Daytona Wrap Up: Equality

Daytona is always thrilling.

The first race of the season, where everyone’s equipment is fresh and new. Playing fields are level and notebooks are blank.

No tricks, no rare advantages.

Equality.

Yet, when the pressure rises, that alignment shifts.

And bangs.

And sparks as it grinds sheet metal against sheet metal.

And, suddenly, it doesn’t feel fair anymore. It feels risky, like sitting at a slot machine with only a few coins in your pocket. You know you could lose it all, but there’s this adrenaline rush that pulls your fingers back into your pocket to grasp another token.

It is kind to some. Johnny Sauter was a lucky one. He raced his way through a mine field of Trucks and got the win. Winning the opening race in the NCWTS is also special because it hangs in everyone’s heads until the next race, which is a month away.

Passing and dodging. Slicing and dicing. Mild wrecks, under the lights, hungry drivers. The Trucks race was the high point of the weekend.

Yet, after every climax, there is falling action.

Sometimes, that falling action happens in the blink of an eye.

What happened Saturday in the Nationwide race is an occurrence that makes stomachs fall into people’s feet, and it is something that should never be taken lightly. Everyone knows the danger the drivers put themselves in. That’s what makes the sport so respectable.

But, when the fans who give them that respect are injured, the danger becomes the 3400-pound stock car in the room. The lighting shifts, and everyone sees racing as it is; complex, sensitive, and terrifying.

The fans who were injured after Saturday’s accident were all upgraded to stable. Some were even in the stands Sunday after being released. Everywhere, fans banded together to offer love, support, and prayers, tagging each tweet with #NASCARstrong.

With Tony Stewart’s victory eclipsed by another kind of darkness, the real triumph was achieved by NASCAR’s followers, who are the most strong and unified among any other group of sports fanatics anyone has ever seen.

Everyone is tougher when a community is formed. Ours could move mountains. I have never been more proud to call myself a NASCAR fan.

The sun set on an accident, yet it rose with purpose this Sunday: to wave the checkered flag on the offseason and fly the green on a new chapter.

Throughout the Daytona 500, two lines were formed, then merged into one. For some, it was as exciting as watching a freshly-painted fence parch. For others, it brought flashbacks of how racing was in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Whether it was what people wanted, or if they were unsatisfied, nobody couldn’t ignore that the last 50 laps made up for some of the blandness.

Motors blowing. A bolded bottom line charging. Sprinting heartbeats. Each winding lap made fans on-edge as cars bobbed and wiggled.

A five-time champion rose and grabbed the win. The lone female driver led laps for the first time under green at Daytona, combining that with an eighth-place finish. NASCAR’s coveted driver made a slick move to grab second.

Equality. It’s defined as, “rights, treatments, quantity, or value equal to all others.”

Well, life isn’t always equal. Without that fairness, it becomes a thrilling ride.

That’s why we feed the slot machine.

That’s why we love Daytona.

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