Keeping Pace

Is Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Champ Destined For Disney?

Mark Martin became the oldest pole winner at the Brickyard.  (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Mark Martin became the oldest pole winner at the Brickyard. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)

When the field for the Chase was set following the race at Richmond, Mark Martin's reaction to his enviable position at the top of the driver standings was to praise his crew chief, Alan Gustafson, and say, "I'm having the time of my life."

Guest Column By Cathy Elliott

Mark Martin has sole possession of NASCAR's best seat in the house heading into Race 1 of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup at New Hampshire Motor Speedway — the front seat.
 
When the field for the Chase was set following the race at Richmond, Martin's reaction to his enviable position at the top of the driver standings was to praise his crew chief, Alan Gustafson, and say, "I'm having the time of my life."

Well, duh. With four wins, six poles, nine top fives, 14 top 10s and about $4 million in winnings so far this season, what other kind of time would we expect him to be having?

Still, there's one triumphant sentence we have yet to hear from Mark Martin.

In 1987, The Walt Disney Company premiered a now-famous advertising campaign that they called "What's Next?" The TV commercials featured a celebrity, usually an athlete, who appeared to be answering a question posed by an unseen narrator — "What are you going to do next?"

The answer — "I'm going to Disney World!" — has been a part of the pop culture vernacular of victory ever since.

First vocalized by New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms after the Super Bowl 22 years ago, that one sentence has become synonymous with winning. It has been delivered by celebrities ranging from Tom Brady and Michael Jordan to Santa Claus and David Cook, season eight winner of "American Idol."

Color me impatient, because it's only been a couple of decades, but to date no NASCAR driver has been featured in a "What's Next?" advertisement. I'm thinking about organizing a grass-roots movement to correct what I'm certain is simply an oversight. 

It's almost too easy to find similarities between NASCAR and the Magic Kingdom. For starters, Disney World is located in Florida. The first and final races of the season are in Florida. NASCAR's corporate offices are based in Florida. Coincidence?

Some of the attractions at Disney World actually bear an eerie resemblance to tracks hosting 10 Chase events.

On 'The Magic Carpets of Aladdin,' for example, riders rise and fall, pitch forward and back as their conveyances circle the genie's golden lamp. This attraction also features spitting camels. NASCAR has those. They're usually found at short tracks like Bristol, or at Martinsville, race number six in the Chase.

'Big Thunder Mountain Railroad' is one of the oldest and most well-respected rides in the park. This is no kiddie coaster. Climb aboard, and you'll be warned to "hang onto your hats and glasses, 'cause this here's the wildest ride in the wilderness."

In NASCAR, we call this Talladega, the seventh Chase event.

By the way, there's gold in them thar hills. Although in NASCAR's case, only one of 12 prospectors will ultimately take home the mother lode.

On 'Peter Pan's Flight,' a generous sprinkling of pixie dust separates the elite "lost boys" from the rest of the world. But Sprint Cup Series drivers live out their swashbuckling dreams every week, in a land where having fun while doing what they love never grows old.

The sweetest ride of all embraces the unique aspects of different cultures — like Chevy, Ford, Dodge and Toyota, for instance — while simultaneously celebrating their similarities. 'It's a Small World,' after all.

I will concede the point that there is at least one major difference between stock car racing and the Magic Kingdom; there's nothing even remotely Mickey Mouse about NASCAR.

David Cook went all the way to number one on the pop music charts with his mega-hit song, "The Time of My Life." Another American idol will also go all the way to number one, winning the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship while having the time of his life.

When you get right down to it, I guess these guys don't have to go to Disney World to experience the wonders of the Magic Kingdom.

They live there.




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Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.




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