I have never been a fan of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Not that I didn’t like him I just never found a reason to root for him. That is until Sunday came. With Dale Jr. out due to a loose wheel and other drivers I pull for caught in the “Big One” I had only one horse left in the game in Kyle Busch. As the laps wound down and he continued to lead I noticed the 17 car slowly picking his way up through the pack. For some reason I found myself silently pulling for Stenhouse to get up there and challenge the multi race winning front group. It felt a little weird but good.
I have argued over the past few years that Nascar is better now than it has ever been from a racing standpoint. I think certain moments from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s were better and that was what we remember. We remember the fight at Daytona, Dale taking out Labonte at Bristol, Dale winning Daytona, and so on. The moments were better but parity in those days were at a minimum. The top end of drivers during those years were fantastic. The middle and bottom drivers were not very good. I like to watch the old races on YouTube. A lot of those races had very little cautions, many cars retired due to mechanical issues, and very few cars finishing on the lead lap. If we are honest with each other the races just were not that good. You had 7 or 8 guys that could win a race from week to week. You now on any given week can have any one of 20 – 25 drivers who could win or compete for a win. You can argue me any day on the old vs new races but you will probably lose if you think the older races were better.
Yes, I am a Kyle fan. Not so much his personality at times but the way he drives. He is the modern day Dale Earnhardt Sr. He runs well at every track. He will push you out of the way to get in front of you. Off the track he needs work but on the track he is everything a Dale Sr. fan loved in their driver. But as the laps wore down Sunday I found myself rooting against him. Kyle will get his wins. In the end he will end up as one of the drivers with the most wins in NASCAR history. He will get another championship or 5. But the 17 needed to make the pass and hold on for the win. So as Stenhouse took the white flag I found myself standing up in the garage cheering the 17 on. I was elated as he held on for the win and the celebration that ensued.
Stenhouse winning was a great moment for the sport that was in dire need of something, anything to give it a boost. For the nostalgic people out there it was nice to hear the names of Jack Rousch and Doug Yates. We need to hear those names more. My hope is that Jr. fans don’t leave the sport and instead find someone to gravitate and pull for. We need moments to for people to realize it’s not just about a certain driver but more about great racing. We saw that Sunday. The finish was exciting. The happiness we saw from guys we haven’t heard of in a while was great to see. It was fun to be a fan Sunday. To pull for the moment over the driver.
Thanks for reading!