Mark McCarter: NASCAR tracks get creative with trophies

Mark McCarter: NASCAR tracks get creative with trophies

August 3rd, 2017 by Mark McCarter in Sports - Nascar

Jimmie Johnson, left, poses with the trophy in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series race in June at Dover International Speedway in Delaware. Dover's Monster Mile presents Miles the Monster to winning drivers.

Photo by Nick Wass

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., known before this season mostly as fellow NASCAR Cup Series driver Danica Patrick's boyfriend, was the surprising winner at Talladega Superspeedway in April.

It may not have been politically correct, but there was an observation shared in the media center: "Stenhouse is leaving with two five-foot-tall trophies tonight."

It does bring to mind that NASCAR's speedways are apparently competing for a trophy to see who can come up with the most outrageous trophy.

Stenhouse hauled away the Vulcan Trophy at Talladega, a replica of the iconic statue that watches over Birmingham, Ala. (The trophy, alas, is but three feet tall, while the lovely Ms. Patrick stands 5-foot-2.)

Some other notable trophies:

* In addition to more typical hardware, the winner at New Hampshire Motor Speedway receives a live lobster. Denny Hamlin, the most recent winner there, is not a fan.

"I've seen it and touched it for the last time," Hamlin said. "I have a lobster phobia. I can't look at it. So as far as I'm concerned, they need to put it back in the water and let it live."

* The Harley J. Earl Trophy prompts two questions each February at Daytona International Speedway. Who is Harley J. Earl, and what's with that trophy? Earl was the second commissioner of NASCAR and a famed car designer credited with creating the Corvette. The trophy has a futuristic car atop it, nothing that would ever be raced in the Daytona 500.

Chase Elliott poses with his grandfather clock trophy after winning the Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway in April.

Chase Elliott poses with his grandfather clock trophy...

Photo by Steve Helber

* Miles The Monster is the trophy at Dover International Speedway, which calls itself the Monster Mile. If the Incredible Hulk and the Michelin Man were to be morphed together, it would make that trophy.

* The Grandfather Clock may be the neatest traditional trophy. It has been given to the winner at Martinsville Speedway since 1964, when a clock company was located only three miles from the track. Hamlin, a Virginia native, is a little more affectionate with this one.

"Finally when we did win there," he once said, "I could hardly contain myself. I wanted to hug it when they wheeled it into victory lane."

* Homestead-Miami Speedway used to have a palm-tree shaped trophy but has gone to one with a steering wheel on it.

* Winners at Texas Motor Speedway receive a trophy that looks like a cowboy boot.

* A stack of miniature wine casks makes up the base of the trophy at Sonoma Raceway in California's wine country, and the winner gets a goblet-shaped trophy — with local product inside — to sip in victory lane.

' With race sponsors coming and going through the years, there have been a lot of short-lived or one-shot trophies. There has been a lot of patriotism on display, some modern art sculpture and too much commercialism. For instance, to promote movies, there was a SpongeBob SquarePants trophy at Kansas Speedway in 2015 and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles prize at Chicagoland Speedway last year.

* Kentucky Speedway awards a jukebox to winners (and also presents one to drivers who are retiring).

* On the subject of music, the now-closed Nashville Superspeedway presented a specially painted Gibson Les Paul guitar to the winners in the Xfinity Series. Eight years ago, the winner grabbed it by the neck and tried to smash it on stage in victory lane, in the fashion of some berserk rock-and-roller at a concert finale.

It will not surprise you to know that driver was Kyle Busch.

On to the weekly wrapup.

* Last race: The aforementioned Busch won a Cup Series race for the first time this season, finishing first in the Overton's 400 at Pocono Raceway. He made more news afterward by intimating Tuesday his eponymous Camping World Truck Series team would not compete next year unless rules are changed to enable him to drive more frequently in the series. NASCAR rules prohibit Cup Series regulars from competing in more than five truck races each year.

* Next race: I Love New York 355, Watkins Glen International Raceway, 3 p.m. Sunday, NBC Sports TV.

* Pick to win: Joey Logano.

* Fast Five: 1. Martin Truex Jr., 2. Kevin Harvick, 3. Busch, 4. Hamlin, 5. Matt Kenseth.

* What they're saying: "We don't comment on contract status, but we expect @KurtBusch back in our @MonsterEnergy/@Haas_Automation Ford in '18. Just sayin'." — Tweet from Stewart-Haas racing refuting a report that Kurt Busch will not be retained for next season.

Contact Mark McCarter at markfmccarter@gmail.com.

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