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Coca Cola 600

Through the Field: Heroes Log Laps

by Rod Villagomez

The hero’s journey is a tried and true format in most forms of entertainment. Most of the time, you see it in a fictitious setting. Sometimes, like last Sunday, we see it play out in real life. Examples of the importance of not giving up in spite of the seemingly endless obstacles in your way littered the Coca-Cola 600.   

In what turned out to be the longest race in NASCAR history, we watched several instances of this trope unfold over 619.5 miles of racing. One of the more obvious came by way of Kyle Larson’s journey from the back of the pack to the front numerous times throughout the race. 

I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again

The reigning Cup Series champion was forced to start at the rear of the field for Sunday’s race. He was one of the fastest cars in practice but wrecked his car and could not qualify. The No. 5 went on to run a race worthy of a Greek epic poem. 

By the halfway point, Larson’s car had spun out, suffered three different pit-road penalties and even caught on fire. Despite all that, his crew chief Cliff Daniels managed to remind his driver that there were still 300 more miles to turn it all around.

Larson did exactly that. 

He persevered and put himself in a position to battle for the win at the end of the race. He faced about as much adversity as a driver could possibly face in a day. By lap 354, his Camaro was leading the race – a lead which he held for 50 of the next 51 trips around the track. 

Unlike in fiction, our hero did not get a happy ending, ultimately getting wrecked out in overtime. Even still, he proved that we are capable of turning even the worst of days around if we are just willing to keep logging laps.

Log Your Laps

There have been so many days I have wanted to quit since I decided to make sports content creation my career. There were days when my computer froze, my Internet was spotty or my camera was not working with my browser. I suffered through weeks where I wondered if I was ever going to make enough to support my family from what I was doing.

Months later, I find myself solidly able to put food on our table and pay for the gas to get us where we are going, all because I kept my head in the game and logging laps. My crew, which is my family, friends and teammates, kept me supplied with four fresh tires and a full tank of gas at every stop. I navigated the field and found myself at the front of the pack, in position to stay in front. 

If you find yourself in a similar position, just remember that you can turn anything around as long as you choose not to quit.

Several Cup Series drivers this season still have a shot at making the playoffs and can succeed if they can adopt this sentiment. They too need to remember not to give up on themselves.

Drivers That Need a Tenacious Attitude Following the Coca-Cola 600

Kevin Harvick:  This Next Gen car has been frustrating for many veteran drivers. Kevin Harvick certainly falls into that category as he enters the second half of the regular season on the bottom edge of the playoff picture. His year started out miserably with three finishes outside 20th place over the first nine races.

Lately, though, he has hung with it and has finished 15th or better in his last five outings. In fact, two of his last three have been top-5 finishes. It feels like we are close to seeing the No. 4 car take a checkered flag and lock himself into the postseason. Harvick has nine career wins on the next six tracks on the circuit. That elusive first win in more than two seasons could be his.

Daniel Suarez:  While his watermelon-smashing teammate is grabbing all the headlines, Daniel Suarez has done his part to prove that TrackHouse Racing came to play this season. The No. 99 sits just a few spots outside of the final playoff spot. That said, a win changes everything.

Last week, he made things interesting, battling it out with his teammate to lead 36 laps at Charlotte. With 55 laps to go, Suarez was inside the top five. Were it not for a tap from the No. 14 that sent him around and ended his day, he very well could have won that race. This has been the story of his 2022, competitive most of the day but bad luck in the end. He has plenty of time to change that luck if he keeps pushing.

Erik Jones:  Every week, Erik Jones continues to put himself in the conversation at least once during the race. The No. 43 car has four top-10 finishes so far this season. His best outing was a third-place finish at California. He’s run up front in almost every race this year, running 1,924 top-15 laps.

Petty GMS has given him a fast race car. Right now, he is only four spots out of the last playoff spot. All he needs to do is keep running at the front of the pack consistently to find his way into the postseason.

Keep up with the latest “Through the Field” installments. For more fantasy NASCAR and football advice, follow me on Twitter, @rjvillagomez.

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