It’s something fans dream of. Being in victory lane at a NASCAR Race. It’s an exclusive club for winners. Victory lane is symbolic in our sport as a place of triumph and it’s where drivers can turn into legends. Being in a place that powerful seems impossible. I never imagined being there, but a magical Sunday at Watkins Glen left me there. That’s one Sunday I won’t soon forget.
The whole day led up to victory lane. It started on pit road prior to the running of the Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen. Following driver introductions, I made my way down the grid to catch up with one of my most famous friends. Samantha Busch. As usual, we chatted for a long time, but while I we were chatting, I was lost in conversation. Somehow, the talk led to Samantha saying that if Kyle won the race, I was going to come to victory lane with them. That statement put me in awe and eventually, my awe turned into a sweet reality.
As the race wound down, Kyle was doing exceptionally well and he was leading. A few late restarts bunched the field up creating another chance for the lead to exchange hands. Kyle seemed to have a handle on the restarts, assuring me that maybe he could pull this off. I made my way from turn 2 to the infield with about 10 laps to go, waiting to see how the ending would play out.
With no TV monitors around, I had no way of watching the end of the race so I pulled out my phone to listen to MRN‘s coverage. The ending had me on pins and needles, was Kyle really going to win? Was I really going to be in victory lane? Those questions were answered when he crossed the line first, claiming the victory and making my hopes a reality.
Once I headed for victory lane, I saw Samantha heading that way as well. She put her hand out for me and led me into victory lane. That in itself is incredible. The driver’s wife bringing me into one of the most restricted places to fans at the track, what could be cooler than that? Not much.
Once an ecstatic Kyle climbed out of his car, he and his team celebrated a victory that they could have had in the race during the last two years. The whole team was pumped up and everyone had a smile on their face. The faces of Joe Gibbs Racing started to pour into victory lane eventually and it was quite an honor to stand next to Mr. Gibbs himself while one of his team celebrated.
Lots of people came in and congratulated the team. One person I can clearly remember is Ty Norris of Michael Waltrip Racing who said to someone that “If it’s not us, I’m glad it’s you.” That shows how much respect most teams have for each other in the garage area.
Pictures were taken all around for awhile and I stood there soaking this incredible experience in. I woke up on Sunday morning with no vision of standing in victory lane at the end of the day and it was amazing how fast that thought entered my head and eventually played out.
Overall, being in victory lane was breathtaking. The celebration was neat to see and being sprayed with champagne was an incredible thing to experience. To be inside the place where few can go is one remarkable feeling and every second was worth it. This article wouldn’t be possible without the help of Samantha Busch so I thank her a million times for making something I dreamed of come true.
By Jason Schultz