Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Daytona 500: A Timeless Celebration of Racing

The sun is shining bright. Hordes crowd the massive arena, cheering for their chosen hero. Colors sparkle. The thrum excitement beats in the hearts of all present. Bets have been placed on the outcome of the impending competition.  The guest of honor holds the flag as the entire field parades by.  The rumble of the wheels and cheering of the crowd drown out any mundane noises.

And then the flag flies. All eyes are glued to the drivers as they vie for the lead, crowding the next man into the outer wall or sending them bouncing to the infield.  There, a few select fans are going hoarse as the thrill of nearly touching the race as it flies by sends their hearts soaring. The thunder encompasses body and mind.

On the track, longtime rivals size up the other's horses. Will this be the year? Is it possible to overcome, beat the odds and stun the world's largest coliseum into silence? For only then will they truly be righteous in the knowledge that they are the chosen one, faster than no other. Better than expected.

The evil one comes too close, rubbing wheels. Others jump and wobble in front of them. The Big One is on. Machines shred and flip. That longed for silence does arrive, but not for the reasons desired. First responders hurry to the injured and pinned. Debris is cleared from the field. The stands take a sigh of relief. The betting continues.

And the race goes on.

The laps wind down. There are fewer left. It is now between just two or three. Somehow the noise has not lessened, but only increased. The fervor of the fans, the teams and those who sit in judgment rises. The end draws near.

Who will take home the greatest prize of all time?

That is the question, is it not? Who will win The Great American Race this upcoming Sunday?  And why do we call it that?

Somehow, even though many a NASCAR fan has become jaded and worn, even though we are easily angered by the pointless loss of machinery during the massive plate wrecks, and although the tangle of rules applies no place else but for this particular race, the pageantry of Daytona will suck us in.

The Daytona 500 is the defining moment of stock car racing for the entire year. Like moths to flames, racing fans will be unable to look away. Ultimately, it will matter to us who will wreck, who will fall and who will win.

I can already hear the trumpets sounding the opening of Race Day.  And it will be a wonderful season.

Author's Note: It's funny where inspiration finds us. I caught the chariot race in Ben Hur late at night and decided it wasn't all that different from Daytona.  What do you think?

You can find more NASCAR musings by S.D. Grady every Tuesday in the Frontstretch Newsletter. Sign up to receive daily news and commentary from the best independent NASCAR site.

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