Sunday afternoon at Darlington Raceway was needed.
It was needed by car owners, crews, and drivers who needed sponsorship money to save their Cup teams. It was needed by FOX who had been filling time with reruns of television series each week. It was needed by sports-starved fans who had not watched a live sanctioned event in two months.
When the ratings came through Monday afternoon, NASCAR became winners as 6.32 million viewers watched The Real Heroes 400. The event was the most-watched non-Daytona 500 race since March 5, 2017.
NASCAR’s popularity has been climbing the past 12-18 months despite losing stars like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, and soon-to-be losing Jimmie Johnson as he will be done after this season due to retirement from the sport. The stands are not as packed as they were in the late 90s and early 00s, but it is showing life.
That is why the sport needed to get back on track. With new stars rising, a new car in the works, and new manufacturers rumored to come to the sport, they needed to put on a show.
They not only delivered on track but off also as they practiced social distancing, wore masks, and had a great broadcast to appease anyone who may have been nervous about the event being held. Only once did we see an iffy camera angle where the spotters seemed to be huddled together, but they dispersed quickly without any qualms.
Kevin Harvick dominated the race leading a race-high 159 laps, earning his 50th career victory. Another great story was rookies Tyler Reddick and John Hunter Nemechek who both scored top 10 finishes.
The cars will be back on the track Wednesday night, while the Xfinity drivers will take to the track tomorrow evening.
If you are sports-starved, or maybe you tuned out of the sport at some point, I urge you to give NASCAR a shot. Find a driver - there is plenty of young talent to root for - and give it a try.
NASCAR won big on and off the track, and we can win by supporting a series that is doing their best to move forward.