While this weekend may have been an off week for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, there was no shortage of racing. Kyle Busch took home his fourth win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Chicagoland Speedway, Boris Said finally got to victory lane on the NASCAR Nationwide circuit in Montreal and local business owner Gary Puckett was among those that went to Victory Lane at the Carolina Speedway in Gastonia, N.C.
Covering the NASCAR circuit while working a full time job can be an interesting life at times, and every once in a while I get to remember why I enjoy being a part of the sport by sitting amongst the fans at a race.
Earlier this year at Talladega I weathered the storm amongst the fans and emerged with a new respect for the sport. I’ve sat amongst the fans at Pocono, Martinsville, Dover and Charlotte, and for years, paid my way to sit in the stands to simply cover the race from the outside looking in.
This is how I became a fan of the sport and no matter what type of cars or who is steering the wheel behind them, as long as they can run fast and battle one another for the trophy I’m sure of a good show. Knowing that, I took my family and neighbors out to the Carolina Speedway on my weekend away from the track.
For only $12 you were able to see six divisions of cars run around the red dirt in the late summer night. Sitting on the front row amongst the regulars in the crowd, you not only got a great show, you could also feel the race being so close. Each lap the cars kicked up dirt and screamed past the grandstands, let off the gas getting into the corner, turned and hammered down on the throttle to power slide through the corner onto the backstretch. There were three-wide races for the lead, wrecks and hard racing all throughout the night in each division.
Say what you may about the state of NASCAR, or any other form of motorsports in that case, but one thing that will never fade will be the love of racing and the desire to win.
Too often, sponsor obligations, big money and other duties can get in the way of the true meaning of racing. The passion of racing is still there, but sometimes the local level can be much more competitive. Whether at tracks like Bowman Gray Stadium, Carolina Speedway or any local short track across the country, each weekend men, women and families pour their heart and soul into their race cars, not for the money, but for the love of racing.
While that passion may not always show at the highest levels of racing, it is always there. Just look at this weekend’s Nationwide Series winner Boris Said. Over the years, Said has helped teach some of NASCAR’s best how to better race on road courses, only to be beaten in actual race conditions. This was not the case Sunday in Montreal. Battling it out with fellow road racer Max Papis on the final lap, Said was finally able to close the deal and win his first Nationwide Series race by beating Papis to the line in a drag race.
Sitting on his hood in Victory Lane, it was not his sponsors that were thanked first, instead it was his brakes. A true racer, Said’s emotion showed how special it is for the hard work to finally pay off.
“I’m shocked … overwhelmed,” he said. “I thought I was going to cry, but I didn’t. My wife would have made fun of me. But I was pretty happy.”
The same was true for second place Max Papis. Another one of the nicest guys in the garage, Papis’ journey into NASCAR has been wrought with struggles, but Sunday he nearly tasted victory.
“I was ahead, I was behind, I was ahead,” Papis said. “At the end of the day, this was an amazing race. I had a blast. It came down to a green-white-checker, and the thing I’m the most proud of … this is maybe the first time I’ve had the chance to really sit in a car that legitimately can win, and it came down to the last corner.
“For me, I’m really proud. I know it’s a second-place finish, but it’s equal to one of my best wins.”
There are no doubts the drivers that compete week-in and week-out on the NASCAR circuit have the same passion and drive to race as those that run on Friday and Saturday nights across the country, but sometimes all it takes is a weekend without a Sprint Cup Series race to show what really matters.
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