We’ve all heard the old term, “nice guys finish last.” In the sport of auto racing, when you have to be on the edge and aggressive if you want to win, that term is spot on. Last Sunday night though, it was different, and a big chunk of the Motorsports industry is celebrating. When Dale Earnhardt Jr. crossed the start finish line first in the Daytona 500, his second win in the big race, the nice guy finished first.
Whether you’re a Junior fan or not, whether you think his popularity is warranted or not, whether you think he should be more like his dad and more aggressive to win races, you cannot deny that he is one of the nicest guys in the sport. How many other drivers will offer to fix a car after he causes a wreck? Junior did on Saturday after the Nationwide race. Just go look at his new Twitter, his second day in he’s taking his time to talk to fans while he’s barely had any time to sleep on his media tour, how many others would be doing that?
I became a Junior fan not because of his last name, but because of the guy he is. I think we can all see ourselves in this guy, and he’s more popular than most of us can ever wish to be, but he is as real as it gets. He hardly ever races anyone dirty, or bad mouth anyone, he just goes about his business of being a professional race car driver. How many of us could carry the burden he carries with him every day? The criticism from his father’s fans, the winless seasons, the hardest seasons of his life when he was supposed to win championships with Hendrick Motorsports equipment, that would break any of us. This guy though, he bounces back, the last two seasons have been a few of his best, minus getting to Victory Lane on a consistent basis, but he is still one of the most solid drivers in the sport. Then, last Sunday, he was determined to make a statement, and he did just that, at a track that means so much to him, and get that elusive win. With two Daytona 500’s, he has finally done something his dad never did. I hope this will silence some of the critics of that.
The one thing I’ve noticed most with this win is everyone is happy for the guy. I haven’t seen anyone upset Junior won, even the people that aren’t fans of his. Everyone is happy for him, and happy to see that raw emotion in Victory Lane, you cannot script that stuff. Just goes to show you being a nice guy can pay off when it really counts.
In conclusion, Junior is a guy we can all look up too and learn from. He carries the weight of our sport on his shoulders, and when he does amazing things like he did on Sunday night, he brings it to new heights. When nothing seems to be going right, don’t give up, you figure out why and how you can improve, and you go out and do it. Then, when you do win, you celebrate as hard and as real as Dale Earnhardt Jr. did at Daytona. On another note, I wonder what the congress members who had an issue with military sponsorship in Motorsports are thinking now? I bet the National Guard is getting more than their money’s worth from this win.