Brian Golden

We’re supposed to have the aroma of hamburgers, hot dogs and steaks on the grill filling our noses.

Not COVID-19 test swabs.

For 24 years, Valley kids urged the Sun to dive on the distant horizon more than any day other than Christmas Eve.

They couldn’t wait to enjoy a triple header: the JetHawks game, the best Fourth of July fireworks show for $10 anywhere in the formerly Golden State, and a great view of the spectacular Fairgrounds Rodeo fireworks show one mile to the north.

But today, and this weekend?

Nothing.

Our Governor is running around forcing people back into their homes with more lethal efficiency than anyone since Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia launched Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg 157 years ago today.

We can’t even go knock on the door of the Veteran’s Home a mile north of The Hangar on Avenue I to say thanks, much less buy them a grateful beer at the ballpark.

And yet, in each and every Valley home, our hearts are bursting with pride and admiration and gratitude for the heroes of Independence Hall in 1776, Cemetery Ridge in 1863, and all the other beachheads of heroism.

Sports was the way we aggregated those emotions.

There are signs of hope, though.

The Dodgers and Angels begin summer camp workouts today, three weeks before a season the arsonist Rob Manfred tried mightily to destroy finally gets under way.

Paul George departs in a few days for the NBA Bubble in Orlando, and his best chance ever to win an NBA championship with the Clippers.

Plus, this is the weekend when we attach a carburetor to the Declaration of Independence.

Motorsports greatness will echo anew down Lancaster BLVD.

Two-time Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix champion Colton Herta will race in the IndyCar Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday.

The hotshot from Valencia, all of the ripe old age of 20 now, will demonstrate that you indeed can get from the BLVD to the Brickyard.

“If those kids racing the Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix see me as a role model, well, that’s flattering,” Herta told the Valley Press at the 2019 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. “That is a great event they put on up there. It helped me in my career.”

On Sunday, Kevin Harvick tries to win his second straight Brickyard 400, something only Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch have ever accomplished.

Bakersfield’s favorite son grew up with an autographed picture of four-time Indianapolis 500 champion Rick Mears framed on his wall.

Mears remains the King of Indy, with four checkered flags and seven poles.

And how did Mears make it to the Brickyard?

Forty-four years ago this month at Willow Springs International Raceway, he and his brother, Roger, were dirt-whomping their Super Vee when they heard legendary owner Bill Simpson was on the property testing a Formula 5000 car.

They stood, awestruck. When Simpson’s driver couldn’t get any speed out of the car, an exasperated Simpson pointed at Mears.

“Are you a race car driver?” he asked.

They threw Mears into a fire suit.

Within 20 laps, he was challenging “The Fastest Road in the West’s” course record.

A week later, the phone rang in the house in Bakersfield. Simpson had a ride for Mears in the California 500 at Ontario.

Roger Penske’s test driver in 1977, Mears replaced Mario Andretti in 1978 when he became the last American to win the Formula One World Championship.

In 1979, he won his first Indianapolis 500 — less than three years after the chance meeting at Willow Springs.

If we can’t have hot dogs and hamburgers, methane and ethanol are the next-best scents on the Fourth of July.

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