A Win is a Win - South Dade News Leader: Opinion

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A Win is a Win

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Posted: Friday, April 6, 2018 10:23 am

It’s hard to get there, and possibly even more difficult to make it back

I hope everyone had a very Happy Easter holiday last weekend and a Happy Passover as well. And while all three of NASCAR’s

national series were off on the Easter holiday for the ninth time in the last 14 years, the excitement that prevailed the previous week - prior to the season’s initial break - might have been enough to carry us through the weekend without any NASCAR.

First and foremost, the race at Martinsville was pushed back by a day due to snow that hit the southern portion of Virginia. For the season’s first short-track race of the year, the wait was well worth it, especially for Clint Bowyer. In Bowyer’s 439 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts, he would tell you that never before in his career has he displayed the type of boyish exuberance that he did in Victory Lane last Monday, moments after taking the checkered flag in the STP 500.

You might attribute the buoyancy to the fact that Bowyer put an end to his 190-race winless streak - a span of six years - as he dominated by leading all but one of the final 216 laps of the 500-lap race. It could have been because he earned his first win at the track known as the “Paper Clip,” and as a result was awarded the iconic grandfather clock. Or it could have been because Bowyer has been known to be one of the more emotional, charismatic and colorful

drivers since commencing his career on the MENCS circuit in 2006.

It was likely a combination of each of these, but if it proved one thing, it’s how hard it is to win in this sport, and when they do, drivers

typically act as if they just won more than a race. Perhaps that’s because every weekend is approached as more of an event than a race. It’s not just what happens on Sunday that determines a

winner. It’s the strategy meetings with the crew chiefs back at the shop during the course of the week. It’s consulting with the engineers to see what might work best for a certain track or particular weather conditions. It’s Friday practice and qualifying, and then Saturday

practice. What fans see on Sunday is a culmination of a lot of hard work by many. It might also be because drivers just never know when that win might be their last. Just ask Bowyer.

In his first seven years as a full-time Cup drivers (2006-12), the 38-year old from Emporia, Kansas won eight races, including a high of three in 2012. He captured two checkered flags in his first 83 starts. But since that final win of 2012 – at Charlotte in October – the best he was able to muster were five second-place finishes. That all changed in Martinsville. The point is that every week there are so many variables in play which can affect the outcome of a race, not the least bit of which is you are going up against 39 competitors. With the field being as robust as what it is, there is plenty that can transpire over the course of a 400 or 500-mile race.

But Bowyer is not the first driver who has experienced early success only to see tougher times afterwards. Among current drivers, Trevor Bayne won the 2011 Daytona 500 for Wood Brothers in just his second career Cup start – and he was not even a full-time driver in the Cup series that year. He has made 170 starts since that time – including 114 as a full-time Cup driver after joining Roush Fenway in 2015 – and has just four top-5 finishes to his credit. As a 26-year old in 2002, Jamie McMurray won the October Charlotte race as he replaced an injured Sterling Marlin. It was only McMurray’s second career start. It would take him 166 more starts before he would sit in Victory Lane again. In the 550 overall starts that have ensued since that Charlotte win, only six have resulted in victories. Currently, McMurray has not won since 2013, putting his winless streak at 154. On the flip side, before Martin Truex Jr. began his amazing run with Furniture Row Racing in 2015 – which has included 14 wins in 114 starts, two Championship 4 appearances (2015, 2017) and a title (2017) – he had amassed just two wins in 333 starts. I’m sure that start has made him savor each successive win that much more.

Bowyer, Bayne, McMurray and Truex are just four of many drivers who are fully equipped to evaluate the value of a win.

Not to say it doesn’t happen in other sports, because it does. Maybe not measured in wins and losses, but more so titles and championship game appearances. Locally, Dan Marino guided the Dolphins to the Super Bowl in just his second season (1984). Despite a loss to the powerhouse San Francisco 49ers, many thought that it would be the first of many Super Bowls for Marino. The closest he would get after that is a berth in the AFC Championship Game. Sticking to football, the Buffalo Bills advanced to four straight Super Bowls to kick off the decade of the 1990s only to come out on the short side of each. They have not been back to the NFL’s biggest game since the last of those four appearances. It’s hard to get there, and possibly even more difficult to make it back.

A coach once told me that there is no such thing as an “ugly” win. Every win was beautiful. His point was that wins are hard to come by, regardless of the sport. In other words, don’t take anything for granted.

So when we are watching the Championship 4 unfold during Ford Championship Weekend November 16-18, let’s think about everything that those 12 drivers did during the course of a long season just to make it to that point, and know that they are all winners in their own way.

NASCAR ACTION THIS WEEKEND

Sunday, April 8 at 2:00 PM (ET)

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway

Tune In: FS1 and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90

Saturday, April 7

at 3:00 PM (ET)

NASCAR XFINITY Series My Bariatrics Solutions 300 at Texas Motor Speedway

Tune In: FOX and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90

*The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

will return to action on Friday, May 4

UPCOMING EVENTS AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY

April 6

Fast Lane Friday

April 7-8 Sports Car Club of America

April 14-15 South Florida SportsCar Challenge

April 21

Miami Exotic Auto Racing

April 22 Performance Driving Group

May 4 Fast Lane Friday

May 5-6 Championship Cup Series (CCS) Motorcycle Racing

2018 HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY NASCAR DATES

Nov. 16 Ford EcoBoost 200 Camping World Truck Series Championship Race

Nov. 17 Ford EcoBoost 300 XFINITY Series Championship Race

Nov. 18 Ford EcoBoost 400 Monster Energy Series Championship Race

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