It was the end of the night.. it had been a long hard evening. Fighting with friends, trying to get ahead and just plain suffering amounts of physical damage that would have defeated a lesser man.
It was the end of the night and the lights were shining bright. There was a roar in the valley some called thunder. Thousands cheered on as the comrades fought for favor and position. Neither would give...Only one could succeed.
Thrashing and fighting, pushing and falling, maneuvering and forcing; there was a victory to be had. And a reputation to be maintained.
Carefully the man in black rose to the occasion as his competitors fell to the sides, all but one. With the spirit of the morning crow this foe road the fury and shoved his way to the forefront of victory. So sure he was that he has succeeded, so sure he was that this was it.
But the man in black was not to be taken lightly, and he would not go quietly into that dark cold night. Roaring to life, as savagely as the jungle cat, in a moment that lives in infamy he brought his steed to bare and returned the favors just given him, through sheer determination and force of will, with skill surpassing that thought by so many, he knocked his competitor to the side and soared on to win valiant victory. Proving to all he was not done, he would not be counted out, and that he was still every inch... THE INTIMIDATOR!
It was August 1999, in Bristol TN. The venue was Bristol Motor Speedyway - in the heart of Thunder Valley. So named because of the engine's roar as they soared around the fastest, most brutal half mile in all of NASCAR. The last 15 laps had come, and Dale Earnhardt Sr. had just gotten through a wreck involving Terry Labonte and Darrell Waltrip. Labonte had fresher tires after the wreck and pushed his way back to the lead by beating and banging on that black #3. But Dale would not be knocked out. And in short order he returned the favor of the hard knocks shoving Labonte out of the way. Labonte was not as fortunate to save his ride. Earnhardt sailed on to victory allaying any fears that he no longer had it in him to race the short tracks and win, or that he had mellowed.
And what was said after the crowds roaring boos and soaring cheers had quieted? Simply.. "That's Racin..."
For the last several years, in fact more so since the tragic death of Dale Earnhardt in Daytona 2001, NASCAR had begun a transition from caustic, raw, passionate racing and personalities to one of restrained competition, and fines for daring to speak out.
Drivers became more and more restricted, there was to be no emotion on the track. No disagreement on TV. No hint that there was any fire left at all. And all in the name of Safety.
Now, don't get me wrong I am all for safety. But when you get in a several ton hunk of metal and propel it at ludicrous speeds 2 inches or less from the guy next to you for 3-5 hours at a time, your not exactly signing up for the safest thing in the world.
Surely all reasonable steps should taken to protect our hero's of the sport and the fans around it. But just as surely any who remember the days when "rubbin was racin" will agree that there is a line where it becomes too much in the way of the sport its trying to protect.
When you fine our drivers money and points for daring to have passion and speaking out, or punish them for racing hard, then you are just castrating what it is that has brought the millions of fans to this sport. The edge, the adventure and excitement, the vicarious victories of hard fought battles. You are taking all of that, putting it in a box and putting it away. Making room for "follow the leader and don't step out of line or you'll get smacked by big daddy", and "don't you dare have a contrary opinion in public of anyone else in the sport."
This last season (2009) I got fully back into the sport - not missing a single race. Finding, finally my new leading drivers after the devastating loss of Dale Earnhardt in 2001. I know who I want to see out front. For the Veteran driver: #5 Mark Martin. For the freshman/sophomore driver: #20 Joey Logano. I will always have an affection for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and for Jeff Gordon - for reasons largely outside of driving skill and sport. They remind me of fond memories in my life.
With these drivers in heart and mind I will cheer them on to victory throughout 2010. And given the recently announced changes by NASCAR, who knows.. this might just be the return to life.
NASCAR has finally announced that its time to let the drivers drive. Starting in Daytona on 02/14/2010, we will see the largest bore restrictor plates since 1989, allowing more speed than has been seen in even my lifetime as a fan. The restrictions of personality are being eased, and no longer are the drivers being told HOW to drive, but simply to drive the best they can and the safest way they can while competing for victory.
This should indeed prove to be a most interesting season!
Oh and they are ditching the dorky wing and going back to a proper spoiler! Huzzah! But now I have new models to purchase lol..
Lets Go Racin Boys!!!