What do you get when you cram thirty hamsters into an egg carton?.....
I don't know either. I guess you'd have a whole herd of very mad hamsters.
I just wanted to get your attention. Now that I have it, let me welcome
you to the inaugural running of the Nascar blog! I guess I should start by
introducing myself. My real name is Crystal, but like on most of my other
internet endeavors, I am going to go by a nickname that some of my friends
call me....Micki. I get called this because I am a huge Michael Waltrip
fan and I am proud of it. I've been a Mikey fan for over a decade. I have
cards of his cars he drove in the Dash series before he got into Cup
racing. I actually have the first race he ever ran in Cup on tape, the
World 600 from 1985 in which he finished 28th after a failed transmission
put him out.
Now since my buddy Bubba has already done a rundown of the race that was
Dover yesterday, I think I'll write about something that I've given alot
of thought too lately. So, being a well-seasoned Nascar fan of a veteran
driver, let me relive some history from atop my imaginary seat in the turn
I've been to many races and talked to many race fans, and I think
that the TRUE roots of racing are slowly being forgotten. I'm not
referring to the geographical location of the tracks. I'm referring
to the drivers themselves, active and retired. For example, newer
Nascar fans see Darrell Waltrip and Dale Jarrett in the broadcast
booth. They see Terry Labonte and Bill Elliott drive occasionally in
a race in a midpack car at best. But do they REALLY realize just who
these drivers are, what they've accomplished? They see veteran
drivers like Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte, and Michael Waltrip race
week after week, sometimes with good cars, sometimes not. Do they
realize when they get on the information superhighway to bash these
drivers what they endured to get to live out their dream? They just
know these drivers from the twilight of their careers.
These drivers came into Nascar at a time when you usually didn't get
a top notch ride as a rookie. You had to work your way into a quality
ride that was capable of competing for a win. Some even started at a
time when they had to build their own racecars and pull them to the
track themselves. Now, I might be sounding overly "preachy", but
stick with me and let's look at just a few of the accomplishments of
some of these "older", overlooked drivers.
What better place to start than with Richard Petty. Just a
present-day team owner? No, far from it. Try the all-time winningest
driver in NASCAR. Seven championships, 200 wins, over 700 top ten
finishes, winner of the Daytona 500 seven times. He WAS Nascar back
in the day.
Then came along Darrell Waltrip, who drove his way to three
championships and 84 wins placing him third on the all-time win list.
He didn't come from any driver development program. He got his start
on a small, hometown track in Kentucky. He won the very first running
of the All-Star race in 1985. He was the first "superstar" to drive
for Hendrick Motorsports. Darrell is not just a race announcer, he
wasn't just an "also-ran" in the last years of his driving career.
He's one of Nascar's greats.
Bill Elliott, not just a "has-been" driver occasionally running a
race. Elliott is the 1988 Cup champion with 44 career wins to his
credit. He won the first Winston Million, which was a million dollar
bonus for any driver that could win three of the four prestigious
races, which at that time were the Daytona 500, the Winston 500 at
Talladega, the World 600 (now known as the Coca-Cola 600) at
Charlotte (Lowe's Motor Speedway), and the Southern 500 at
Dale Jarrett, Terry Labonte, Bobby Labonte, all have championships.
Mark Martin, probably the greatest driver to have never won a
championship. Hopefully, though, next year he'll finally cross that
particular finish line driving for Hendrick Motorsports.
And let us not forget the late Dale Earnhardt Senior. Another of
Nascar's greatest drivers. Love him or hate him, the Intimidator had
talent. Seven-time Cup champion, 76 victories. Owner of (then), one
of the best teams in Nascar. How I miss the glory days of Dale
Earnhardt Incorporated, when Mikey and Dale Jr. owned the
superspeedways. When those two hooked up in the draft, it was "adios
amigo" to the rest. Dale Sr., along with the rest, helped mold Nascar
into what it is today. The list goes on and on. There are certainly
alot more I haven't mentioned, but, time and space restraints limit
me to naming only a few.
Now, being the Michael Waltrip fan that I am, you know I can't finish
without giving my driver some credit. Michael Waltrip may not have
more than four "official" wins, he may not be up there fighting for
the win very often, but he is a two-time Daytona 500 winner. He did
work very hard, and endured some tough trials to get where he is
today. He is the epitome of perserverance in the face of adversity.
Now I know somebody out there is probably thinking, "so what. He's
still four for whatever. Where's the on track success to show for
it?" Well, you know what? Maybe, just maybe, you don't need the
trophys and the glory to be a champion in the heart of your true
Maybe, its not realized as much today what a contribution the veteran
drivers made to the sport of stockcar racing. They have earned and
rightfully deserve the respect of the competitors and fans. The young
drivers are talked about all the time and I do understand why. They
run consistently well, they're in the chase. But the veterans are not
to be forgotten. If we forget where we came from, we forget who we
are. Plus, these still active, overlooked drivers do have fans, some
have a huge fanbase.
And so, as the orange glow of the setting sun glides gently out of
sight beyond the turn four grandstand, I finish my revelry of the
past. As I cast a mind's eye glance at the empty speedway, I can
imagine seeing these drivers just as they were in their heyday.
Petty, Waltrip, and Earnhardt racing side-by-side for the win. How I
wish the young drivers of today could race against those drivers as
they were in the 1980's. Who would win I wonder. I have to believe
those "old-timers" would wipe the track with them.
And that's the view from turn two.....
Til next time.....