My wife cried Valentine's weekend. And she cried again this past Sunday.
But don't give me any credit. Blame Matt Kenseth.
For years - technically ever since she spent a NASCAR weekend in the pits at Charlotte - my wife has loved the black and gold of No. 17.
After a winless 2008 campaign, Mr. Kenseth has stormed back to NASCAR's forefront, winning the first two races of the season. And the two wins also showed fans a new side of the driver from Cambridge, Wis.
As he propped against his Ford immediately after rain stopped the Daytona International Speedway on Valentine's weekend, the emotion of it all caught up with him. The former series champion - one whose persona was lampooned in a commercial as a robot - cried as he talked about his dream of winning Daytona.
The NASCAR season is in full swing, which means my Sundays - or at least my wife's Sundays - are going to be occupied through the end of November. It is in front of the television, my wife undergoes a metamorphosis. Or at least her skin becomes a little less thick, allowing the screaming redneck urges she usually keeps buried to burst forth.
I've seen something similar happen on Georgia football Sundays and whenever she gets behind the wheel of a vehicle, but there's something different about the NASCAR outbursts. I guess you can trace it back to her upbringing, when she'd watch the races with her father and grandfather and they'd argue back and forth about who was better. Her dad was, appropriately, a Dale Earnhardt fan, while her Papa pulled for Georgia's own Bill Elliot.
But she didn't get bit by the NASCAR tick until that fateful weekend in Charlotte. She milled around the pits, met a handful of drivers, wives, celebrities and crew members while getting an up-close view of what really happens during a race. She called me that night as she sat in the parking lot at the racetrack waiting for the traffic to clear. Nearly three hours later - at 2 a.m. - she hung up after doing most of the talking.
Since then, she's gotten her grandmother hooked. Nowadays - well, before the digital television transition took away her beloved Fox 54 - Granny can tell you not only how Miriam's favorite driver placed, but also how the favorites of several of her friends fare too.
Miriam has tried hard to infect me, but my NASCAR interest is limited to a few fantasy racing leagues and the page we publish regularly in The Mirror. Still, I sit there most Sundays, buried behind my laptop and watching a bunch of guys make a bunch of left turns.
And listening to some redneck holler at the screen for hours and then cry if it all turns out just right.