The 2006 NASCAR season is finally over with Jimmie Johnson taking the Nextel Cup title. With 35 races running from February to November, the stock car series is the longest season in professional sports.

As the stock car racing I’ve followed since my youth grows more and more commercial, I find myself less and less interested. I listened to parts of the race Sunday while driving to Christiansburg to pick up a new wood chipper but puttered around in the garage that evening and missed the finish.

I’m sorry but the plastic poster children who make up most of the driver lineup these days just don’t hold much interest for someone who grew up with drivers like Floyd County’s Curtis Turner, North Carolina’s Junior Johnson and stars like Fireball Roberts, Cale Yarbourough and, of course, the King: Richard Petty.

These drivers didn’t get multi-million dollar contracts, didn’t fly to the races in their own Gulfstream IVs and didn’t swap jokes with David Letterman and Jay Leno.

I miss the old days. I miss them a lot. The new NASCAR leaves me cold and, for the first time in my life, I no longer look forward to the new season that starts in Daytona in February.