NASCAR’s return ends flirtation with football

col-cathyelliottYou know that socially awkward moment when you’re just being nice and the other involved party thinks you’re flirting with them?

Yes, NFL, I’m singing this song for you.

My boyfriend’s back and you’re gonna be in trouble …

I admit it was partly my fault. The holidays rolled around, and NASCAR, my longtime boyfriend, sort of fell off the grid. He’s done this to me before — as recently as EVERY SINGLE ONE of the last couple of decades — but since I’m his true-blue gal pal, I know when he needs his space.

I patiently bide my time, and spend the weeks until NASCAR’s reappearance by Googling him 40 or 50 times daily. Some people seem to feel that’s a bit excessive, but I figure that what the naysayers might call stalking, I call fidelity. Thank goodness we’ve cleared that up.

When you see him comin’, better cut out on the double …

I gotta hand it to you, NFL, you really went all in. Roughly one hot minute after my boyfriend left town, there you were, knocking at the door with guns blazing.

You offered me your razzle-dazzle young Cam Newton and your legendary Peyton Manning. You snuck Bruno Mars into the Super Bowl halftime show. You even let my beloved Washington Redskins make the NFC playoffs, which was downright dirty pool in my opinion.

You’ve been spreading lies that I was untrue …

This isn’t exactly breaking news, but you, NFL, do not play fair. I like you and enjoy hanging out with you and don’t want to hurt your feelings, but it’s time you realized once and for all that we are just friends, and that is all we will ever be.

I am flattered by your efforts, but you must accept that for every Manning, I have a Jimmie Johnson; for every Redskins, I have a Stewart Haas Racing. And while I am a Carolina girl to the core and thoroughly enjoyed watching Newton last season, this year NASCAR has given me Chase Elliott, a hotshot rookie who went out and won the Daytona 500 pole position on his very first try.

I’m fairly sure that Elliott — who is now in the record books as the youngest Daytona 500 pole winner in history — won’t win his inaugural Great American Race on Feb. 21, but I’m almost certain that he won’t pout and cast aspersions on the team and driver that does. He knows he’s fortunate to be there, and that his time will come.

So look out now, ’cause he’s comin’ after you …

NASCAR blew into Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 13 with a dramatic Sprint Unlimited event that left a mere handful of cars undamaged, including the No. 11 Toyota driven to Victory Lane by Denny Hamlin. Hamlin is the Energizer Bunny of stock car racing, hopping back from a number of knee and back injuries over the years with his determination and driving talent undiminished. Many feel that he is the most talented driver on the track who has not yet won a championship. We’ll just have to wait and see. NASCAR’s sleeve is full of tricks. I love that about him.

He’s been gone for such a long time; now he’s back and things will be fine …

Is NASCAR free of controversy and conflict? Of course not. Inevitably when certain teams go on a winning streak, conspiracy theorists come out of the woodwork. Is it one big, happy-family vacation where everyone works and travels together on a rollicking cross-country road trip, Griswold style? Nope. Try doing an Internet feud search on Kevin Harvick/Kyle Busch or my personal favorite combo platter, Jeff Gordon/Clint Bowyer, and you’ll see what I mean.

Running from February through November, NASCAR offers one of the longest competitive seasons in professional sports. You might think a girl would need a break after logging all those miles, and could even feel that she’s just going around in circles most of the time.

In fact, the opposite is true. She’s ready to put fresh batteries in the remote, grab the guacamole, and gussy up for 10 months of true romance.

Her boyfriend’s back.

Cathy Elliott is the former director of public relations for Darlington Raceway and author of the books Chicken Soup for the Soul: NASCAR and Darlington Raceway: Too Tough To Tame. Contact her at cathyelliott@hotmail.com.

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