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Parks Pit Report: Auto Club 400

A bicentennial win deserving of a celebration. Photo Credit: Sal Sigala Jr.

200…a number that is celebrated in many different ways, depending on the setting.

When the calendar hit 1976, the entire country celebrated big on July 4, as the United States hit the bicentennial mark in honor of their defeat of the British in the Revolutionary War.  Multiple towns, large or local, have since been doing the same thing after they became established.

Although not as big as a birthday celebration, 200 in NASCAR is a mark at one point no one seemed able to obtain in any aspect.

But, on July 4, 1984, of all dates no less, Richard Petty etched his name in a way that is extremely likely to never be touched.  It was the “Perfect Weekend” for “The King” as his 200th career win came on a special day, with President Ronald Reagan giving the command aboard Air Force One and ensuring that he was going to be at that race, and what he got was a moment that never will be matched.

However, that still never meant that the No. 200 was not going to have meaning to someone else, at some point, in the sport.

On Sunday, it certainly meant something to one driver.

But before all the realization of what had just occurred, the moment that got everyone talking happened after teams rolled onto the track just for pace laps, and decided to do something that had normally been done at Richmond, when that track hosted the final race before the playoffs.  Teams saluted the fans in the short-track style of sending these cars four-wide to honor the fans that have supported NASCAR for years, decades even.

Epic...enough said.
Epic…enough said.

Officials decided for this one, let’s fill the track…five wide.

What it gave was one of the craziest photo opportunities for everyone.  Whether a professional photographer shooting from pit road, in a gap in the outside fence reserved for photographers, or via a cell phone from the stands, this was one of the most epic moments in the early season.  I certainly wouldn’t want to start a race five-wide.  Even when IndyCar goes 3-wide to start their biggest event it still seems wild.

Still, seeing 40 cars find a way to make it work on the racing surface was amazing.  That being said, I bet it’s the first time that drivers were a bit worried while under pace laps.  Well, that is unless we go back to 2002 at Talladega when Mark Martin suddenly had steering issues while on the front row, colliding with Jimmie Johnson.

That was a crazy day as the booth was on the radio with Dale Jarrett and even he was like, “Whoa, looks like we have something happening in front of us.”  Luckily, everyone stayed in control this time, and it meant every car would take the green flag.

In the end, everyone was green with envy because of that green car, and the green firesuit.

Call it luck of the Irish, but in this case call it lucky that we are experiencing something that may never happen again.  The time is now to realize that 200 wins has a different meaning when the driver still has a lot more years left at the wheel.

Kyle Busch isn’t good.  He isn’t great.  Let’s face it, as it stands now, the guy with the Rowdy nickname is, to quote Ric Flair, “The Man.”  No one, with the exception of Cole Custer and Joey Logano, has been able to beat this man since the weekend of Las Vegas.  That is not just Cup competition, but Xfinity and Truck.  Hitting 200 wins in NASCAR competition across the board is unheard in past years, but when you see someone that is this good no matter what kind of vehicle he is put in, you can’t deny his talent.

The only thing this guy hasn’t won yet is the Daytona 500, but it’s coming.  I’m willing to bet if he wanted to step into an open-wheel car, he’d immediately be a contender.  You put this guy at the wheel of a monster truck, he’d prove he can get as rowdy as Ryan Anderson or Tom Meents.

We are in the presence of greatness, and his status as the best of this era is only beginning to be cemented.  There’s still a lot of concrete left to pour, and he’s the one at the wheel of the mixer.

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