Soda Wars

A long, long time ago in a universe far, far away (Florida) a fierce battle was being waged between the forces of two major cola companies for the hearts and minds of fat kids who sit around all summer glassy eyed playing PS2 games, sucking down colas and getting more obese. Battle was joined on July 3rd, 2003 in an event that was named after Pepsi. Pepsi had as their chief warrior Jeff Gordon, promoting a chance for fans to win a billion dollars. (An incredibly slim chance, but think of the liposuction you could buy with a billion dollars.)

But the Pepsi army was badly outnumbered by eight separate warriors running Coca Cola paint schemes promoting their new C2 product which is said to make sedentary kids who never venture out of doors fatter slower. And both forces were up against the all-conquering king of the land of adult malt beverage who reigns supreme at Daytona and his evil companion Jar Jar Waltrip.

As always battle would not be waged on a level playing field. On Friday night the dark minions in the NASCAR Death Star tower had pointed their ray-gun at a driver who had apparently finished second banishing him to thirteenth for messing with the anointed malt beverage prince. In brighter news for the outgunned Pepsi brigade was the fact that the nattering nincompoops of the dark planet of FOX had received a bushel of money not to show, much less mention the gathering storm of Coke C2 drivers.

Battle was joined and while casualties were light late in the race it appeared that the invading forces of Coke were about to tear asunder the cosmic fabric of the high calorie universe as Tony Stewart was leading the Pepsi 400 in a Coke C2 car. That Stewart was even able to race was a bit of a shock in that he’d had to pull a move worthy of Indiana Jones (wrong Speilberg movie!) to escape suspension earlier this week from the Death Star of NASCAR who were apparently too occupied carrying crates of Crown Royal from a tractor trailer up to their control tower.

But with battle well joined (and seven laps left to go) Jimmie Johnson played Hans Solo to Jeff Gordon’s Luke Skywalker and pushed his Pepsi touting teammate around the evil Coca Cola car of the sport’s Darth Vader for the lead and obediently kept in formation in a move reminiscent of King Beer and Jar Jar. And there was much rejoicing. The evil blue bottles of Powerade were quickly dispensed from Gatorade Victory lane. Cue the credits and advice the winner next time he meets Princess Leila to get a solid pre-nup before tying the knot.

For Jeff Gordon it was his 68th career victory, his fourth of the season, his second in a row, his second plate victory of 2004 and his second consecutive win from the pole. Gordon is once again posting hero numbers after a miserable stretch of races that had some wondering what had gone wrong.

For Johnson it was his eighth top 5 finish in the last nine races and he’s now led the points for three straight weeks. But leading the points ain’t what it used to because Death Star NASCAR has a new spin on determining the champion for the final Decathlon of the season in this years sequel. Call it “The Revenge of the Imbeciles.”

For Earnhardt Jr. and DEI a third place finish is a good result but Saturday night’s race had to be worrisome. For a few years now the plate tracks have been the DEI drivers’ personal playground. Now it appears that there’s at least one other team that has caught up. Gordon has won two plate races to Earnhardt’s one this season.

Earnhardt’s last gasp chance at a win was doomed because while Kurt Busch was willing to play wingman, his car would not stick in the high groove of the track where Earnhardt needed to run to have any shot of passing the HMS teammates.

Tony Stewart and his team’s decision to go with two tires on the final stop seemed odd in light of the way Michael Waltrip had sliced through the field in Friday night’s Busch race with four fresh tires. Had he had four tires and been able to help his normal plate track drafting buddy Earnhardt perhaps Soda Wars would have had a different ending. But you have to give Stewart credit for not hitting anyone after the race and for not going the wrong way down pit road after the event.

Fate just seems to want to use Mark Martin as a chew toy. After he won at Dover and seemed in contention to enter the top 10 horrendous finishes in the next two races seemed to eliminate any possibility that might happen. But two straight top 10 finishes now have that elusive goal hanging over Martin’s head like the fruit Tantalus could see but not reach. It’s probably for the better. The way his career has gone if Martin were 401 points out of the lead in eleventh position at Richmond this fall the engine would fall out of his car on the parade lap. It’s too bad that Martin’s sponsor doesn’t have the clout of the Home Depot, Coke or Pepsi, but then there’s a lot more fat kids with a sugar addiction than there are old men with limp winkies.

While neither of them led a lap the brothers Labonte finished seventh and eighth with Bobby having the advantage. Terry’s strong run seems to indicate he’s not quite ready for the rocking chair yet despite rumors that surfaced this weekend about his impending retirement or at least separation from Hendrick Motorsports.

Brian Vickers is finally beginning to hit his stride. He actually ran better than his ninth place finish indicates but he did score his second top 10 finish in the last three races, two of only three such finishes he has enjoyed this season.

Joe Nemechek finished tenth to score only his second top 10 result of the 2004 Cup season. The other one was also scored at Daytona in February when Nemechek finish sixth in the 500.

Have Rick Hendrick’s teams found the measure of the DEI bunch on the plate tracks? The fourth and final plate race of this season will be waged in the fall at Talladega during the ten race Chase for the Championship in the ultimate battle between beer and soft drinks, home supply companies, and cola manufacturers, the Mother of All Races. May the farce be with you.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2004

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