This weekend will be the first race of the NHRA season as things get underway in Orlando, Florida. It feels weird to write this in January, but this off season seemed shorter than most. The NFL season isn’t even over yet, but here we are getting ready to kick off the racing anyway. Growing up in the Northeast, the season didn’t really kick off until April, but typically sunny Florida has much less snow and freezing weather to contend with than most parts of the country. While I unfortunately, will not be in attendance, I, like many others, will be keeping tabs on the results.

As exciting as the beginning of the season is, it just seems a little early for me. If I were to attend, I would have to re-winterize my car when I got back home. North Carolina is warm, but we still usually have a few below freezing days to contend with in February. Growing up, we always eyed early March for the Orlando (now Gainesville) divisional and the Gatornationals the following week as the beginning of our season. By the time we returned home near the end of March the local tracks were starting to open up and it felt like we had a head start with the two events under our belt.

The biggest issue I have with the season starting this early is just the weather in general. As I stated earlier, Florida has a much balmier winter than most parts of the country, but it is still winter. Highs seem to be projected in the 70s during the day which is pleasant and only in the 50s during the night which isn’t too awful. Some years though, the lows get down into the 40s and 30s though. Call me soft or thin blooded, but I do not like having to get a winter jacket on when I am at the track. I will admit though, it is quite nice to sit around a firepit catching up with friends at the end of the day. But 40s at a track is still cold.

While my comfort at the track is one thing, however the track conditions are more important. As the sun sets a little after 6 pm, the dew can settle quickly after that time. This creates a dangerous situation for the racers. In recent years, track operators and event directors have been much more cognizant of this condition, but even so it does create a potential issue and at best shortens the race day. God forbid an accident were to occur, many of us are quick to blame the event director for not shutting it down earlier. While this person may be an easy target, it is each individual racers responsibility to make the decision to race or not. I totally understand how difficult of a decision it is in the moment, but your race car and health are way more valuable than a [insert any dollar amount] round. There will always be another round, event, season that you can make. Getting home safely to see your family with the car in one piece is a big win that many of us don’t appreciate enough.

So, for those of you attending Orlando, good luck and be safe. You have a head start on the season and the winners of that event will be leading the national championship chase for at least three weeks. Just remember, if you are bringing your stuff back north, don’t forget to drop the water out of the motor before you get home. No need to make the trip more expensive than it already is by cracking a block. -Franklin DiBartolomeo