Sports Illustrated: Full Throttle: 2004 Nascar Preview - From Daytona to Darlingtonby Editors of Sports Illustrated
Why Do We love NASCAR? Maybe it's because it is a sport that loves us back, working overtime to engage its fans in many ways. Foremost among these is the racing itself, with its split-second, high-decibel, tire-screeching dance of risk and reward, as a collection of larger-than-life stars bang, bump and feud at jaw-dropping speeds on the high-banked ovals at… See more details below
Why Do We love NASCAR? Maybe it's because it is a sport that loves us back, working overtime to engage its fans in many ways. Foremost among these is the racing itself, with its split-second, high-decibel, tire-screeching dance of risk and reward, as a collection of larger-than-life stars bang, bump and feud at jaw-dropping speeds on the high-banked ovals at Darlington and Talladega. There are, of course, other reasons. Unlike most sports, in which fans can see only dim reflections of themselves -- when was the last time you hit a 450-foot home run, or carded a 63 at Medinah, or tomahawked a dunk down on Shaq's head? -- NASCAR is at once death-defying and prosaic. When was the last time you drove?
NASCAR is one of the strictest, and also one of the most fluid, rule-making bodies in sport. The organization's honchos intend for mechanical parity to ensure close racing and further fan interest, so they not only micromanage the engineering of the cars at every point but also often modify the specs from week to week -- half an inch here, half a pound there -- to prevent one make or model from gaining an unfair advantage. The teams, naturally, do all they can to gain that advantage, so the tension between enforcement and violation creates a kind of nervous equilibrium. Outright cheating is rare, but elaborate conspiracy theories fuel the garage rumor mill, feeding the far frenzy all the while.
In this 2004 season look for that frenzy to be at an alltime high. As the sport welcomes a new, high-tech sponsor (Nextel), an even wider audience beckons. And if competition is what you crave, there can be no better time to sample the sport. Whether you're drawn to racing's Young Guns (led by red-hot Ryan Newman, 2003 points champ Matt Kenseth and poster boy Dale Earnhardt Jr.) or come to the track to rally behind the icons of the past decade (perhaps best personified by four-time champ Jeff Gordon), the sport has something, and someone, for you to cheer. So flip through these pages, and get fired up for the season. It's all here -- from a spin through the 2003 season in photos, to profiles of the top drivers, to projections on what to expect from every race. There's also a special tribute to America's most beloved racing family, the Earnhardts, from the pages of Sports Illustrated, because we believe racing is more than just the results each week.
- Time Home Entertainment, Inc
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