I have never had a more glorious moment being a sports fan. The Chicago Bears have never won a Super Bowl in my lifetime. The Oklahoma City Thunder have never won an NBA Finals. I'm not a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan, so when they won the World Series, it was great, and I was excited, but those World Series games are the only few MLB games I have watched all the way through. The Tar-Heels win the March Madness at least once a decade, so it's the expectation. So Ricky Stenhouse Jr. winning the Daytona 500 is by far the best moment in sports for me!
I was already super excited for this NASCAR season. The storylines kept adding up. Kyle Busch gets the boot from Joe Gibbs, and Ty Gibbs takes his spot. The Denny Hamlin vs. Ross Chastain Rivalry. Jimmy Johnson making his return to NASCAR part-time. Travis Pastrana making his NASCAR debut. There is simply a lot to be excited about for this season.
I did not wake up this morning thinking I would end the day as the happiest fan in the world. I knew I would sit down and watch the Daytona 500, or at least have it on in the background as I carried about my day cleaning my apartment after a nice weekend of having family over. But the Cabarrus County Native Instincts kicked in. I watched the entire race. All 500 miles. All 200 laps. My eyes were glued to the TV.
I didn't expect Stenhouse to win. A Top-10 finish would have been acceptable to me. For the majority of the race, I spent my time rooting against Ty Gibbs and actually rooting for Kyle Busch. I cannot stand that little Geoffery from Game of Thrones looking ass, and I hope he doesn't get to see Victory Lane in the Cup Series. Ever.
Travis Pastrama brought a lot of entertainment tonight. Nobody expected him to finish the race, much less just outside the top 10 in 11th place. Following his story leading up to the race was exciting, and I think his presence on the track brought in a lot of new fans for the sport. If NASCAR were smart, they'd bring in some rando every week.
Following Stenhouse the entire race sent me through a whirlwind of emotions. He was competing for a while, and I was visualizing how he could wind up taking the lead. He then was penalized for speeding through Pit Lane late in the race, and all hope of him winning went completely out the window. Luckily, a caution flag was issued shortly after he got back out onto the field, which put him in a position to make a move.
Listening to the Scanner, there was a lot of tension between Stenhouse and his spotter coming up to the end of the race. They were trying to navigate when to make a move, how to make a move, and if they could even make a move. I was not very confident that we could pull a win off when the field restarted. Joey Logano, Christopher Bell, and Kyle Larson surrounded him. Three powerhouses.
Before the wreck that brought out the tieing caution, Stenhouse fell behind. To make this win poetic, Christopher Bell, the Norman, Oklahoma Native, and my wife's favorite driver, pushed Stenhouse into the lead. Needless to say, she will have to endure watching NASCAR with me every weekend moving forward!
The caution was called, and I was unsure if Ricky had taken the lead. I sat there, watching the TV and listening to the scanner in silence for a few seconds. Then finally, Stenhouse's spotter called it. They had won the Daytona 500!
I was jumping up and down, running around the apartment, jumping on tables and chairs, and nearly breaking everything I own out of pure excitement and joy. I scared my dogs half to death because they had never seen that side of me come out. In fact, I don't think anybody has seen that side of me come out. My wife was looking at me like I was some lunatic, but it didn't matter. Ricky Stenhouse had just won the Crown Jewel of NASCAR.
There could not have been a better way to start the NASCAR season. As I head into the week, I'm going to walk around like my team just won the Super Bowl. The Pennzoil 400 is in Las Vegas, a race Stenhouse has finished in the top 10 in two of the last four races. Ricky now has his bid in the playoffs this year, so as long as there aren't 16 other drivers that win a race this season or he is top 16 in points of drivers that have won a race, he is locked in. This season will be super exciting, and I am looking forward to next weekend!