|Joyful smiles in victory lane at the 2014 Daytona 500|
Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images
If you watched the end of the 2014 Daytona 500, you were treated to a spectacle in Victory Lane: pure joy. These days it’s rare to witness an adult displaying unabashed, genuine delight, but race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. allowed NASCAR Nation to share in his exuberance.
The in-car camera captured Junior’s grin and fist pumps during his burnout and frontstretch celebration. In Victory Lane — where drivers normally sit in the car until the commercial break is over, climb out with a celebratory whoop and beverage drenching, then go straight to the TV interview — Dale Jr. broke protocol. He jumped down from the car door and hugged each of his crew members, one by one, before returning to Matt Yocum for his post-race interview. Dale Jr. shared his joy with his race team family first. How cool was that?
It wasn’t only the No. 88 team who shared in the celebration. Driver after driver congratulated Dale Jr. and verbalized their heartfelt good wishes. You could almost hear the collective happy roar of race fans across the nation, too, even fans of other drivers. There’s just something special and poignant about an Earnhardt winning at Daytona. It’s a lump-in-your-throat-while-you’re-cheering kind of victory.
If you watched any of the interviews, you may have noticed something else about Dale Jr.’s demeanor. There’s a sense of peace about him you can almost reach out and touch. It’s as if the anxiety and uncertainty he’s been carrying around for the past few years has evaporated. There’s an extra lilt in his posture and a relaxed set to his jaw.
You know why he has that unruffled sense of tranquility about him, right? It’s because he’s in. More than likely, he’s in the Chase.
For a Cup driver in 2014, there’s a peace that comes with the assurance of “You’re in.” The pressure is off. He knows he doesn’t have to be perfect anymore. A DNF still stinks, but it’s not the end of his season.
But a driver who's in doesn’t feel lazy. He feels energized to get out there and do his best because he’s looking forward to what’s ahead. And no matter what happens in the short-term, the long-term joy is always there.
Even better than being in the Chase is being in the Lamb’s book of life. Have you heard of it? It’s the place in heaven where the names of the faithful are recorded. As a child of God, you’re in. You have the ultimate peace of knowing you’re going to heaven when you die.
Talk about pure joy! I’m in. Are you?
“ ... rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” ~ Luke 10:20b
@bbreinke. See you on the Frontstretch!
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