The never-ending loop

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When it comes to relaxing during the off-season, Kurt Busch isn't too particular. As long as there's sun, sand and no race cars, it's all the vacation he needs.

NASCAR Nextel Cup drivers Tony Stewart (left) and Kurt Busch are looking to enjoy their little time off the next two months. The 2008 racing season is scheduled to begin six days before Valentine's Day and end just two weeks before Thanksgiving.  AP / File
AP / File
NASCAR Nextel Cup drivers Tony Stewart (left) and Kurt Busch are looking to enjoy their little time off the next two months. The 2008 racing season is scheduled to begin six days before Valentine's Day and end just two weeks before Thanksgiving.

For most, the racing season never ends. The regular season lasts 10 months; the off-season is filled with testing and sponsor commitments. For most, there are a few precious days in December when a driver can get lost, whether it be on a Caribbean island, in his own backyard, lost in the desert or around a busy Christmas dinner table.

"I just want to stick my toes in the sand," Busch said. "Everyone needs to step away from this for a little while and re-charge their batteries."

NASCAR has a pair of three-day tests scheduled for Daytona International Speedway in early January. There also will be a pair of two-day tests at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and California Speedway later in the month. In between, just about every team will have a full test schedule at non-NASCAR tracks, as well as official tests for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. as they get ready for the 2008 season.

Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon have trips planned to a tropical climate. They also plan to spend time at home.

"I cannot wait to sit at home, sleep in, feet up, make some coffee and just hang out at my house," Johnson said.

"December and January are some of the busiest months that I have because all of the sponsors are getting ready for next year," Gordon said. "So December I spend a whole week doing photo shoots and commercials or whatever it may be. Plus we have our Christmas parties and all that stuff. So there's only a two-week span and that's Christmas and New Years that I take and go on vacation. I do have plans. I can just tell you, it's somewhere warm -- somewhere quiet, relaxing and warm."

The official season starts six days before Valentine's Day and ends 11 days before Thanksgiving. There are only four off-weeks in the middle, and three of them come in the first four months. There are no breaks in the final 17 weeks.

Casey Mears and Greg Biffle plan to spend time in the sand dunes of Mexico, racing their off-road cars and sleeping in tents far away from their Lear jets, motor homes, indoor plumbing and electricity.

"I'm leaving my off-season wide open," Mears said. "I'm going to the Dumont Dunes to play around in the sand dunes again. I'm just starting to build a new house, so I'm going to be about waist-deep in that in December, too.

"Basically, I just want to get away from it all."

Juan Pablo Montoya plans to spend time at his home in Miami and his other home in Bogota, Columbia. The only thing on his calendar is "working on my (golf) handicap."

Martin Truex Jr. and Elliott Sadler have simple plans as well.

"I'll just relax and do the things I like," Truex said. "I spend a lot of time at home. I don't really need to go do too many crazy things. I have a few hunting trips planned, and I'll probably go on vacation. Other than that, I'll probably spend some time at home and relax a little bit."

Three weeks from now, drivers will be eager to get back to work. When you make a living at 190 mph, it's hard to keep the parking brakes on too long.

"Once I slow down, I'm ready to go back after it," Bowyer said. "I'm just looking forward to having a weekend off.

"That's the thing about our lives and our jobs: normal people with regular jobs work just as long and just as hard as we do but they have their weekends off. Our weekends are Tuesday and Wednesday (during the season) and I tell people that it's no fun because everyone else is working."

Kurt Busch isn't complaining. He'll take an off-day anytime he can get one. And if there's time to make an escape to the coast of somewhere beautiful, even for only a day, it's all he needs to get back to full speed.

Reach Don Coble at don.coble@morris.com


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