It just doesn’t matter. When you finish second or 42nd, you don’t get invited to victory lane. Let’s face it, that’s the entire point of coming to the track each week, isn’t it? Champagne showers, pretty girls, lots of hats and all the attention you could possibly desire all wrapped up into a one-hour celebration. Not to mention, the hefty check handed to you and your team at the end of the day.
So, I ask you, why do the media insist on placing a rather irritating caveat on NASCAR runner-up interviews each week? “Well, [fill in driver’s name here], maybe you didn’t win, but you did get beat by the No. 48, the most amazing race team ever to grace a track. Doesn’t that make you feel better?”
Holy Jumpin’ Jiminies… NO! When you lost, you lost! End of story. In case somebody wondered where this attitude came from, you need only ask any and all drivers, crew chiefs, owners, tire carriers and fans.
This past Sunday’s Shelby American in Las Vegas, I enjoyed a really awesome afternoon/evening up until the final pit stop.
My driver, the one who I cheer for no matter what color his uniform is, who he might drive for or even what make his car might be, led almost the entire race. And Jeff Gordon (yeah, he’s the one, in case you were wondering) didn’t just lead, he spanked the field. Oh sure, this was a revisit to cookie-cutter races of 2009. Gordon’s snazzy black Pepsi Max Impala left a multi-second stretch between him and whoever it was that might have been attempting to run him down.
Had I been another fan who cheered for a different driver, I have no doubt severe boredom may have played a role in the uneventful race. But that day, it was Gordon. My driver. That No. 24 was near perfect. It didn’t matter who restarted near him, he just shot off into the sunset. Those were moments of absolute beauty.
But no, it was not meant to be. Jeff Gordon and crew chief Steve Letarte will be second guessing themselves for the next eternity. Why didn’t they take four tires? That’s what you-know-who did — the guy who did get into victory lane. What was his name?
I don’t care.
And neither does Gordon, as he stated during his post-race interview, “You know, it doesn’t matter to me who it is out there, whether it’s our own teammate or whether it’s a competitor… You want to go out there and compete against the best and you want to beat the best.”
Perhaps, tomorrow, next week or maybe in a decade, Gordon and I will be able to look back on the Shelby American and say, “Damn, that was a great car. That was a good day.” But not right now.
Right now, his words echo my feelings, “We’re just like every other competitor out there: We are pissed off about [losing].”
For this moment, for everybody that was fighting for that win, or cheering for their driver to grab that trophy, there is one bitter truth. We lost.
And that sucks.
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The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.
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