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If You Ain’t First, You’re Last

By Wyatt Earp | September 26, 2010

As I mentioned yesterday, me, my friend Bill, and my sons Kyle and Erik spent our Saturday at the NASCAR Nationwide race at Dover International Speedway. This has been an annual event for us for two reasons. First, the boys are huge NASCAR fans. Second, the Nationwide Series – think of it as NASCAR’s Triple A league – is not a day-long commitment. The race is usually shorter (half the laps the big boys run) and less crowded, but usually has some Sprint Cup guys involved – like Kyle’s favorite driver, Kyle Busch.

When we arrived at the track, we made a beeline to the Kid’s Zone. Nationwide driver Trevor Bayne (above) was signing autographs, and the kids wanted to meet a driver. We got into the line, which moved rather quickly, and before we knew it, we were face-to-face with the 19-year old phenom. He said hello to the boys, asked them their names, and talked for a second or two while signing a photo. When I asked if he would take a picture with the boys, he immediately said yes, and thanked us afterward.

Sidebar: Say what you want about NASCAR, but 99% of the folks involved are good, down-to-earth people. I’ll further illustrate this truism below the fold. I have been going to races since 1998 and have never witnessed a fistfight in the stands. Sure, there is some salty language and more than a few drunks, but we have never seen one act of violence. Not once. In 12 years. Can Eagles or Phillies fans say that?

After meeting Trevor, the kids redeemed their ticket for this year’s souvenir. It was a Dover Speedway lunch box. Not a lunch bag, not one of these modern lame cloth lunch cozies, a real, honest-to-goodness metal lunchbox. Just like the ones we carried to school in the 70′s. It. Is. Freakin’. Awesome. Both Kyle and Erik want to bring it to school and show it off.

When we left the Kid’s Zone, we made our way to the driver’s souvenir trailers. Kyle wanted to hit Kyle Bush’s trailer, Erik wanted to stop by Denny Hamlin’s trailer – he’s Erik’s favorite driver – and Bill and I wanted to stop by Jeff Gordon’s hauler. The route we took through the trailer area was such that Denny Hamlin’s trailer was our last stop. Erik was like Spalding from Caddyshack. “I want a die cast car, I want a hat, I want a shirt, ooh, I want that teddy bear . . . “ Cutting him off, we walked to the counter and the salespeople smiled. See, Erik was wearing his Denny Hamlin hat and his Denny Hamlin shirt. (He also brought his Denny Hamlin die cast car to the race for luck.) Erik pointed out a few things – a 1:64 car, a pin, and the teddy bear with the driver’s jersey – and the clerk rung them up.

As we were getting ready to leave, a woman came out of the trailer and walked over to Erik. She gave him a big smile and said, “Are you a fan of Denny Hamlin?” Erik nodded and said, “Yep!”

The woman smiled some more, crouched down to look him in the eye, and said, “I’m Denny Hamlin’s mom.”

Always understated, Erik just kind of looked at her. Meanwhile – being a huge Hamlin fan myself – I said, “No way! Really?”

She nodded to me and said that she likes to help the people in the trailers when she can, and she always likes to say hello to fans. I asked if we could get a picture with her, and she said, “Of course!” She brought us over to the side of the trailer, just under the #11. The results are below:

After we took the picture, Mrs. Hamlin put hr hand on Erik’s head and said, “Thank you so much for being a fan of my son.”

It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. She not only took time out of her day to talk to some fans, but she also worked the trailer during a race weekend. Now obviously, she didn’t have to do that. Her son is a multi-millionaire. She could just sit around, do nothing all day, and ignore fans like people in almost every other pro sport. But NASCAR isn’t like every other sport. They treat their fans like gold, and that’s why we continue to support them through thick and thin. Thanks to his warm, wonderful mother, Denny Hamlin now has four lifelong fans.

Oh yeah, before I forget . . . the racin’! I never get tired of taking video like this:

We took that as we entered the track. I think it gives you an idea of how fast they’re going.

Denny Hamlin wasn’t racing today – he is busy trying to win his first Sprint Cup championship – but Kyle Busch and Trevor Bayne were. That’s who we were cheering for. Well, them and Danica Patrick, who was also racing today. Sadly, if you were not a Kyle Busch fan, you were probably bored today. Kyle was a machine, leading 192 or 200 laps before cruising to victory. Suffice to say, the kids were pleased.

Not only with the win, but with the day in general.

Topics: Racing, The Boys | 18 Comments »

18 Responses to “If You Ain’t First, You’re Last”

  1. bob (either orr) Says:
    September 26th, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    NASCAR drivers rank as the most-fan friendly group of any significant pro sport. (Actually, you can put the F1 and IndyCar gang in that group, too.) The only ones close are the NHL players, by and large.
    Dover’s a great place to watch a race… even though I prefer Pocono.

