I’m going to start this post by noting the photo above isn’t a NASCAR racer. It’s an Indy Car. It’s Dan Wheldon’s car. I used his image because he could be a very polarizing guy. Most either liked or hated him. I tended to like him. Why? He was my age. Note, I said was. He passed away in a wreck at the Las Vegas Speedway. I know. I saw it live. It messed with my head. It did. This person, so full of life and bluster wasn’t full of life any longer. Someone so young…
Which brings me to the race today. The Daytona 500. I used to watch NASCAR religiously. I loved the roar of the engines, the thrill of the race and the excitement of who could win.
I’ve always had those drivers I don’t particularly like and those I do. I started out as a Rusty Wallace fan–even named my cat after him–because he drove a blue car. He was a villain for a while. Then when he retired, I moved to Dave Blaney. I took hell because he wasn’t very good. Turns out he’s better on dirt, but that’s another story. Then when he lost his ride to Clint Bowyer, I moved to him. Then he became a villain, too. Once he moved to Toyota…I went with my second choice, Austin Dillon.
Now, I’ve been a fan of his since he was racing dirt cars, so for over ten years. I liked him because I thought he and his family had class. But it appears by winning the Daytona 500, he’s become a villain.
Here’s the thing…whether they cheat (Bowyer, suspected) (Dillon, punting Almirola), stink (Blaney, depending on whom you ask), or are just plain jerks (Any driver on any given day – you don’t know what they’ve been through that day and we all have our off days), they’re still human. They want to win. Wheldon wanted to win and rode the edge…a lot. Bowyer was suspected of wrecking to help a teammate get into the playoffs thing NASCAR is doing.
Then there’s Dillon. The guy doesn’t seem to do much right. He’s rich and came from a racing family, so he’s been given everything. Um… so was Earnhardt Jr. So was Elliott. He won by wrecking Almirola. It’s the Daytona 500. Lots of people bump and dump–otherwise there wouldn’t be a catch-phrase for it. You can hate him. You can say he didn’t earn that win. Um…lots of drivers don’t lead a lap, but win. Lots of drivers wreck the other guys so they can win. I hold up Kyle Busch as a prime example. He’s been known to dump anyone he likes just to win. He’s a villain.
Then there’s the point that this was the 20th anniversary of Earnhardt’s win. Guess what? A 3 winning again is pretty cool. Don’t like him? Then don’t. But the coincidence is neat. I’d like to think Earnhardt had his hand on Dillon kind of pushing him along. Oh, and before you have a fit…Earnhardt bumped and dumped a lot. I think he got a water bottle or two thrown at him because of his on-track antics.
NASCAR needs villains. It needs heroes. It needs drivers to be themselves. I don’t like all of them, but I like some of them. I don’t wish ill on them. I like to see the underdog win (and yes, Dillon was an underdog.) I like seeing a little variety.
Don’t hate me because of my favorite driver. Don’t hate me because I have my opinions. That’s what makes our country great. We all have our ideas and opinions. We’re free to express them. I know I won’t have changed your mind and that’s okay. I wasn’t out to change it. I’m just stating my thoughts.
So, yay #3, Austin Dillon. You’ve won the 60th Daytona 500 and that’s pretty freaking awesome. Oh and RIP Dan Wheldon. You put on a damn good race. ❤