Friday, February 16, 2007

Peyton Manning To Compete In Daytona 500

On February 4, Peyton Manning fulfilled a lifelong dream as his Indianapolis Colts finally won the Super Bowl with a 29-17 triumph over the Chicago Bears. Peyton could be excused if he chose to take it easy for a while. However, the taste of victory has only made him hungry for more. With that in mind, Manning will race in Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Peyton will take the place of J.J. Yeley, starting in row 6. Yeley was slotted to drive the #18 car for Joe Gibbs Racing. However, based on the Colts’ 36-22 victory over the Washington Redskins in October, Manning had earned the right to bump any driver on Gibbs’s team. Since Peyton is synonymous with the number 18, Yeley had to give up his spot. Now, instead of leading drives for Tony Dungy, Manning will drive with Tony Stewart.

Given his lack of NASCAR experience, many fans were critical of Manning’s inclusion in the race. Considering the city in which he plays, most considered him a better fit for the Indianapolis 500. Also, he cannot compete for the Nextel Cup, since The Chase coincides with the NFL regular season. Skeptics proclaimed that Manning will be left in the dust after falling behind early. Peyton responded by referring to the opening kickoff of the Super Bowl. He came back to win, even after an opponent traveling at high speed immediately put him behind.

Sometimes called The Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing, the Daytona 500 has numerous parallels to the NFL’s showcase event. Sunday’s competition is also known as The Great American Race, and this year’s Super Bowl inspired discussions about race in America. Jimmie Johnson seeks to repeat at Daytona, just like Jimmy Johnson won back-to-back Super Bowls. Chevrolet’s four-year victory streak in the race shows a particularly strong link to football. William Clay Ford owns the Detroit Lions, so you don’t see Fords winning the Super Bowl, either.

Manning felt that he would be completely at home on the NASCAR circuit. He uses sound judgment when passing, and as a high-scoring Colt he wins with horsepower. In the same vein as the Allisons, Pettys, and Earnhardts, his primary sport is a family business. Most notably, like all NASCAR drivers he endorses a huge number of products while competing on Sundays.

During the race, Peyton will have constant reminders of his football experiences. His focus on the checkered flag will remind him of Tennessee, where he focused on the checkerboard end zone. He must periodically make pit stops, whereas last year he was stopped by Pittsburgh. Several crew chiefs have been barred from Sunday’s race, just like Manning’s Colts knocked some Chiefs out of action. As he did two weeks ago, Peyton hopes to win a championship in Florida. He feels confident because Steve Spurrier doesn’t have a car in the race.

Against the Bears, Manning captured the title that had eluded him for so long. His experience was much like Dale Earnhardt in winning the Daytona 500 at long last in 1998. Peyton will get to race Dale, Jr., but he would have gladly taken his chances against the departed legend as well. Once you’ve gotten past Brian Urlacher, no other Intimidator can scare you.