody’s hoping for a repeat of the Snider incident, it’s been a while since SoCal fans were able to see this for themselves, and it sure feels it, but Saturday should be fun, and Sunday an even bigger spectacle. See you at the track.

About The Author

Brian Kennedy's profile picture

Brian Kennedy

Brian Kennedy always wanted a ’66 Mustang. 10 years ago, he bought one – and he’s been restoring it ever since. Brian extended his passion for cars by covering events for magazines like Grassroots Motorsports, Sportscar, and Victory Lane – e.g., events in Cart, Pro Rally, Formula Atlantic, the SCCA Runoffs, Trans Am, SVRA, VSCDA, and VARA. He’s also profiled a number of cars and interviewed a number of personalities – among them: Gene Felton (IMSA), Hurley Haywood, Jerry Seinfeld, and Nigel Olsson.

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