Article by Jeff Hood, RacinToday.com
As post-race celebrations in NASCAR go, roughly 99 percent of them are about as interesting as watching a crew member apply glue to lugnuts.
But thanks to Carl Edwards, I’m back on the edge of my seat when I see the checkered flag wave.
I happened to be standing with a group of people on pit road for the Nationwide Series race at Texas Motor Speedway earlier this month and could hardly wait to see the expression on their faces when Edwards performed his trademark backflip off his Ford at the start-finish line following his victory.
But I must admit that even my jaw dropped when I witnessed Edwards jump through an open gate below the flagstand and proceed to high-five and hug a legion of fans in the grandstand. In my book, that is the perfect way to cap off a winning day.
Edwards duplicated his new method of celebrating by backflipping off his winning car in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race in Phoenix just seconds before climbing into the crowd.
Several naysayers have gone on record as saying that Edwards could get injured. And I’m sure some of my colleagues in the media aren’t happy about it because they likely see it as another delay in getting an opportunity to interview the race winner.
But I’m hoping other drivers follow Edwards’ lead and show similar emotion after winning.
It didn’t necessarily include acrobatic moves off a car or greeting fans on row 10, but the last couple of weeks did get me to thinking about some of my memorable post-race moments in NASCAR history. And please note that my list doesn’t include a single driver rattling off a seemingly endless list of sponsors:
1. I actually found myself cheering for Tony Stewart to win the 2005 Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis. Knowing how much that race track means to Smoke made it electric seeing him climb the fence with his team and kiss the bricks.
2. I’ll always remember the 1989 Daytona 500 for the emotion Darrell Waltrip showed in victory lane after winning the world’s most important stock car race. He shook CBS announcer Mike Joy while appearing to be in disbelief over his win.
3. The 1992 running of The Winston All-Star race in Charlotte will forever be remembered as the race without a victory lane celebration. Race winner Davey Allison was transported to a local hospital while his battered No. 28 Ford was towed back to the garage.
4. After winning the 1984 Firecracker 400 at Daytona, Richard Petty parked his No. 43 Pontiac at the start-finish line and made his way to the press box to greet President Ronald Reagan. The two were interviewed by Jim Lampley of ABC Sports.
5. It’s the “Dale and Dale Show.” The emotion of CBS’ Ned Jarrett calling his son’s win over Dale Earnhardt in the 1994 Daytona 500 spilled over to victory lane when Ned had the chance to interview his son, Dale Jarrett.
6. Victory for Michael Waltrip at the 2001 Daytona 500 quickly turned somber after Fox announcer Waltrip began to weep and Dale Earnhardt Jr. raced to the battered No. 3 Chevrolet to check on the condition of his father.
7. One of the most popular wins in NASCAR history was scored by Earnhardt when he captured the 1998 Daytona 500. Earnhardt looked right at home in victory lane when he climbed atop his black No. 3 and raised both arms in triumph.
8. But the tide turned just over a year later when fan favorite Earnhardt was greeted in victory lane by a large chorus of boos after spinning Terry Labonte to win the night race at Bristol, Tenn. in August 1999.
9. The moment the checkered flag waved over the Hooters 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway Bill Elliott partied in victory lane, Alan Kulwicki celebrated his championship and Petty rode off into the sunset as he took one final lap around the track.
10. Petty pulled off an improbable win by capturing the 1979 Daytona 500. But his victory lane interview was overshadowed by the unforgettable fight in Turn 3 between Bobby and Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough.
It’d suit me just fine to see Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick or Jimmie Johnson do something spectacular and out of the ordinary at the conclusion Sunday’s Ford 400 in Homestead, Fla. and generate new memories for NASCAR’s fanbase.
Have at it, boys!