NASCAR NATION

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I watched the Kentucky Derby on Saturday evening as Nyquist, who is unbeaten so far in his young career, forged to the lead and won by 1 1/2 lengths. Nyquist has started 8 times and won eight times. He's the eighth unbeaten horse to win the Derby in its 142 year history. Nyquist, the horse, is named for Gustave Nyquist, a forward for the Detroit Red Wings. (His owner is a rabid Red Wings fan). Nyquist, the horse, received congratulatory tweets from his Red Wings fans.

Now, it is on to the Preakness and then the Belmont. American Pharoah won the Triple Crown last year. It was 37 years between Triple Crown winners. Now we have a chance to see it happen in back to back years if Nyquist can maintain his winning ways and I hope he does.

Directly from the Derby, I tuned into the NASCAR race in Kansas. That was won by Kyle Busch, his first win in Kansas, the first driver to win three races in 2016, probably not his last.

After the Derby, my friend, Jan, said she was disappointed because she always roots for the underdog but I was cheering for Nyquist because I am thrilled by people and animals who transcend simply being excellent to join the ranks of the outstanding

Jan also turns up her nose because I like Tom Brady but I appreciate winners. I love Jimmie Johnson. He's always my number one driver to root for but I like Kyle Busch and I like Jeff Gordon......

I don't think I like winners because I'm a bandwagon person but because I'm fascinated by the qualities they have that less talented or driven athletes lack. I'm not sure I can define those qualities but they involve heart and passion and hard work and extraordinary skill. I like to watch them exhibit the drive that means they are giving us all those things every minute of every game or every race. They aren't discouraged by adversity but fight back (as Kyle did against extraordinary odds to win the championship last year).

There are only a few exceptional performers in any sport in any generation. In NASCAR, even I, who have only been a fan for a relatively short time, can name them - Richard Petty and David Pearson, Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch (I'm not necessarily trying to name them all so don't get upset if I left someone off who you think should be on the list.) In other sports, we have Larry Byrd, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Muhammed Ali, Tiger Woods - and on and on.

They stand an extra step above the crowd of even superior competitors.

You can't define them by character. Nyquist, for instance, reminds me of Jimmie. His trainer says he is a consummate professional - even-tempered and confident and competent. Animals or people, some are cool, calm and collected while other show their butts. Some are wild ones, like Tim Richmond, while others are stable family people. So you can't go by personality or lifestyle to predict them.

Of course, neither horses nor drivers nor any other athlete does it alone. They always have a team behind them, whether it consists of trainers and jockeys or crew chiefs and pit crews. But trainers and jockeys and crew chiefs and pit crews can generally be replaced. Not so the star of the show.

Many racers/players will be good but they simply won't make it into the ranks of greatness. Being good is fine. All NASCAR drivers are good or they wouldn't even be there. The good, for instance, can win a championship in a year when the stars align for them. The great can repeat over and over.

Most of us are content to lift ourselves from mediocre to good. It is a much as we aspire to. The great ones shoot for the stars every single time. Good enough is never good enough.

Yes, I enjoy seeing an underdog pull off a win. I love seeing how happy and excited it makes them but mostly you know going in who among them is most likely to end up in Victory Lane....over and over.

And, yes, jockeys count and crew chiefs count and trainers count and pit crews count and equipment counts but beyond all that, making it up to that final step to greatness comes from within the athlete's own heart. And that's why I like to watch winners.

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excellent piece of writing, vicki,,,,,and u r absolutely correct,,,,,i watched nyquist win also,,,and am a red wings fan,,,(not nyquist's owner tho,,lol) i was cheering for that win also,,,,,and about the nascar drivers, teams, cc's, pit crews, owners, equipment, it is all true,   but at the center of it all, is the driver, who must have the heart to win,,,long live nascar,,

Long live NASCAR and go Nyquist!

you really cant compare drivers like kyle to drivers of the old nascar.

with all the lucky dogs,wave arounds,the chase,win one and make the chase,side by side restarts,missing half season championship waivers,green white checkered overtime "finishes" and such makes it a very different sport now than what is was then..

kyle is a pretty good driver but if you take all that away,most of his wins and championship disappear

nascar has a bigger hand in the outcomes now more than ever.manipulating races,changing the cars and rules every year,week.

its hard to explain it to newer fans to the sport but a majority of the old timers that remember when nascar was nascar know very well the difference.

I do think your articles are great.im glad to see someone enjoying the sport.

Well, maybe I'm lucky because I don't know any different. I've only been a fan since 2008. The "exploding tire" Brickyard 400 was the first race I ever watched and it only got better from there. Ha! I do think though that living in the past is not a good thing. NASCAR was what it was then and it is what it is now. Is it harder or easier now than it was. Well, it is probably a mix. I gotta' think it is harder for crew chiefs because they are allowed almost no innovation. They have to find their improvements in tiny little areas. Some things are easier for drivers, certainly the physical conditions are but, on the other hand, I think the competition is much greater. We never see any races anymore where the winner is the only one to finish on the lead lap. So, it is a mixed bag, I think. I do think the champions of today would probably hold up to the champions of yesterday but that's just my opinion. Your mileage may certainly vary.

the only thing that is the same after all these years is the name....

and they might as well change that too..

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