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Keeping Pace

Halfway Next Time By at Daytona

What do Wednesday and the Coke Zero 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race have in common? To anyone who works the traditional 40-hour week, it isn’t all that hard to figure out.


Guest Column By Cathy Elliott

Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations

Here’s a little poser from the Department of Racing Riddles: What do Wednesday and the Coke Zero 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race have in common? To anyone who works the traditional 40-hour week, it isn’t all that hard to figure out.

The typical Monday through Friday schedule, or “The Grind,” as it is affectionately known to those who are a lot more familiar with it than they’d really like to be, is frequently compared to a mountain or, for our purposes here, a hill.
 
The working man or woman, AKA “The Drudge,” stands at the bottom of the hill each Monday morning — a momentous day as it sets the tone for the entire week — gazing up at the monster that simply seems too high to scale.

Monday, though, is really not so bad. It is a day devoted to giving blow-by-blow accounts of your weekend activities to your co-workers, and listening to theirs in turn.

You check your accumulated e-mail and return your phone messages, and then, almost before you’ve had time to notice that it has begun, the day has ended. You’re halfway up the hill.

Tuesday is a bit of a tougher slog. This is the day when we tend to hunker down at our desks, make our lists and projections, and set our goals. It isn’t the most glamorous day of the week, but it certainly can be a productive one. And when it ends, the summit is within reach.
 
Wednesday is widely considered the most pivotal day of the week. It is the day when our perspective shifts. The foundations that were established on Monday and Tuesday provide a firm and steady path to the top of the hill.

We stop looking behind us; we focus on what’s ahead. Wednesday gives us the motivation we need to push through to the end. This is why we call it “over the hump” day.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season follows a similar pattern.

Monday is great. Speedweeks is always a terrific time to check out everybody’s new stuff, and catch up on all the news (and the gossip, of course). This includes the most momentous race of the year — the Daytona 500 — and early season excitement at tracks like Bristol and Martinsville.

There are plenty of interesting goings-on as teams jockey for position, not only during actual events, but also for places on particularly significant lists such as the Top 12 in driver standings or the Top 35 qualifiers.

Almost before we realize the season has truly begun, nine races have passed.

Tuesday marks the time when, after those initial positions are established, two team goals take center stage: To either maintain your position, or improve it. It is a period of hard work and difficult races, like the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway and the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. It is nose to the grindstone time.

Then, you look up and see it, right there at the top of hill.
 
I had to smack myself in the head a couple of days ago when I realized with a start that the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway marks the midway point in the 2009 racing season. Where did the time go? Like Wednesday, it just snuck up on me somehow.

The importance of race number 18 of 36 cannot be overstated. It’s like that day during a vacation when you realize it might be prudent to start putting a few things back into the suitcase.

Your focus turns toward the things you haven’t done yet, the goals you need to accomplish before the trip is done. Time is running out, and you’d better get cracking.

Truly, the Coke Zero 400 is NASCAR’s version of Wednesday, its “over the hump” race, with one major difference.

When we hit that turning point in the workweek, we madly want it to just be over, already. But in NASCAR, when we realize the season is halfway gone, we tend to cringe rather than crow.

We just don’t want it to end.


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Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.

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