You often hear sports writers wax nostalgic about the first day of regular season baseball. They’ll talk about the smell of fresh-cut grass, or the crisp edges of the lime that marks the baselines or the excitement on the faces of fans who can’t wait to hear that first sound of the ball against a hickory bat.
I admit I have a fondness for watching live baseball, although I’ll also confess that some measure of my affinity for the game stems from scoring good seats, sipping cold beer and cracking open the shells on roasted peanuts as I watch each pitch.
But opening day of baseball season isn’t what really gets me going. As you might imagine, the first event of a new racing season is what does it for me. I just love it, and as I write this, we’re only a few days away from our first race and I’m finding it hard to sit still. I can’t wait.
Unlike years past, I was ahead of the curve for this season. I had no major repairs to make, so I was able to knock out the punch list a little at a time and even cross everything off the list, including a trip to the dyno. Believe it or not, my car is already in the trailer a week before I leave for Willow Springs. I can hardly believe it myself.
This time of year is special. My phone starts pinging from racing buddies who have a question or need something. My email inbox starts filling up with queries about the new season and I can tell everyone is as excited as I am.
Compared with regions such as Great Lakes or Northeast or Mid-Atlantic, we start a little early here in Southern California. Compared with the Southeast Region, we start late. Those guys had races in January and February. They’re already submitting race reports!
Each winter, when the coming year’s race schedules are released, we have something of a ritual in the Becker household. I map out all the NASA race weekends here in Southern Cal, schedule one or two up at one of the righteous tracks in Northern California, then schedule everything else around that.
My wife tolerates the ritual, and I’m grateful that she does, because racing is just greatest thing on the planet. From the outside racing seems crazy, given the expense and time commitment, but from where I sit, I don’t know what I’d do without it. I played with cars when I was five, and I’m playing with them in my 50s. What could be better?
I don’t know who will win the Phillies’ first game, or what the race results will be after the first weekend, but I have a pretty good idea how the weekend will go. I’ll find my paddock space, then spend the night in the trailer. The next day I’ll add a couple of decals to the car, bed the pads then head out for practice. I already know the corners I need to work on and the guys I need to watch. We were all within .5 seconds at last year’s race, so I’ll be interested to see if the rule changes that took place in the offseason had a positive effect.
From memory, I know what the crack of a baseball bat sounds like. It’s a magical sound, but it’s nothing compared with the noise a pack of Spec Miatas make at full song. The smell of burned hydrocarbons, the muted roar of the cars through my earplugs, the whiff of brake dust and the glint of the high desert sun. On opening day, it all seems beautiful to me.