After an unusually long, cold, snowy and icy winter (for the South), the parade of haulers making their ways South heralds the beginning of Speed Weeks—nine glorious days of celebration leading up to the Daytona 500. NASCAR is back!

Do not pretend to understand the new rules, infractions, deductions, or the Chase qualification or elimination system. Plenty of time for that. Right now, it’s enough to hear the roar of engines, watch the new cars take the track for the first time, and just enjoy the experience of Speed Weeks.

You may have heard that on top of the ice storm that hit Georgia and the Carolinas, a 4.3 earthquake registered in that region (centered in Augusta, GA) Friday evening. Best tweet of the week: @ESPNMcGee: All those people were right! The 3 returns to the racetrack…and a few hrs later an earthquake in the Carolinas.

The return of the 3 car, new adjustments to the cars (something to do with the rear spoiler), and no “two-car tandems” produce intriguing stories. Saturday’s Sprint Unlimited and the carnage left in its wake hopefully is not a prelude to this Sunday’s 500. As the drivers become more familiar with the nuances of the 2014 Sprint car as the week goes on—forget bump drafting, be mindful of optimum space needed for side and rear drafting—we can hope the 500 is a race, NOT the “Survival of the Lucky.”

Back to Austin Dillon driving the revered 3 car. Conspiracy theorists delight in discussing “how” the 3 won the pole. Quite sure all the drivers intentionally held back to give him the pole. (Can we hope that all the Dale Jr. conspiracists will transfer their efforts to the 3 car this year? Probably not.)

Adding to the glow of Spring in the air, pitchers and catchers report to camp and Spring Training overtakes the rest of Florida and Arizona. Baseball is Back! With the Braves’ locking up all their Restricted Free Agents, they inexplicably let team leader and perennial All Star Brian McCann get away—to the Yankees—without putting up a fight. Home-grown McCann is was the face of the franchise post Chipper Jones, a valued teacher for the young Braves pitchers, and the undeniable clubhouse leader. Would McCann have accepted less—but a fair offer—to stay with his hometown team? Unfortunately, we will never know. (Quite sure that Ted Turner would not have let him go.)

Even the Winter Olympics have a Spring-like glow in the resort town of Sochi, with unusually warm temperatures playing havoc with the indoor ice rinks and creating difficulties for the Alpine events. Kudos to the USA athletes already capturing a medal and we remain glued to the TV for the Women’s Hockey and the NHL’s Men’s Hockey. T. J. Oshie’s an overnight sensation and household name after the superb shoot-out win against the Russians. Hoping the US will play another “favorite team” for Gold (not giving THAT information away) next Sunday.

Gold medal hockey in the morning, Daytona in the afternoon. Doesn’t get much better than that! Welcome Spring—bring on the daffodils.

2014 Daytona Speedweeks schedule – USA Today

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