Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Last Lap about Desire, Experience; Risk Can Collide with Reward When a Cup Race Is on the Line

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Last Lap about Desire, Experience; Risk Can Collide with Reward When a Cup Race Is on the Line

Article excerpt

Byline: DON COBLE

DAYTONA BEACH - Tony Stewart is willing to crash his car and make new enemies to win the Daytona 500.

Ken Schrader is not.

And Jimmie Johnson is somewhere in the middle.

The final lap of a race often defines a NASCAR driver. Some are willing to make daredevil moves, pushing their cars - and their luck - beyond any accepted level of sanity. For some, the adage "wreckers or checkers" is a way of doing business, a way to feed their passion to succeed at any cost.

Others are more grounded. They don't see any sense in tearing up a $150,000 race car for the instant and fleeting glory of money and trophies.

Drivers typically fall into one of three categories - the bold ones, the selective ones and the ones along for the ride. The older the driver, the more he seems to move to the careful side of the spectrum. It also applies to drivers who have been involved in a serious crash.

"The aggressive guys are the ones who haven't been dropped on their heads yet," Rusty Wallace once said. "Once you've been dropped on your head, you get a little smarter."

Stewart is among the most aggressive NASCAR drivers.

"I'm willing to absolutely destroy my race car and finish on my roof, if necessary, to win the Daytona 500," Stewart said. "I'd do the same thing to win the Indianapolis 500. You don't do it all the time, but the Daytona 500 is one of those races where you'll take any chance to win. This is the marquee race. I'll do anything to win it."

Johnson said the craziest thing he has ever done to win a race was in the Mickey Thompson stadium series several years ago. He was racing against Casey Mears for the victory when his seat belt unfastened. Instead of stopping, Johnson continued and won the race, knowing he probably would have been killed if he was in a final lap accident.

It's an attitude that others understand.

"Me, I'd wreck my mom to win," said David Stremme. "I want to win really, really bad. …

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