Welcome to the Frontstretch Five! Each week, Amy Henderson takes a look at the racing, the drivers and the storylines that drive NASCAR and produces a list of five people, places, things and ideas that define the current state of our sport. This week, Amy has a collection of winning photos that say it all.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Perhaps that’s right; a single frame can capture countless emotions, words unspoken, unbounded joy, unabashed tears. Every week, the winning driver from each race is given the opportunity to bask in the moment, and some clearly relish that opportunity. Here are a few of the best Victory Lane photos from this season so far.
Martin Truex Jr.‘s Pocono win was a popular one for many reasons. He drives for a single-car team in an era when huge multicar organizations rule the roost in NASCAR, and it’s human nature to root for the underdog. Truex’s longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex has fought a courageous public battle with cancer for the better part of the last year and there are no certainties for the couple. The driver also lost his grandmother just last week. The driver, once at the heart of a cheating scandal, had a terrible 2014 season and a frustrating start to 2015. Despite massive improvement, he had led the most laps in three points races in a row and lost them all before breaking through this past week.
The above photo captures Truex and Pollex in an unscripted moment of celebration, a bright moment after so many dark days. Below was a Twitter post from Dale Earnhardt Jr., who gave Truex the ride that made him a two-time Xfinity Series champion and spurred his Cup career. The two have remained friends ever since. Earnhardt looks as happy for his friend as he might have looked if he himself had won.
Great moment! All sticky during the post race interviews right about now. pic.twitter.com/qBqknyPqMF
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) June 7, 2015
Redemption. In a word, it was what Kurt Busch was looking for after a suspension and subsequent return. After missing three races, Busch was somewhat of an underdog when it came to the new rules package and making the Chase. Busch knows he’s burned a lot of bridges in NASCAR and that his current ride is probably his last, best chance at a second title. This photo shows Busch, the weight of the world off his shoulders, in a moment of pure joy.
It wasn’t Joey Logano‘s first Cup win, but it was his first time in Victory Lane for the Great American Race. Logano is still young enough that the youthful exuberance in this photo is completely real. He’s having fun, and it shows.
As emotional was the win was for Earnhardt Jr., it was a quiet moment that proved to be poignant as well. The win was Greg Ives’s first in Sprint Cup as a crew chief, and Ives and Earnhardt posed with the winner’s sticker that they placed over the driver’s door on the No. 88. The stickers, which provide an easy visual of win counts for fans, also bring out a bit of the kid in every driver. Who didn’t love getting a sticker in school? Based on what we see each week, most people never quite outgrow that feeling.
Thanks to the title sponsor, the whole race was a little ridiculous. The SpongeBob car spun until it came to rest on the SpongeBob logo in what might be the best spontaneous display of sponsor placement ever. Squidward was on a racecar and a uniform. Jimmie Johnson won, which in itself isn’t really an uncommon occurrence, but a couple of the Victory Lane photos stand out. The first llustrates why crew chief Chad Knaus, who could probably take his pick of upper-level jobs in the sport, has stayed with Johnson for so long. At the end of the day, the two share a brotherhood, and the glee they take in winning has not lost any of its luster. The second photo shows the entire team celebrating while Johnson gets blasted by champagne. In that moment, they’re just a bunch of guys relishing what they’ve done (and in blasting their driver in the ear). Bonus points for looking like Johnson is spraying his bottle right into SpongeBob’s mouth.