The Daytona 500 lived up to its hype. Even though we had a hole in the track which wasted a few hours or so of racing, we came out strong and had a great race - until the second hole problem. But finally the problem was fixed and the final moments were well worth it.
During the last laps, I held my breath. I was jumping for Jamie McMurray, but another driver had my eyes following his every move.
That day, Feb. 14, was my uncle’s birthday, and like me he is a huge NASCAR fan. However, he is a fan of Jeff Gordon and for his birthday, he was dead set Jeff was going to win. The last time a race was on his birthday was 1999; I was 7 and Jeff did win. It was a great birthday for my uncle, so you can somewhat understand why my uncle would want and hope for his favorite driver to win.
After the second red flag, I had to leave and head for the birthday dinner, hoping we would make it in time for the race, but I had my handy dandy Sprint phone which had my scanner on. Luck was on my side - or was it just the Amp? I will never know, but the race hadn’t started yet. We got our food and sat down and watched. My uncle was sure Jeff was going to take it; I wasn’t. The race was intense getting to those final laps.
Eating the birthday cake, I nearly dropped it watching Kasey Kahne spin and end his night. Two laps were remaining, sending us to the second green-white-checker. My eyes were wide. I took a drink of my Amp, but the taste of Amp and cake was not a good mix - leaves a bad taste!
My eyes were focused on Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle and Jamie. I was watching what Kevin had up his sleeve. I was so into this when I heard my uncle yell out “Junior to the middle!” My eyes shot open, my mouth gaping wide - there was my Amp Man, Dale Earnhardt Jr., heading toward the front.
From starting all the way back in 10th, I was shocked to say the least. But then I remembered this is Daytona and he is an Earnhardt. I stood up and dropped my cake; my eyes focused as the double Zero aka David Reutimann gives Junior a huge push. I watch as Junior shoots through the middle coming up on Jamie Mac. I was screaming, jumping yelling! My eyes were bulging out of my sockets I think.
I held in my breath and fell to my knees as the white checker flag waved. Jamie McMurray had won his first race with new team Earnhardt-Ganassi. I was happy for him and excited, but my eyes were following that 88 who made me the happiest teen in the world. To see my driver go from the crappy season we had in '09 to second in the Daytona 500 was a big sigh of relief and a good feeling.
I felt bad for my uncle. I knew he wanted Jeff to win, but I think seeing the smile on my face made up for it. I was told I hadn’t worn that smile in a while.
To all Jamie McMurray fans: what a race and what a great and proud feeling you are all feeling right now, the feeling of your driver's win.
To all my fellow Junior fans: it paid off. We kept strong for him; we stayed there through thick and thin. I don’t know about you, but I could have sworn I saw that black 3 racing tonight.
The 500 was everything I wanted: it was well worth the wait and well worth the two red flags we had.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
Photo: Dale Earnhardt Jr. moved from 22nd to second during two attempts at a green-white-checkered finish, but could not catch Jamie McMurray for the Daytona 500 victory. (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR)