My daughter Colleen loves the Disney princess movies. All of them. The ones that were made well before she was born, and even the ones made well before I was born. The time-tested Cinderella is a favorite to my 5-year-old.
The premise is similar among all of the animated films. Young attractive female meets young, attractive male and they are attracted to one another. Some villain or obstacle gets in the way, but is overcome leaving them with a lesson learned. The story ends with our two heroes together and “happily ever after.”
Daytona produced a few underdog heroes. Their “ever after” began when the 500’s checkered flag waved. Disney rarely produces a film that follows up on the prince and princess’s lives after they embrace and ride off in their carriage. But we do get to see our Speedweeks Cinderellas after the symbolic sunset walk.
Chapter two is called Phoenix. Chapter three is called Las Vegas. Chapter four is called Bristol, and so on.
Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne emerged as the most prolific new NASCAR star. His good looks, devotion to Christianity, upbeat personality, and sharp driving skills make him likeable on multiple levels.
Bayne drives for the iconic Wood Brothers team. The highly respected and long-time family has fielded an entry in NASCAR’s premiere division for generations.
David Gilliland steered the underfunded yet overachieving Front Row Motorsports entry to a third place Daytona finish. Sponsorship comes out of the owner’s pocket as he chooses to advertise the food chain franchises he owns. The shop crew was laid off for most of the winter in a cost saving measure. Workers returned in late January and put in the dedicated hours to compete in Florida.
Bobby Labonte was the Cup Series champion in 2000 and has been written off as a retirement candidate. His fourth place Daytona finish has his critics doing a double take. The JTG Daugherty team has had some decent runs the past couple of years with Marcos Ambrose behind the wheel. Is this a combination that could click for impressive long-term success?
The Phoenix weekend served up a hard dose of reality.
Bayne crashed three separate cars in three days. His Nationwide ride found the wall on Saturday while his two Cup cars were heavily damaged on Friday and Sunday wrecks.
Labonte and Gilliland finished 21st and 22nd, both overcoming crash damage suffered in the early race multi-car pileup.
The Daytona upstarts now head to Las Vegas. So far one race filled them with pride, the other reminded them of their humility. Sin City is looked at with cautious optimism.
The one-mile Phoenix oval shares similar brake packages as Richmond and New Hampshire. Las Vegas brings the downforce, intermediate style of car into a competitive stance. Both speedways represent a healthy cross-section of the 2011 Cup schedule. Daytona does not.
A written quote my editor and I shared during this topic pitch describes Daytona well. “Speedweeks is its own animal and we get a better idea on who the season long players are in the races following.”
Everyone loves an underdog. My daughter’s heroes in her Disney cartoons overcome great odds to usually win. Our feel-good Cinderella stories from Daytona may be short lived.
The glass slipper fit Bayne on a Sunday afternoon in February. Gilliland and Labonte deserved an honorable mention. Time will tell if this was the beginning of happily ever after or just a happy feel good day.
(Patrick Reynolds is a former NASCAR team mechanic who hosts "Motorweek Live" Mondays at 7pm ET/4pm PT. Listen at www.racersreunionradio.com)
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