On Sunday night, my father was smiling from Heaven.
For the first time in 14 years, a driver piloting a Ford was champion of NASCAR.
Harvey Whitmore loved NASCAR racing. It was a Sunday tradition at my house. And he passed that love to me. A lot of times we would start a race, fall asleep and wake back up with about 10 laps to go. I guess our bodies were trained for that and there is no better sound to sleep to than cars roaring around a track.
My dad wasn’t much on hunting or fishing. He was always with our family, each Saturday on shopping trips. After all, he had to watch how much money Mama spent.
My Dad passed away in 2008 after a stroke 7 months earlier. Since then I’ve been busy living my life and raising a daughter that he never got to meet.
He wouldn't want me to mourn, but to keep on living. But he’s with me every step of the way – I walk and talk just like my Daddy. I don’t have his signature handlebar mustache, but I do have a beard.
And there are days like Sunday where he’s everywhere. In addition to NASCAR, he also loved westerns, particularly the Lone Ranger. I recorded 1981’s “The Legend of the Lone Ranger” early in the day on Sunday and then was overjoyed to learn Joey Logano had won the championship for Ford when leaving church that night.
To be honest NASCAR hasn’t been NASCAR without Daddy. Thanks to Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet has been dominant for years. And once Toyota entered the sport, Ford kind of got pushed aside. I stopped watching every race, but still kept up with the news.
Ford had not won a NASCAR driver’s title since 2004 (Kurt Busch) or a manufacturer’s championship since 2002. The Blue Oval hadn’t won both driver and manufacturer’s title in the same year since 1999 (Dale Jarrett). And it was the first ever championship win for the Ford Fusion, which started racing in 2006 and will be replaced by Mustang next year.
Now I love a good underdog, but this was getting ridiculous.
This year was the year to break through with 19 wins for Ford and both championships. It was fitting that the win came on the week that David Pearson, the greatest Ford racer of all-time, passed away.
You might say, “Do people really care about the brand of car someone drives anymore?, Does anyone care about Ford versus Chevy anymore? and Do Mopar fanatics still exist?”
The answer is yes. This quirk is passed from father to son.
While everyone else loved Dale Earnhardt Sr. (Chevy), I loved Bill Elliott – Ford Thunderbird.
While everyone else loved Jeff Gordon (Chevy), I loved Dale Jarrett – Ford Taurus.
While everyone else loved Jimmie Johnson (Chevy), I loved Carl Edwards – Ford Fusion.
While everyone else loves Chase Elliott (Chevy), I’ll be loving Joey Logano – Ford Fusion/Mustang.
And while everyone else drives other brands, the Whitmore family fleet consists of a Ford Explorer and Ford Ranger. The only car other than a Ford I’ve owned was a Jeep Wrangler. And I still wish I’d kept my 1986 Ford Thunderbird.
My grandfather, Joe Whitmore, passed that love to my father and he passed it to me. Brand loyalty in this day and age? Why not.
Maybe it’s time to take my daughter, Lydia, 5, to a NASCAR race. She’s already a Clemson fan like her mother, but I told her when it comes to racing she has no choice. As long as she lives under my roof, she’s pulling for Ford (OK, when I look into those eyes, she can pull for who she wants).
I know my Daddy will be smiling from Heaven watching her learn to love cars and speed.
Brian Whitmore is publisher of The Clinton Chronicle.