Friday, February 15, 2008

All About Love

Those who have been with me for awhile already know this, so the following disclaimer is for those who may not be familiar with this blog:
This blog is not so much about racing as it is about the love of racing. It presents the views of a fan who does not claim to be an expert, but who has long been bitten by the NASCAR bug. "How bad have you got it" is not a question to me but a statement of fact. I hope to present my views in a way that some may find interesting and entertaining enough to keep coming back, and--by accident usually--find something useful in what is written here. Thank you all for your continued support.
There was much heartbreak in the Daytona 500 qualifying heats known as the Gatorade Duels.
The Wood Brothers Racing team and Bill Elliott did not make the much coveted cut for the Daytona 500. Ken Schrader, after a very valient try--alone against Michael Waltrip Racing--in his own words, "just wasn't fast enough."
Red Bull Racing's AJ Allmendinger also wasn't fast enough, not was two time Daytona 500 winner Sterling Marlin. Jaques Villeneuve got clipped by John Andretti and nearly made an amazing save, only to be hit by three drivers who found themselves with nowhere to go--Dario Franchitti and Stanton Barrett. Barrett and Villeneuve were trying to race their way into the 500, and the accident put an end to their hopes.
Patrick Carpentier, the only open wheel and sports car newcomer who has had some experience in the tintops, nearly made it into a transfer position, but ended up fighting a loose car and a flat tire, and lost his battle to the wall. Carl Long, underfunded and under-equipped, as usual, never had a chance.
Finally, fan favorite Boris Said, who could have made the Big Race on his qualifying time, if David Reutimann could have finished in a transfer position, saw his dreams go down the tubes as John Andretti found himself in the right place at the right time in the rush to the finish.
But the love was there as well.
Fans loved it as Dale Earnhardt, Jr, won his second straight race, having moved all the way from the back of the pack after an engine change to take the checkers in the first heat. Earnhardt, who has, in the past, proven himself to be one of the best drivers when it comes to car control, and arguably the best at restrictor plate races, made it look easy as he brought his car to victory, without help from team mates.
There was some brotherly love in action as Mike Wallace, who was the fourth place finisher in last year's Daytona 500, spotted for brother Kenny, and successfully guided him to a transfer position. This did give me some personal satisfaction because, with Joe Nemecheck already in on time, Kenny Wallace's qualification means that both cars owned and sponsored by the Denver-based Furniture Row team made the Big Show. I consider this a home team victory.
There was also a lot of love for Brian Vickers, from Toyota, as the Red Bull driver fought his way to a transfer position that gave him a place in the 500. Now that Vickers is in, he is a driver to watch, with a talent that could not be displayed during last year's Toyota growing pains. Personally, I feel that if Vickers gets his car into the top 35 in owner's points, he will stay there for the entire season.
And now he is a very real threat to win the Daytona 500, but that is for a different item on this blog.
The real love was in the second Duel, where two Toyota teams showed not only love for their teams and team mates, but sacrifice as well.
Michael Waltrip had a very good chance at winning the second Duel, but opted instead to drop back and aid his team mate, Dale Jarrett, in getting into a transfer position. This will be Jarrett's last Daytona 500 in his career, and Mikey took one for the team to make sure Dale qualified.
Coach Joe Gibbs sat in a meeting with his three drivers before the Duels, and explained to them the meaning and importance of teamwork. The "Brat Pack" of racing took it to heart with an "all for one, one for all" attitude that showed in the final laps of the race. Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin both knew that one of them had to win the race, and get Toyota's historical first Cup victory, and that to achieve this it would take sacrifice on the part of the other. After Denny Hamlin's victory, the two drivers talked to each other on the radio, agreed that they had done the right thing, and congratulated and thanked each other. Now that is love for the team. Good work, Coach. If JGR can continue the season with this team spirit, HMS will definitely have some competition.
Now the stage is set for the Daytona 500, and our love of racing flows deep.

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