The Coke Zero 400: Again and Again

April GatesCorrespondent IJuly 6, 2009

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JULY 04:  Kasey Kahne, driver of the #9 Budweiser Dodge, crashes into the rear of Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, after Kyle hit the wall on the final lap during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 51st Annual Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 4, 2009 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

NASCAR is NEVER boring.  Especially when you've got veteran and multi-talented drivers like Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart vying for the lead. 

Emotions can and usually do, run high on the track and outside the cars. 

Emotional?  How can NASCAR be considered an emotional sport? 

If you've ever watched the drivers and crew before a race you'll notice most drivers begin to get really focused.  Most quiet down and you can see the determination on their faces.  Longer races are usually harder on the body and require longer pre-race prep time.  Hydration, physical fatigue as well as mental fatigue, are all major factors of a race.  Getting yourself emotionally prepared for the race is almost as important as physically prepared.

Once on track and never one to be outdone, Stewart is usually one to put the pedal down and push her for all she's got when it's crunch time.  He doesn't usually disappoint himself or fans if at all possible.

Then there's Shrub—Kyle Busch.  

Most often prone to hot-headed moves and emotional outbursts, all things that have at one time or another plagued ol' Mr. Stewart.  He isn't likely to let off the gas or close his mouth, even when it might be best.

These two are so much alike when it comes to racing, but they are just at different points in their likeness, too. 

Tony has somewhat mellowed and matured.  I won't use the wine analogy, because frankly, wine could never be that hairy.  But the difference is quite noticeable in him.  Not as quick to outbursts, quieter in tone, but just as sassy when asked what he deems a silly question by a roving reporter.  That will probably never change.     

Shrub on the other hand is always a bit on the wreck-less side.  He hasn't had the fine tuning that Tony has learned.  I must believe that given time, Shrub will hone his skills. 

Both are masterful drivers, with skills on the track that out-do most of their fellow drivers.  Mistakes are not something that either admit to readily or that happen often.

So when the closing laps of the Coke Zero 400 began looming, both drivers had but one thought between them, "Get out of the way bud, I'm taking the checkers!"  Those in the near vicinity be damned, we're gonna duel this out!

Here's where watching a NASCAR race can become emotional. 

My driver who was running about 12th to 15th at this point, and vying for every position he can get before the checkers drop, becomes a casualty of the two running up front. 

No one wants to see their favorite driver caught up in the melee of mangled autos.  But every good NASCAR fan knows at some point it's going to happen.  It's just the nature of the beast.  It's just racing. 

When it happens you're not ready for it. 

No matter how small an accident it might be, it still pisses you off.  At a track like Daytona where drafting is such a major component of being able to run up front, even the slightest ding in a front end can take enough air out of your sails to render you useless in the race. 

No thanks to David Stremme's stellar driving abilities, Kasey Kahne overcame an incident early on and was able to keep himself on the the lead lap and get back up front.  This was in part thanks to some great pit stops and good crew chiefing.

And that's where he was riding when the big one finally happened, and my emotions got involved. 

Nevertheless, seeing it happen once is almost like seeing a ghost.  You ask yourself, did I just see that?  Did I see that right?  Noooo!!  And then, they play it again.  And again.  And again.

I missed it the moment it initially happened.  Good thing for me they replayed it several hundred times, along with some callous commentary to go with it. 

It was here that my husband tells me the severity of the accident and I look up to see them replaying it, but me only seeing it for the first time. 

My emotions kick into high gear when after several minutes Kasey hasn't responded to Kole's questioning if he's OK.  Kenny Francis chimes in and we are finally rewarded with a "that hurt" from Kasey, to which I respond with flowing tears. 

Now a new emotion begins to emerge from me as I watch the post-accident coverage. 


I'm angry that the commentators aren't saying anything about those involved in the worst of the accidents, Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne.  Are they OK?  How badly are they injured?  I really couldn't tell you because they had moved on to the Victory celebration only pausing from top five interviews long enough to show the accident again and again and to offer some ridiculous commentary to go along with it. 

Even Darrel Waltrip had enough sense to be emotional, respectful and worried during the accident of the Daytona 500, that took our beloved Dale Sr.  Is it unfair of me to ask the same thing of today's commentators?

I'm also angry at Kyle Busch.  

I'm angry at him for making such a boneheaded move at such a critical point in the race.  Why not just race him clean, door to door?  Why the block?  When does that EVER have the desired effect going those speeds?  


My anger subsided at the poor doofus looking askew exiting his car to go on a manhunt for Tony Stewart.  Why be mad at him?  He just did what you would have done Shrub.  He raced you fair and square.  He didn't lift and kept the nose pointed at the finish line.  All things you would have done were the roles reversed.  After all that's just racin'.      

Who would think to classify watching a NASCAR race as emotional?  I guess for some it might not be, but for me, it really is. 

Win, lose or draw.  Angry, sad, happy or glad—that's NASCAR and that's why I love it!