The Dichotomy of The 2011 Daytona 500


(photo courtesy Leon Hammack)

This year’s running of “The Great American Race”, the Daytona 500, is filled with many story lines.  The dichotomies are abundant.  The stories range from triumph to tragedy, hope to gloom, happiness to sorrow, and everywhere in between.  Quite possibly, this race could be the key that unlocks one of the biggest sports stories in the first part of the 21st century!  “The prodigal son” returns and triumphantly reclaims redemption”.

The sports writers that cover the NASCAR beat have written every story imaginable, covered all the angles, searched every nook and cranny, on Dale Earnhardt, Jr. since Dale Earnhardt, Sr. met his untimely and tragic death on February 18, 2001.  Dale Jr. has been scrutinized, viewed under the microscope, and analyzed more than any other NASCAR race car driver over these last 10 years.

On Saturday, Dale Jr. won the pole with the fastest qualifying time of the day.  It has become very apparent that he and one of his teammates, Jeff Gordon, have very fast race cars for this year’s Daytona 500.  Could the 2011 Daytona 500 have a similar ending as the 2001 Pepsi 400?  That poses a very interesting story line for this year.  You do remember how the 2001 Pepsi 400 played out, don’t you?

Let WOMR refresh you memory!

NASCAR, and “the prodigal son”, returned to Daytona for the running of the 2001 Pepsi 400 in July, just a mere 4 1/2 months after the tragic death of Dale Earnhardt, Sr.  As the evening unfurled, and the laps wound down, “the prodigal son”, Dale Jr., weaves his way to the head of the pack.  The crowd of over 200,000 goes berserk!  With those maneuvers the entire grandstands were standing and cheering wildly!

The fairy tale was starting to unfold.  As Dale Earnhardt, Jr. comes off turn four, leading the pack, with his teammate Michael Waltrip’s front bumper glued firmly to his back bumper pushing him, “the prodigal son” wins his first race back at the track that claimed his father’s life just less than five months earlier!  Hollywood could not have scripted this movie any better!

Nevertheless, recent times have not been so good for Dale Jr.  The wins have been very scarce, just two victories since joining Hendrick Motorsports three years ago.  However, in  this past off season there has been some earthshaking movements over at the HMS complex.  From Saturday’s qualifying efforts it would appear that it has paid off for both Dale Jr. and Jeff Gordon, they comprise the front row for the 2011 Daytona 500!

In light of this, the 10th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt, Sr’s death, and in light of the scarcity of wins  for Dale,Jr. lately, and in light of all the media hype and articles that are and will be written, wouldn’t it be fitting, even though somewhat bittersweet, if around 5pm this Sunday evening, that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is being swarmed by all the media, full of smiles, and is hugging the Harley J. Earl trophy as he celebrates his second Daytona 500 victory of his career?

How fitting and bittersweet that would be for “the prodigal son”, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., to be the victor!  All would be good in NASCAR, as well as Junior Nation!  Could this be a reality Sunday?  Are the Hollywood script writers sharpening up their pencils?

What are your thoughts?


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