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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fan’s View: Which Pictures Are Worth A Thousand Words?

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No one would confuse me with Martha Stewart, as my house tends more to the pack rat sort of ambience. Thus, it shouldn’t surprise anybody when I say I was going through the RV and discovered five years’ worth of racing news clips. What could that possibly have anything to do with anything?

Well, it was somewhat fascinating.

Most NASCAR fans make a habit of compiling an improbable assortment of die-cast, ticket stubs, hats, stuffed toys, bobbleheads, flags, stickers… need I go on? We also bring our cameras with us and fill endless photo albums with shots of favorite cars, drivers, paint schemes, tracks, etc. etc. The problem is these bits of memorabilia have a tendency of disappearing into our homes, quickly buried by newer additions to the pile.

Thus, when I was forced to thin my stack of raceday newspapers or toss headlines full of racing snippets, it gave me the opportunity to revisit moments in my racing fan experience.

I found pictures of Richard Petty shaking John McCain’s hand at New Hampshire, Kyle Busch dancing on the hood of his Indiana Jones paint scheme car in Darlington and even Mongo, the SIRIUS dog, who sponsored the race at the Glen a few years back. More front-page photos of debris tossed about by a visiting hurricane reminded me of the little inflatable rafts paddling around the campground one year. Victory lane snaps of Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch decked the local race weekend promo guide, and a full-page article of local rising star Sean Caisse will all be filed among my archives, tucking my personal memories among those pre-approved by the checkered flags.

Now, I have a clean but empty spot in the RV, simply waiting for new papers to arrive. So what kind of pictures, I wonder, will grace the local headlines when I visit NHMS? While that question will be answered in another two weeks, that query left me pondering what snapshot will be the signature frozen moment for the 2009 season?

I brought up this week’s headlines for all the major online sports outlets and discovered the Atlanta race, while fun to watch, apparently didn’t provide much in the department of dazzling photography. The No. 9 Budweiser mobile danced across four websites (except Frontstretch… I had the Busch brothers staring at me here). Sort of humdrum and uninteresting. Should I look back one year later, I would remember Kasey Kahne managed to win a race… nothing more.

I know the images that are burned into my mind from the 2009 NASCAR season. So far, just four have made it to the top. There’s the Talladega last-lap crash. Unless aliens land at Homestead in an attempt to make first contact, Carl Edwards‘s petrifying wreck will most likely win this award. We’ve all seen some wild rides at the plate tracks over the years, but the only other one I can recall taking on the catchfence in a similar manner was Geoff Bodine’s 2000 Daytona truck wreck. Honestly, if Edwards’s flight holds the spot for another decade, I’ll be happy. I can’t take too many of those.

Coming in a close second is the destruction of the Nashville trophy by Kyle Busch in June. Perhaps a more illustrative picture of his season would be one of him slamming the door to his RV, but smashing the guitar certainly grabbed the most attention. It also managed to tick off a vast number of fans….

Third place I have awarded to Ron Hornaday, accepting a very similar trophy in Nashville but cherishing the guitar after he achieved a momentous five-in-a-row victory. Maybe the Trucks don’t see the same kind of coverage the Cup and Nationwide series do, but that isn’t due to a lack of competition, skill or excitement. Hornaday helped to keep that third-tier series in the spotlight with his no-mistakes summer.

And fourth, there was the moment when Sam Hornish Jr. was flung back onto the track directly into Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 at Watkins Glen. In a blinding illustration of the kind of bad luck the No. 77 can’t seem to get away from and reasons why Gordon just isn’t destined for a fifth championship, every fan across the country groaned as they watched this collision.

Will these end up being the moments 2009 is remembered for? As the season isn’t over yet and the fat lady is just beginning to warm up in her changing room, I’ve left plenty of room in my newspaper box for more additions.

Which pictures do you think belong in that scrapbook? I’d like to know.