One of my passions is NASCAR. I refuse to make apologies (Keith Olbermann) for my love of left turns, nor for my language. Proceed with caution. It appears I was a little excited.
Usually on Mondays for the last four years, I am pissed off AGAIN, because my driver had yet another bad race, or made a dumb move, or Lady Luck screwed him again. I spend the day cursing the successful and the lucky, lamenting another horrible performance by the #88 team.
BUT NOT THIS MONDAY!!!!!!
Today, I am as happy as I was in July of 2001 at Daytona! Talk about a monkey off your back. Jesus. I was almost in tears for the first time in YEARS over a race. And from the looks of MIS, I was not alone. I saw people crying like someone had been killed. What I would have given to be able to HEAR those fans cheering. I had folks on my Facebook news feed, that are PSYCHO-FANs of other drivers, cheering for driver 88. The “owner” of the Kevin Harvick Fans FB page was pulling for him, as her own driver was in contention.
Actually, no one was in contention Sunday. That 88 car was awesome. Steve LeTarte built a Chad Knaus-Style racecar. There was not a car on that track that could run with Dale Jr. At one point, he had a 5 second lead over 2nd place with 19 laps to go. And was running wide open into the turns at 205…… I was pacing the house like I was there. I had to take some Zantac with 50 to go. I can only imagine the butterflies Junebug had. And Steve. And Amy. And Kelley. And the thousands of people watching at the speedway and on T.V. Kenny Wallace said on Speed after the race that you could have heard a pin drop with 5 to go at the track. My house was like a funeral parlor.
Like it or not, Dale Jr is the face of the sport. Has been since E Day in 1999 at Charlotte. He is the SOLE reason a lot of folks like me started watching NASCAR. He is the SOLE reason a lot of his daddy’s fans still watch NASCAR. He is the SOLE reason a lot of kids my daughter’s age even know WTF NASCAR is.
As much as Junior wanted this win, and as much as his legions of fans wanted it as well, NASCAR needed this win. The sport’s popularity has diminished in the past few years. Tracks do not sell out anymore. People stay at home to watch. Merchandise sales have dropped. No doubt due to the economy. But also because NASCAR’s Crown Prince has sucked donkey balls for about 8 years now.
There will ALWAYS be the doubters. Folks doubting his talent. Doubting his commitment. Doubting his psyche. Hell, Jimmie Johnson has won 5 Cups Titles and some folks ( myself included) have made passionate arguments that he SUCKS. That is just how NASCAR Nation roles. But yesterday afternoon, with that win, Junior Nation now has hope. Dale Jr. has hope. And NASCAR’s Marketing Department should have a MAJOR WOODY.