February 21, 2018
By: Tom Meikrantz
Even though my career covering NASCAR is mostly in my rearview mirror, I always try to catch the Daytona 500 or at least the final stages of the race. I was there for Speed Weeks between 1987-1989 and got a good feel for the behind the scenes in the garage area and the build-up toward Sunday. We’ve seen everything from Dale Earnhardt’s breakout win in 1998, which was highlighted in Fox’s pre-show, to his death at the famed super speedway in 2001.
Those two story lines were revisited this past Sunday as Austin Dillon drove the #3 into Victory Lane, just like Dale did twenty years ago. Who knew then that the window of that happening was closing with his tragic death three years later? This year’s race with it’s usual array of “big ones” taking out drivers like popular young gun Chase Elliott also saw Darrell Wallace, another driver expected to represent the future in the sport, finish runner up to Dillon, who is the grandson of legendary owner Richard Childress (Dale Sr.’s longtime car owner). Wallace’s 2nd place finish in Richard Petty’s iconic #43 car was by far the best by a black driver in the series. Wendell Scott had the previous best finish 13th in a 1969 NASCAR race. How about Dale Jr. belting out “Gentlemen start your engines” to get the fan’s out of their seats. Check that, screaming it out.
Some many fabrics of the pre race, the race and post-race woven together made for an enjoyable viewing experience that brought back memories of another time when Petty, Allison, Earnhardt and Waltrip were the first families of NASCAR. See y’all at Pocono!