The healing power of INDYCAR Spring Training

An offseason can be a long and lonely thing.

This morning, I wrote two separate blog posts - each totaling about 2,500 words - that I ended up discarding completely, unpublished. One of them had to do with INDYCAR's brand invisibility, and the other discussed the topic of why so much of the sport's marketing appears to rely on crowdsourcing.

Now, both of these topics are fascinating to me and I expended a lot of thought trying to come up with balanced looks at the issues. But in the end, I threw them out.

Why? Because the IndyCars are out on track... finally.

Sure, it's only Spring Training at Sebring, but it still counts. And the sound of turbocharged Indy motors goes a long way towards erasing an off-season that wore on me like battery acid.

I wrote at the start of the off-season that it was a good thing that we had so much time between the tragic events of Las Vegas and the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg that will occur at the end of this month. Well, I look back on it and can't help thinking it was all a bunch of baloney.

I was trying to make myself feel good by writing all of that junk about how the new rules, new engines, new cars, and new drivers would need time to develop before the 2012 season got underway. That it turns out I was right - and that even an offseason that long still wasn't long enough for some (ahemLOTUSahem) - does nothing to change the fact that it also turns out that so many months of inactivity just about drove me freaking insane.

It doesn't help that the lingering image that we were left with was the solemn procession by the remains of the Las Vegas field in front of hundreds of thousands of shocked eyes and grieving hearts. 2011 ended on the worst note possible; only the fact that the series was almost wholly reinventing itself in the offseason helped to drive those terrible images out of our heads.

Having that goal to work towards went a long way to dulling the edge of our collective pain. Getting on with life is a hard thing after tragedy, but the sooner you get to it, the easier it is to do. Work is amazing therapy for grief, as I learned first-hand when my father-in-law passed away suddenly in 2001. So much had to be done that within days of his death - even prior to the funeral - we were to the point where we were able to smile and even laugh again. Those who showed up to the funeral could not understand how they could feel so sad when we were rallying so strongly - and in some cases, we ended up consoling people who had come to console us.

I imagine that is how it was for the competitors of the IZOD IndyCar Series during the offseason. For the fans it was not as pleasant. We could only watch developments from afar, vicariously living through those in the sport who interacted with us on social media. But we were not - are not - directly involved in the events that are sweeping INDYCAR forward, and consequently it was more difficult for us to heal.

Months of grasping at every small bit of news wore on us like a nail file rasping away at our skin. Even the smallest misstep or setback exploded out of proportion. As time dragged inexorably on, while our heroes in the sport worked diligently on preparations for the upcoming season... we waited.

Now, as the photos and videos crawl in from Sebring, we claw at them like rare drops of drinking water in the middle of a vast desert. The need for racing is palpable if for no other reason than to convince us that the sport is going to continue forward. We try to slake our thirst at the fountain of Grand Am and NASCAR but it is not enough. It is not our racing, and everything else is a poor substitute.

I'm tired of analyzing theory and perception, I realize. I've been doing it for months now. I feel somewhat like Giles Corey - every word written about philosophy or intangibles or predictive nature is a wheezed cry of "More weight!"

It's past time for me to start writing about action. And as the whine of the turbochargers sound across the flat, patch-ridden, dusty expanse of Sebring International Raceway, I feel as though the weight is finally lifting off of me.

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