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I suppose the argument could be made that none of the drivers sitting in NASCAR’s Victory Lane this weekend should have been there. Over in the Truck Series, Donny Lia managed to make a name for himself on the national grid by doing what any modified driver does best; he moved the competition over in the last lap of the race. Later on that day, Kyle Busch handily beat out his Nationwide Series competition — even though most of the NASCAR fanbase out there currently believes that’s an injustice to the rest of the planet. And to top it all off Sunday night, Kasey Kahne snuck past Tony Stewart in the final laps, as Smoke added some new black stripes to the walls of Lowe’s Motor Speedway. This morning, I read several stories that all spoke of one thing — somebody else belonged in first place at the end of that one. What should have happened, didn’t… and wasn’t that a shame.
Hold on a second here. There’s a “should” or “deserved” in racing? Not the last time I checked. To confirm, let’s review the definition of the winner in any given race: it’s the car that passes over the start/finish line before any other competitor.
Now, there’s no caveats in there; it’s a black and white statement devoid of emotion and heedless of moral obligations. I will grant the possibility that NASCAR might, on the random occasion of swine gliding over Daytona, rearrange the finishing order due to some other worldly divination of the rules. But, for the most part, once those tires take the checkers, the results are set in stone.
Are we not satisfied with how we determine the winners? Sometimes, I hear fans grumbling that the fastest car did not win. Well, David Starr‘s Truck was fast, and held off the competition for a goodly section of the race in Mansfield. However, if you can’t block the competition that’s muscling you up the track, you’re not going to win. David didn’t… but Lia did. Lia took advantage of the moment, and utilized his years of racing experience to put the moves on the more seasoned Truck Series driver. And that’s wrong? Not in any rulebook I’ve read.
And then there’s the case of Stewart’s win snatched from his hands. With five seconds between his orange No. 20 and Kahne’s No. 9 — and just a few laps left to count down on the pylon — the fans and the announcers virtually gave the win away to Stewart. The Home Depot machine was fast, and Stewart’s crew had done all the right things to get him up front. But are we supposed to cry and stomp our feet that suddenly his car door was eating concrete? Well, maybe, if he’s your driver. But the win went to the team whose car survived the entire 600 miles, not the fastest car that motored for only 595. The rules of victory have no room in them for bad luck.
Now, “should” I discuss the rightness and wrongness of Kyle Busch crossing the finish line first? Yep, he’s a snotty little kid at times. Yep, he knows how to tick off drivers and fans. Yep, he’s possibly the most amazing thing behind a wheel I’ve ever seen. But does this have anything to do with who deserves to take home the trophy? Unfortunately not.
If our world was ideal, the fastest car would always win, and the nicest person would be piloting it. However, we do not declare the winner after qualifying finishes; and the last time I checked, there is no Miss Congeniality award in NASCAR.
Thank goodness for that, because I loved the racing this weekend! Donny Lia had me jumping up and down on the couch, Kyle Busch made me snarl, and Kahne earned an “atta boy!” I was not bored… I was not disgusted… I was alive and grinning! Thank God there are still such things as desire, determination, and dumb luck. Otherwise, this sport of mine would bore me silly!