Racing has been a fan favorite activity for generations in my family. Some were there making business deals with future Hall-of-Famers. Others were there to be with their child in love with a sport and all its glamour. But the tie was there and the seeds were planted for a forever love of the sport.
Ever since I watched the 1993 https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3HBuoAJkB4A Daytona 500 I have been a racing fan. (If you don't remember it, take a watch of the link and you can see where I got hooked.)
Though my super adoration for the sport hasn't always been as high as that Valentines Day of my 5th grade year. (There have been years I really tuned out.) Like when the sport got far too political and pro-military for me. But the competition, and the longing to see the team I cheered for win, always made race days fun.
The year Rusty Wallace retired, I made it a point to watch every event I could catch. When he made the "Chase" that year, I was there in anticipation to see him finish out the season as a Champion. Though he didn't win any races that season (or the championship) watching my favorite driver go out, still competitive, made that year great. And his near win at Martinsville made me understand why he was never a huge fan of team mates he didn't pick himself.
The only NASCAR game I owned was the last one he was a character in. & as silly as it was, I would race the #64 Rusty Wallace Busch Series team dreaming of getting to work for my favorite master of strategy behind the wheel of a race car.
I watched as Dale Earnhardt crashed and lost his life doing what he seemed born to do in 2001. I remember debating how I still prefered Wallace to Dale to other fans of the sport back in the 90's and rethinking those thoughts when I heard that he was gone forever.
I also remember that upstart named Jeff Gordon who is now set to retire at the end of 2015.
I used to have Jeff Gordon's 1st Edition rookie card from 1993. But when I found my little nephew to be the biggest Gordon fan I've ever known; I gave it to him to keep.
When Wallace retired, my family gave me memorabilia from his "Last Call" Season. & after his retirement it took me a while to find a favorite driver again. I couldn't really pull for Gordon full time after the rivalry Jeff and Rusty had as on-the-track. Plus, Jeff was the driver I pulled for mostly because of my nephew's adoration. I still needed a team to pull for to keep me into the sport.
Then Clint Bower showed himself. Far from a Wallace mold, he was still a Mid-West driver and a riot to watch on the track, and listen to in interviews. He has a style I miss from the NASCAR races of the 1990's. He reminds me of a mix of Rusty for solid performances at road courses and short tracks, but he also reminds me of Ernie Ervin and his super speedway prowess before Ervin had to leave the sport. & I love that he will speak his mind and let some temper show like Dale Earnhardt would do.
With the Daytona 500 less than a week away, speed weeks have already been exciting with Bowyer stirred up a media frenzy. (He is upset he has to race his way into the Daytona 500 after being wrecked in Sunday's qualifying. Now he has to finish well in the Duels on Thursday night to be in the main event.) He has not hidden his displeasure, but I don't see him not making the race. Heck, maybe this will make for an extra dramatic win on Sunday the 22nd?
But this fan for life will remember those old races, and the new memories to come. Points over an entire season, A Chase, A Shoot-Out, or what ever format is used. This is still a high speed game of strategy and skill. That is why I still love racing and write about NASCAR.