  2. RT Says:
    September 26th, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    What a wonderful experience for you all, especially the kids. :)

  3. Wyatt Earp Says:
    September 26th, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    Bob – The drivers, and to a large extent the fans, are just nicer. At least, that’s been my experience.

    RT – They had a blast. Kyle wanted to blow off his soccer game today to go back down for the Sprint Cup race today.

  4. Loaded Dice in Vegas Says:
    September 26th, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Went to my first NASCAR (truck) race last night at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. GREAT crowd and decent race. Yep you don’t have to worry about taking your kids to a NASCAR event.

    And we had a GREAT time…………

  5. Wyatt Earp Says:
    September 26th, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    LDIV – The trucks come to Dover next year. The boys were thinking about going.

  6. Loaded Dice in Vegas Says:
    September 26th, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Absolutely take them. You’ll all have a blast.

  7. proof Says:
    September 26th, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Wow! Great story! And what a class act Denny Hamlin’s Mom is!

  8. Wyatt Earp Says:
    September 26th, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    LDIV – As long as there are engines revving and scary-close passes, my boys will be interested.

    Proof – Absolutely. A terrific woman. Denny finished 9th today, and is still leading the Sprint Cup standings with eight races to go.

  9. Old NFO Says:
    September 26th, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Yep, they ARE class acts… no question!

  10. Wyatt Earp Says:
    September 26th, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    Old NFO – Some of the best people in the sports world.

  11. AJ Lynch Says:
    September 26th, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    You are a damn good father Wyatt. Keep at it.

  12. Raptor Says:
    September 26th, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Wyatt, these race-report posts make me wonder why I ever stopped watching NASCAR in the first place.

    Actually, no. I know why: my favorite driver was Dale Earnhardt Sr., and after his death, I kinda drifted away from the sport. Got back into it fairly recently, only now when I watch the races on TV, I have no clue who most of the drivers are. Yeah, it’s been a while… but watching a race live is still on my bucket list.

  13. Wyatt Earp Says:
    September 27th, 2010 at 12:04 am

    AJ – I wouldn’t say that, but thanks.

    Raptor – I’ve been to Pocono, Dover, Richmond, and Daytona. Daytona was special because I went in July, 2001. It was the first race since Dale, Sr. died. Junior won that one. Not a dry eye in the house.

  14. ed Says:
    September 27th, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    Welcome to the Cobra Kai Junior NASCAR Dojo. We aim to introduce young fans to the racing world and to build character through teaching them the art of racing. Through proper instruction in Mercy, Fear, Pain & Defeat, a proper moral foundation can be laid.

    Principle of Mercy:
    We do not train to be merciful here. Mercy is for the weak. Here, in the racetracks, in competition: A man confronts you, he is the enemy. An enemy deserves no mercy.
    Principle of Fear:

    This is best explained in the following class motivational chant—
    Sensei: Fear does not exist in this dojo, does it?
    Cobra Kai Junior NASCAR Dojo: NO, SENSEI!
    Sensei: Pain does not exist in this dojo, does it?
    Cobra Kai Junior NASCAR Dojo: NO, SENSEI!
    Sensei: Defeat does not exist in this dojo, does it?
    Cobra Kai Junior NASCAR Dojo: NO, SENSEI!

    Principles of Pain & Defeat: See above.

    In addition to the above character development, your youth will engage in many team and morale building chants. An example is as follows. Here the Dojo is learning the proper way of passing.

    Instructor: What do we study here?
    Instructor: And what is that way?

    Finally, you can rest assured that your youngster will be in the good hands of our top instructor, Sensai John Kreese. You can learn more about him in the hyperlink below. It is John Kreese who came up with the Dojo’s winning motto:

    Second place? Second place is no place! You’re off the team!

  15. ed Says:
    September 27th, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Errr… the above retarded comment was supposed to be based off of/ inspired by the title of this post–”If You Ain’t First, You’re Last”

    So I just kinda started riffing off of it cuz it had that Cobra Kai sorta vibe.

    And then I forgot to include the quote with the comment.

    Damn it.

    Well, since I screwed that up, how about we take this retarded bit of Karate Kid trivia to the bitter end.

    I present to you, the original Cobra Kai class, 25 years later.

  16. Wyatt Earp Says:
    September 27th, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    Ed – No worries, I knew where you were going. And it was good! Heh.

  17. fozzy Says:
    September 28th, 2010 at 2:42 am

    Thanks for the race video. Whenever I see a youtube clip of fast cars, the camera tracks the vehicle and you don’t get a real sense of the speed. Kind of like the camera angle they use for baseball games. From way out in center field it looks like the batter and pitcher are close to each other and you can’t get a real sense of how fast the pitcher can throw until you see it live.

  18. Trevor Bayne Wins The Daytona 500! | Support Your Local Gunfighter Says:
    February 20th, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    [...] those of you who don’t remember, the boys and I actually met Trevor at last year’s Nationwide Series race at Dover. He was the nicest guy in the world – [...]