Dale Earnhardt Jr may have been the first driver to win under the new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points system. But he may also be known as the first driver to take part in a new NASCAR tradition when he won the Daytona 500 at the start of the season.
NASCAR is always looking for a way to add something to their list of neat things that appeal to both drivers and race fans. In case you missed it, the Premier Stock Car Racing Series in the USA began its “Winner Decal” program at the start of the season. Yes race fans, NASCAR has updated the tradition embraced by fighter pilots with drivers now placing stickers on their race cars in a fashion reminiscent of ace fighter pilots attaching flags to their planes in the past.
Of course, the drivers of any race series are in no way to be compared with fighter pilots of any air force or nation who proudly serve. That’s not the point. The point for NASCAR was to be able to give drivers a simple bragging right during the course of a season. In a way it’s like having a group picture of a bunch of PGA golfers and only a couple are wearing green dress jackets. Golf fans will know that the green jacket is a means for indicating that the player wearing it had a Masters win under his belt.
It’s the same for NASCAR drivers. As the season has progressed the drivers in winners circle, or victory lane, have started to make a deal about the sticker being placed on the winning car by a NASCAR official. In fact, the process has become part of the celebration TV coverage after the checkered flag falls.
Prior to the start of the season NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France made the announcement that the top series of NASCAR, the Sprint Cup Series, would modify the championship format of “The Chase” to put more of an emphasis on winning a race each every time a driver took to the track. The hope was that the emphasis on the win would add to the emphasis on running consistently during the season.
It seems to be working. So far there have been several drivers who have captured a win during the season. At first many said this would be a ticket to the “Chase for the Cup.” Those thoughts were quickly put to rest when Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson both reached two race wins so far this season. Suddenly everyone in NASCAR land realized that not only were wins important; but so was the fact that a team needed to be consistent and finish well every week. A single win does not guarantee a place in the Chase for the Cup.
So, along with the wins, the champagne, the hugs from a pretty Sprint Cup Girl, and high fives; the drivers and teams are also taking pride in receiving the WINNER decal in the form of a Checkered Flag to display on their car.
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