Sitting In The Stands: A Fan's View · S.D. Grady · Tuesday June 2, 2009
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Once upon a time — just last Friday, in fact — in a media center not too far from here sat a boy. He wore a yellow suit decorated with multi-colored candies, beautiful on the outside while attempting to hide the ugliness that occasionally lies within.
His name was Kyle.
Now, Kyle is not like every other boy. He’s special. Every time he gets into a car, he can go faster than just about everybody else, turning rivals into mincemeat and race tracks into his own personal playground. This makes Kyle proud… and it makes many people around him very impressed.
On this particular Friday, Kyle was busy impressing all those people. Kyle would be driving three whole races this weekend, and he was going to go faster than everybody else on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. With him, there was no second guessing … only the fear caused by second place being the first loser.
Then, a question came out that changed everything. One of the impressed people asked, “Kyle, what do you think about the new crew chief over in Junior’s garage?”
Now, Kyle used to drive Junior’s car not so long ago. However, that was before he could run fast every single day, making him a target at a time when NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver came calling. Still, it made Kyle sad to think about a time when he struggled, too. And maybe it made him a little mad.
Kyle thought for a moment, and then replied. “I feel sorry for the new crew chief,” he said. “It’s never going to be Junior’s fault when that car loses. It’s always going to be somebody else’s fault.”
The impressed people gasped and looked at each other, wondering what to say. It seemed a bit rude, what Kyle said. It seemed very rude. Offended that the boy in the yellow suit would make fun of somebody who did not win all the time, all the good people of the media center got out their pens, cell phones, and laptops to start reporting what Kyle had done.
Meanwhile, Kyle sat at the front of the room and simply smiled. He knew he was going to win this weekend — so why should he worry if he made some of the impressed people frown?
But it wasn’t just mankind who paid the price.
High above in the sky, the racing Gods did not like what they saw. Thunderclouds gathered over the media center, and rain began pouring down. Kyle would not win a race today.
Kyle looked out the window and frowned… but only for a moment. He thought to himself, OK … Saturday, he would get to win twice!
The next day was sunny and bright. All the cars gathered on pit road, and Kyle couldn’t wait to start his engine. He would be fast… he always was.
The green flag flew, and Kyle’s car raced to the front. His chest swelled with pride as the day wore on, for other drivers had problems… but he did not. The checkered flag swam before his eyes like a promised dream.
And then…leading the field with only 3 laps to go, Kyle came to the restart with his teammate, Joey, just behind. They put their pedals down and raced into Turn 1. But something was not right. Kyle’s car did not go faster than Joey’s; instead, it slowed down a bit, like a tire was going flat. Unable to avoid Kyle’s car, Joey bumped his teammate into the wall.
One minute later, the checkered flag flew… but it flew for Brad in the pretty green car.
Angry and frustrated, Kyle drove to the garage area, glared at the sort-of-impressed reporter who wanted to talk to him, and ran off to change. After all, he had another race today — and this next one he surely would win.
This time, Kyle was driving his truck. He liked it… because he usually won in it. Brushing away thoughts of his disappointing finish, Kyle buckled in and looked for the green flag, again.
The laps wound down, and Kyle once again thrilled in the moment. His truck was fast. It felt good. Leading the field, his chest swelled in anticipation of winning. And then…with only 17 laps to go, Kyle’s tire blew. He did not win; Brian in the shiny black truck did.
Kyle did not look for the usually impressed people. He did not smile for the cameras. Tired and a little angry, Kyle just went to bed and tried to stop being mad. Tomorrow, he would surely win…wouldn’t he?
On Sunday, the mists swirled around the track. The drivers gathered next to their cars and spoke to the impressed media people. Kyle stood next to his yellow car, answering a few questions. During the night, he had thought long and hard.
There was no reason for him to be sad. He had won many races. He would win many more. Yesterday’s odd double disaster could not possibly mean anything. He was proud of his yellow car and himself. Today would surely be something to talk about after he won. He smiled at the impressed people, hoping they would come back after his victory.
After all, the front was not so far away; there were only five other cars in front of him. The green flag flew, and Kyle’s expectations rose up along with it.
But his car was not the fastest. It wiggled and wobbled, causing him to pit and take on four tires. It didn’t help! Refusing to give up, Kyle kept at it. He turned the wheel. He feathered the pedal. He fought…and lost a lap. His crew chief helped him out and the car got better. For the first time all weekend, luck came to him. Back on the lead lap, Kyle knuckled down and worked on winning.
He passed cars left and right. That familiar feeling filled his veins…victory was within reach. Once again, only five cars remained between him and his rightful place in Victory Lane. Proud and eager, Kyle tightened his grip on the wheel.
And then…with only 56 laps to go, it happened. How could it? It wasn’t fair!
Kyle drove down pit road with a vibration. He thought it was a flat tire. His crew hovered over the yellow car; but the new tires did not fix it. They looked again at the wheels. Still, Kyle did not know what was wrong!
The leaders drove away. His win turned to dust … but his problem was soon made clear. The yellow car limped around the track, its splitter banging against the pavement.
When the boy with the yellow suit pulled into pit lane after the race, the racing Gods above watched closely. Kyle climbed from his car. He looked at the unimpressed media people and left. He was mad and sad and didn’t want to talk to anybody.
On this day, Kyle did not feel quite so proud. And yet, he was sure he would be again…and soon.
From behind one cloud, the elder God frowned. “I thought the boy in the yellow suit might learn his lesson this time. I really did.”
His friend laughed. “Not yet. That one will require his pride to be pricked several times more. But don’t worry, he’ll challenge us again.”
They both jumped as the boy slammed the door on his RV. Then, they sighed.
“Yes, he will.”
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