Another year free from the tyranny of England.
And one more year of the old Firecracker 400 the way we remember it.
OK, so the two are necessarily equal in importance, but the celebrations are similar and simultaneous.
At least for one more week.
Yes, this is the traditional summer swoon for NASCAR, the sun-splashed stop in the Sunshine State, complete with parades and fireworks and ice-cold beer. And that’s just at the race track.
And yes, sadly, this is the last time we’ll meet in Daytona for the week of the Fourth. For whatever reason, and we’re sure it’s not a good one, they’re moving the 400 from the coolest (and hottest) date on the schedule to the end of August. And worse, they’re giving the week of the Fourth to Indy, which doesn’t deserve a place on the schedule at all, much less that of the traditional Firecracker 400.
Indy is a failed experiment. One day, NASCAR will have to admit that and come home.
This will be an odd-feeling race a year from now. For years, the 400 was the vacation getaway for the entire sport, one of the few races where everyone would go down with their entire family, from the drivers and crew members to the racing writers and photographers.
And we would get up early for a morning green flag, the only one on the schedule, and then we would all head to the beach where the kids could play in the water and we could drink cold beer and talk about the race with our ears still ringing.
The 400 was a quirky little race that included a celebration for the King. Richard Petty turned 82 on Tuesday, but it feels like he could still be racing on the high banks he dominated and where his family introduced racing to the nation.
We all seem old now. The 400 was moved from the Fourth itself in 1988, and even that seemed to be a slap in the face of tradition. Then it was moved to night, which didn’t seem right at all.
Without the searing sun and the smell of Coppertone and Schlitz, it became just another race.
Once it moves completely out of July, it won’t be the same. But nothing is anymore.
The 400 is like a sprint race, not that far removed from the Twin qualifying races in February, a short run that was dictated by heat and the lure of the beach.
Now it’s dictated by television and the whims of a new generation of officials, most of whom never get out in the sun anyway.
Raise a can of cold beer this weekend and toast the flag of your choice, be it that of Betsy Ross or stock-car racing. Either way, it’s the end of another era.
Then sit back and watch the fireworks.
God bless America, and Godspeed to the Firecracker 400.