x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Did that really just happen?

When you roam far from your homeland as have so many in this unique country, some mornings you might wake and surmise that entire news operations have conspired to dupe you.

Trevor Bayne celebrates after winning the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway on Sunday. John Raoux / AP Photo
Trevor Bayne celebrates after winning the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway on Sunday. John Raoux / AP Photo

When you roam far from your homeland as have so many in this unique country, some mornings you might wake and surmise that entire news operations have conspired to dupe you.

As you strain to follow the distant sporting events from the motherland, and you miss some altogether from sleep or time-zone blur, you might open your eyes across the world and find your server spewing outright poppycock.

It might even tell you they held the mighty Daytona 500 on Sunday in Florida - sure, knew that - but that the winner was some greenhorn from Tennessee whose name you might have heard once or twice tops, and that this alleged driver managed to turn 20 on Saturday, his face unvisited by ageing and infrequently visited by razors.

Right.

Oh, but as such puckish pranksters, these storytellers calling themselves "reporters" assert that he won and squawked into his radio: "Are you kidding me?" They note that when he received directions for driving into Victory Lane for his feting, he missed the turn.

That is quite a tale, so creative, but you know how some people get so excited making up stuff they don't know where to stop?

These guys say that supposedly this Trevor Bayne - wait, got to double-check the name, hold on, OK - had raced in the Sprint Cup, the top flight of Nascar, the top American circuit, this many times before:

One.

Sure. You have some guys spending decades trying to win just one Daytona 500, and this barely living neophyte wins on debut, maybe even drawing from his only other race, some so-called 17th-place finish last November in Texas, when only the most unsalvageable hardboots keep track of 17th in November in Texas.

Then he comes to a victory press conference as a sudden star on hallowed ground and says: "Sorry if I'm bouncing around with the questions and answers. Figure I can do whatever I want since it's just a dream anyway."

What frustrated screenwriters!

In fact - taking that word "fact" lightly - here is how many points this Trevor Bayne received from winning the United States' biggest race of the year: zero.

That's because if you are a driver, you have to check a box for which circuit you choose for points collection, and he chose a lower circuit, not expecting to race much at the top. In fact - or, not - he said he reached Daytona Beach in his pick-up truck, which he planned to drive back home, of course, but now needs somebody else to drive.

Yet they have the gall to claim that in a frantic finish he held off such celebrities as Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin and Kurt Busch, that he kept assuming they would pass and wound up saying: "Then nobody ever did."

And: "I'm a little bit worried that one of them is going to come after me tonight. I'm going to have to sleep with one eye open."

Of course, in this case of wild-eyed fiction, the outrageous outcome capped a vivid race of new rules, a new track surface, much confusion, 74 lead changes, 22 leaders (more than half the cars) and a record 16 cautions.

And just at the first hint of plausibility, when they throw in that this Trevor Bayne actually started at five, won three World Karting Association championships, blah-blah-blah, there comes this:

Allegedly he won the race for a storied old team that had faded into melancholy over time, a team credited with inventing the modern pit stop, yet a team winless in the entire Sprint Cup since 2001. The Wood Brothers. The … Wood … Brothers?

In truth, they started a generation back around 1950 in rural Virginia using a chain and a low branch of a birch tree to yank an engine from a car. And as they sank such that they did not even qualify for Daytona in 2008, Eddie Woods recalled: "It's almost like somebody died … When you walk through the garage, you run into people that you see every week, and they're afraid to look at you. It's like they don't know what to say."

Now in a hurting sport, at the 10-year mark of the death of the legendary Dale Earnhardt in a crash in the 2001 Daytona 500, this forgotten team finds a magic day with a driver who cried with his family over Earnhardt that day in Tennessee at the age of, well, nine?

You know how you tell a story and by the time it goes down the street and makes three turns, it comes back to you with the facts all mangled? In that light it probably makes sense, what remorseless fairy tales you get from nine time zones.

 

cculpepper@thenational.ae