They say “all is fair in love and war.” NASCAR phenom Kyle Larson and Dale Earnhardt protégé Steve Park put the “battle” in the first annual “Battle at the Beach” on the short track at Daytona.
After 20-year old phenom Kyle Larson punted C.E. Falk for the win Monday, Mike Stefanik got the bump and dump from Steve Park on a green-white-checkered, as he won his first Whelen Modified victory in 16 years in Tuesday night’s event. Hopefully, those fans who have been decrying the tame affair that was the Sprint Unlimited caught these slugfests that had all the feel of your local dirt track.
The finishes bring to bear the age old debate of what’s acceptable in terms of contact to win a race. The “rubbin’ is racin’” crowd will agree with what Larson said, that this what you do with a short-track victory on the line, and that Falk would have done the same in his position. Larson did admit later “I did him dirty up there,” claiming it’s the first time he’s won a race in such a fashion. For the moment, we’ll have to take the youngster at his word.
At least for this fan, there was a little something sentimental about Park winning a day after 12th anniversary of his one-time employer. For his part, Park says he had some help getting into Stefanik, to which the latter responded with the slang term for bovine excrement. Both the victors and the vanquished will have plenty to take up for them in the court of public opinion.
Regardless of one’s opinion on short track etiquette, we can all agree the events were a welcome change of pace from the fodder of the chatter class. Racing the way it was truly meant to be was on full display on Monday and Tuesday of this week. An eager upstart and grizzled journeyman both showed what being hungry for a win really looks like.
Jim McCoy is a radio and television sports reporter and high school sports play-by-play announcer residing in southern Oregon with his wife and three children. When he’s not doing thast, he enjoys chatting it up online with his fellow race fans about NASCAR. McCoy was OAB Radio Sports Announcer of the Year for 2012.
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