Monday, March 09, 2009

Loyalty in NASCAR

It is no secret that I am a fan of David Gilliland, and a downright proud fan, too! We have reason to be proud right now, as David has performed especially well in his new ride, the TRG #71 car, which has the audacity to be in the Top 35 in points after 3 out of 4 races, with David at the helm! I must admit, this has created a quandary, as I started following the drivers for Robert Yates Racing a few years, and when David opted out of his ride, I had to put my allegiance to Yates on hold! (And I put it on hold just before Yates Racing put out a kick*** black jacket!)

I found myself wanting to talk about it, but never could quite find the words to express how I feel. Today, someone found the words I have been unable to find. The following post was found on David Gilliland's Fan Circuit message board. I have received permission from the member David H who is also known as 'azzkickin68." Here, in his unedited words, are his emotions over trying to be a loyal fan to a team, and to a driver.


Loyalty in Nascar

As a fan of Nascar throughout the years there has been one team and only one team that I have watched on Sunday and that is those of Yates Racing formally Robert Yates Racing. I have known about Yates before it was even a race team in Nascar. I knew of the great mastermind behind the engines while working at my grandfather’s shop in the early 80’s I was a very young child and loved racing.

I started watching Nascar off and on in the early 90’s. The first race I watched from flag to flag was the 1998 Daytona 500. I know some of you may have seen that one. I fell in love with the box like cars and fell out of love with the Indy Cars that I grew up watching as a kid.

I followed every driver that went through the RYR organization. I was a fan of all them. It didn’t matter who they were or what team they came from, I knew that in those cars were the best the drivers on the track driving the cars with the best engines in Nascar.

One day in June I watched the Nationwide race(formally Busch) and sat there stunned that a little team with no Cup affiliation, no big name driver or budget at all was about to upset the world of Nascar as we know it. Remember we know the teams that will win and be contenders but on this night a guy from Riverside, Ca broke the rules and won which to me and the fans of racing will know as the greatest upset in Nascar history. Some might say otherwise but in this era with mega teams it is.

When David Gilliland got the call to drive the 38 car I was thrilled. I said hey this guy is good. I watched every race till the checkered flag regardless if the 88(28) or 38 was in contention or not. It didn’t matter to me because I was loyal to Yates. Those were my guys. When anyone asked who my favorite driver was I said Kvapil, Gilliland, Rudd, Jarrett, or whoever was with Yates at the time. I would get two different responses. Either it was “Why?” Or it was “Who is Kvapil?” It didn’t matter to me, but like life things change.

I have always been the guy that followed the underdogs. I always want the underdog to win. They are there to prove something. Prove that they belong. Prove to the naysayers that they can be just as good as the other guy. For some reason watching the Daytona 500 this year I followed one guy around on the Pit Command program and that was Kvapil. Don’t get me wrong I was happy that Labonte was with Hall of Fame racing which is more than less a Yates car. Menard, well he’s probably good at some racing but in Cup he has proved nothing. This is when I noticed that my Loyalty for Yates has gone to the wayside. The driver I wanted to watch was David Gilliland. The underdog. The guy who upset big time teams in Kentucky a few years prior. That was the guy that should have been given a chance to run the 28 car or at least a 4th Yates car.

The news came that David Gilliland was going to run the 71 car for TRG. I was thrilled yet again but at the same time I had my doubts. Here is a team that is underfunded and borrowing equipment. They are running RCR engines but I still was worried about Gilliland making races. After 3 weeks I am amazed. The team is doing something other teams in the garage don’t do. Run the same car every week. Run a transmission for 1400 miles. Doing more with less. But I noticed something. I was watching a guy run a car that wasn’t a Yates car and on top of all that he is running a Chevy. I am a diehard Ford fan. I have had nothing but Ford’s my entire life. My grandfather worked at the Milpitas, Ca Ford plant for 30 years. That is all we drove in the family. Loyalty shifted. It went from a team to a driver for the first time in my life.

David Gilliland is a driver that can go around and say “Hey not only can I drive the car but if I have to I can build it, set it up, and if I can’t drive it I can sit on the pit box and make the calls as a crew chief. There might be a handful of drivers that can do that. It takes talent my friend to do all that.

I will never lose heart for Yates. I still wear my RYR shirts that I got years ago. I still cherish my sheet metal off an old 88 car that I have signed by Dale Jarrett, Todd Parrott, and Robert Yates. I consider it my most prized Nascar piece of memorabilia. I am disappointed with Yates that they let go a talented driver but in Nascar money is top priority. They got a so-so driver but they got the $20 million sponsor to go with it. I am also disappointed that after a long struggling year building owner points that Kvapil and Gilliland lost them all.

After a year of getting hammered by the media and being questioned about his driving ability the media is now saying. “Hey look at this guy. Single underfunded car doing what they can and not only are they making races but they are finishing them in the Top 25.” The same media that blamed David Gilliland for wrecking cars and other people is now telling us this? What a shame. Maybe someone should send them the clip of him winning in Kentucky. Maybe someone should show him his stats when he ran out here in California. Ignorance is bliss when you’re in the media isn’t it?

I usually don’t write and go off on a rant but there it is. A true hardcore Ford racing Yates fan that is following a guy in a Chevy, but it’s kind of hard not to follow a guy with talent. I wish nothing but the best of luck for David Gilliland and the 71 team this year.