Great Motorsport Celebrations

Many times throughout the 2009 Formula One season, some of you might have heard Bernie Ecclestone ask drivers and organizers of the F1 environment to spice up things for the fans. And he didn't necessarily mean more overtaking or thrilling battles on track - although this would definitely help - but getting the fans more involved in the process of racing. Being close to them, addressing them more often, either via more driver-fan sessions prior or during an F1 event, or via a breathtaking celebration.

Often we have seen that an F1 driver is indeed happy with his win but doesn't feel the need to share that joy with the fans. They simply take the honors and disappear behind the commercial panel, leaving the fans asking for more. However, what they don't realize is that winning and racing is NOT everything, but getting fans more involved in the process of winning is far more productive.

So here are a few examples of how some motorsport characters have managed to unlock the hearts of millions of fans worldwide thanks to their explosive way of being and sharing their satisfaction with others. Some of the examples below are focused on motorsports' tradition that make the sport more lovable (see the Indy case), while most of them are the fruit of a gratifying attitude towards motorsports. While being gifted with the opportunity to perform in front of millions, some of these professional drivers/riders decided to give something back. So let's see what they've come up with.

Louis Meyer is responsible for the milk-drinking tradition surrounding the Indy 500 winners. Back in 1933, when clinching his second victory of career at the Brickyard, the American Hall of Famer asked for a cup of buttermilk to quench his thirst. Little had he known that this was to turn into one of the longest-lasting tradition in the history of the race.

In 1936, Meyer won his third and last race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and, once again, asked for a cup of buttermilk to celebrate. Instead, he was given a whole bottle, and was even photographed by the reporters when drinking it and waving off 3 fingers to show the world that he was the first triple winner of the event.

As the picture appeared on newspapers nationwide, the American Dairy Association and Indiana Milk Producers decided to take advantage of that and seize the marketing value of Meyer's celebration. However, it wasn't until a couple of decades later, namely in 1956, that the annual tradition of handing the Indy 500 winner a bottle of milk actually started.

Currently, the winners even have a choosing in the milk they're about to drink – vegetarians are not really exempted from that rule, unless they want to mess with the Indy tradition – having a wide range of options between whole, 2%, and skim.

In NASCAR, the driver who arguably has the craziest way of celebrating his victories is Carl Edwards. While increasingly popular for his athletic body – which he disclosed several times via some photo shooting for sports' magazines – the Ford driver is known throughout the world for his backflip off his NASCAR machinery – be it a Sprint/Nationwide car or a truck.

However, few people know that the famous backflip ritual was not his to begin with, but picked up from former World of Outlaws Gumout Series driver Tyler Walker. Hopefully, Edwards will not end up like the former NASCAR driver, who has failed a substance abuse test prior to the May 18 race at Lowe's Motor Speedway and was handed an indefinite suspension by the NASCAR officials.

But returning to Edwards' backflips, the thing that made the Ford driver so popular within the NASCAR fans worldwide was the fact that he took his celebration to the next level. His backflip became an Edwards' trademark in several commercials countrywide, either with him or some other character – a baby Carl Edwards – doing it.

With only a few exceptions – triggered by some of his injuries or some inadequate sporting situations – Edwards has performed the backflip every single time he won a NASCAR race, no matter the series in which he took it.

Everybody knows that, when it comes to Formula One racing, the British Grand Prix is one of the most awaited events in the calendar. The British fans are just crazy about racing and having a fellow countryman racing for victory at Silverstone may very well compete with England qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Final.

Such was the case of former F1 champion Nigel Mansell. It's no secret that one of the things that counted the most for Mansell, before even winning the Formula One title, was winning the British Grand Prix in front of a home crowd. He eventually did it 4 times, but his penultimate success at the Northamptonshire track was one for the books.

As usual, Mansell drove like crazy around the Silverstone track, but Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna was decided not to let that slip away easily. So he pushed and pushed and pushed until the final few laps of the race, and still was 7 seconds behind Mansell (driving for Williams at the time). However, while pushing his car to the limit, Senna ran out of fuel with only one lap remaining and eventually halted his car just outside the track with less than a lap to go.

Mansell eventually won the race by a comfortable margin, but his sportsmanship was the one that prevailed after the race. Rather than complete his parade lap all alone and into the heavy applause from the British crowd, the Williams driver decided to stop by Senna's car and allow the Brazilian to ride on the his car's side-pod all the way to the pits.

Now, everyone knows that Valentino Rossi is true madness when it comes to winning celebrations inside the MotoGP championship. Forget all about the WLF inscription on his leathers – signifying “Viva La Figa,” Italian for "Long Live Pussy”, for which he never got to be penalized by the FIM – and focus on the post-race celebrations, which have made him one of the most lovable characters in world motor racing.

Just to count a few, remember his way of celebrating the Spanish win at Jerez two years ago, when he stopped his bike during the parade lap in a sector where 8 people (dressed in bowling pins) were waiting for him. He got off his bike and simulated a bowling throw, consequently followed by a full strike.

Or when he won the Dutch Grand Prix at Assen – the place where he loves the most to ride his bike – during the course of the same year, when he stopped before his fans and positioned himself right in the centre of a big circle colored in the Dutch national flag to greet his fans. Or the numerous times he celebrated his wins by standing on his bike during the parade lap or wheeling for the fans.

Or maybe the time he went to the toilet immediately after crossing the chequered flag. Or when he showed up wearing an afro wig on the grid. Or wearing a graduation hat after winning a race, on the overall podium. Or when he gave a blowup doll a ride on his bike during a testing session. Or painted his hair into the national colors of the Italian flag. Or showed up in the paddock wearing what appeared to be a convict hat, wearing a registration number on it. And the examples could go on indefinitely...

Again to Formula One, you surely remember Jenson Button's excitement over winning his first ever Monaco Grand Prix of career. At 29 years of age, the Briton managed to score his first win in the Principality and decided the fans in Monaco deserved something more than simply a parade lap in his title winning Brawn GP car. Consequently, he extracted himself from the cockpit and did the lap on his own two feet, running and not walking.

Imagine a world class driver, after a 2 hour race in which he lost no less than 3 or 4 kg due to constant sweat and incredibly dehydrated, running around the streets of Monte Carlo just to greet his fans. Now that's what I call a “close to fans” driver!

However, on of the most emotional winning celebrations of all happened at the end of the 2000 Italian Grand Prix, when Michael Schumacher equaled Ayrton Senna as the second most winningest driver in the history of Formula One. When arriving at the press conference – with brother Ralf at his left and Mika Hakkinen at his right – Schu burst into tears when realizing that he just recorded the same number of wins as Senna.

Although Bernie Ecclestone recently argued that we should have more funny celebrations in Formula One, here's another one – quite recent – coming from Brazilian veteran Rubens Barrichello.

After his maiden win of the 2009 season, at Valencia, Barrichello showed himself at the podium in somewhat of a drunken state. However, as explained by Rubinho himself afterwards, he was simply trying to show how he does samba on the podium, something that he promised to do every time he'll win a race again. Unfortunately, he didn't do a sequel of that, two races later, at Monza.
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