David Stremme didn’t win.
He didn’t finish in the top 10. Or even top 20.
But that wasn’t the most important aspect of Sunday’s race at the Talledega Superspeedway.
I know Stremme wanted to win; it would have been a story fit for Hollywood.
I know he wanted to run upfront and take the checkered flag.
But what he represented on the hood of his No. 30 Toyota was just as meaningful.
On the front of his Sprint Cup car was a memorial for Natalie Krohn, the 9-year-old girl from Slayton who tragically died in an ATV accident.
Stremme’s car had a picture of Krohn and the words, “In loving memory of Natalie Krohn.”
I talked to Stremme on Friday of last week and I know he desperately wanted to have a good showing for Natalie and her family.
And I’m sure he was disappointed in his finish.
He was running toward the front of the pack early on, but dropped a valve with 20 laps remaining and finished 33rd.
Honestly, it didn’t matter how he finished.
For so many, Sunday’s race wasn’t about the finish, but the chance to watch as the girl who loved racing was a part of the sport’s biggest stage.
Brandon Davis, who owns Swan Energy Inc., was the driving force behind the tribute.
Being involved with the same series Natalie’s dad, Jason, runs and being a sponsor of Stremme’s car, Davis made this happened.
I can’t imagine what the Krohn family must be going through.
But I hope watching Sunday’s race helped them — even in some small way — get through this difficult time.
Talking with Stremme, he knew what this meant for the family — the Krohn family and the racing family. When he was approached about the tribute, he was all for it. There was no hesitation. It was a simple, ‘Heck yea, let’s do it.’
That’s not something you see everyday in sports. You don’t often see an athlete go out of his or her way to help someone they’ve never met. You do see the football player visiting kids in the hospital or the basketball player donating tickets to local children.
But to have something so public and so visible was truly amazing.
Stremme told me he was going to return the hood to the Krohn family, and I hope he does.
Jason said he wouldn’t want the race to end, and in a small way, it never will.
I know Stremme wanted to return the hood from the winner’s circle, but to those in southwest Minnesota, what he did was much, much more valuable than a victory.