“All you got to do is give me that little bit of hope, and I will run with it.” — Tony Stewart, post-race press conference 6-26-16 at Sonoma.
I have favorite tracks. I have a favorite (now-retired) driver and other drivers I like more than others. But this week has me thinking about my favorite single race of all-time.
I’ve been a racing, and specifically NASCAR, fan since childhood so you’d think it would be hard to pick just one race over my thirty plus years of fandom. Nope, it’s quite easy for me to pick. It was three years ago this race (Sonoma) weekend. I was at Race Sonoma this weekend, and Race Sonoma is always one of my favorite in person tracks. This particular weekend, my favorite driver, Tony Stewart along with retired driver Ernie Irvan, was receiving a plaque on Sonoma’s Wall of Fame (located behind the grandstands near the start/finish line. I was excited to see the presentation happen. I was also looking forward to attending a Tony Stewart Foundation event that weekend. The weather promised to be phenomenal, and it was.
Both of those events were awesome and huge highlights of the weekend but not why it’s my favorite race. Hell, even most of the race wasn’t that extraordinary to me at the time. It was another race at Race Sonoma, which I love because of the close quarters, beating and banging, the elevation changes, turn 11, I could go on why I do like the race at Race Sonoma.
Tony was having a solid race that Sunday. He was in the top 10 most of the day. What more could I have asked for as a Tony Stewart fan? Not much. The team was doing well on their pit stops. It was going to be a good solid finish, I hoped.
Let’s be honest here. At this point in the season, we fans knew this was Tony’s last year as a cup driver. He made his announcement at the end of the 2015 season. But it had been a crappy last couple of years for him both personally and physically. And of course, as fans, it wasn’t the greatest for us to see our driver struggle. Every fan wants their driver to win every race. Well, maybe that’s just me. Anyway, at this point, it was good to see him in the top ten. But those last laps? And that final lap especially. It was passion, it was hope, it was fun. It was everything.
The emotion of that last win for Tony, for his family, for his fans, is not something that can be put into words very easily. You could see it on his face when he got out of the car. You could see it on his dad’s face in the pits, and on his fan’s faces in the stands. You could just feel it at the track.
Sure I love Tony’s 2011 championship race. It had a similar down to the wire, last lap feel to it. But it didn’t have the same emotion behind the win.
Sure I loved seeing Tony’s first win at Auto Club (and his second). I was so excited I forgot how to work my camera, so the only picture I got was a picture of his rear tire smoking during the burnout because I forgot to take my camera off zoom. He was excited to finally have that feather for his cap. But still the emotion is totally different
Yes, I still have the piece of confetti from his victory lane from his first win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I picked up on my way out of the track late that afternoon after the track was long quiet. It’s tucked safely in my drawer at home. That was a great win too.
My favorite race wasn’t my first Brickyard- which was later that same year. I went because I wanted to see his last home track race for myself. It was a great experience too (except for our flight to Indiana getting cancelled two hours before it was suppose to leave).
No my favorite race isn’t even the first race I ever attended (an Indy race at Laguna Seca back in the early 90s). The race that my dad suprised me with by making sure we had pit passes and everything. While it was an amazing race it wasn’t my favorite.
But that 2016 Sonoma race? That win was everything.
That is my favorite race. Ever.
You can read my race diary of the Sonoma race here. But it doesn’t shine the light on the win as much as this one did. Probably because it was written within days of the race being over and I hadn’t had the ability to digest it fully yet. But it has some great pictures.
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