By Billy Fellin
NASCAR isn’t just a sport for people who consider y’all a word worthy of Webster’s Dictionary. Believe it or not, NASCAR is a sport and other people outside the South do like NASCAR. I was born in Connecticut and am a huge NASCAR fan. So here’s why people outside the South can, and do, like NASCAR.
As the boys in the podcast said, one great thing about NASCAR is going to a race. Watching a race on TV is boring because of the commercials and watching cars going around in circles is boring for 3-4 hours on your television can be entertaining for only so long. But being at a race, you get non-stop action. It’s not like football when during TV-timeouts the players just stand there. They keep going, whether they are on air or not, and so being at a race is much better. I have had the privilege of going to a NASCAR race, the Chevy Rock N Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway. The smell, sounds and seeing the cars race and crash in person is quite the experience. The drunken rednecks running around can also be entertaining.
However, outside of the association of alcohol and NASCAR, whether it be drinking it in the stands or choosing a driver because of their sponsor is a favorite brand (Ryan), there is another fascinating thing about NASCAR that draws in more than just the southern portion of the lower 48 and that would be going fast. Most of us have gotten a speeding ticket sometime in our lives, including myself, and so watching cars drive at the rate of 180+ MPH, it gets adrenaline rushing. Witnessing 43 cars traveling at these high rates of speed has gotten a lot easier over the past 5-10 years, with tracks popping up all over the place. There are tracks in California, Las Vegas, Arizona, Delaware, New York and New Hampshire, states that are known for other things than being home to a NASCAR Nextel Cup track Whether it be at the race or in your living room, there is something about watching cars go faster than one would normally see them traveling that draws us into this sport.
So besides actually going to the race, or just enjoying the fact that these machines are flying and not having the police following them, why do people care about NASCAR? The drivers are pretty interesting, the ones that you can understand. Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon, two of the more successful drivers in NASCAR, articulate their words and you can understand them in their interviews. But when you get to drivers like Ward Burton, Jeff Burton and Elliott Sadler, forget it. This is one aspect where being a redneck and liking NASCAR comes in handy; you have more of an understanding of what the drivers are saying.
One other thing that should be taken into account is the technology, teamwork and skill it takes to succeed in the sport. Anyone who says that NASCAR drivers aren’t athletes should try getting into a stock car and driving for 3 or 4 hours. Oh, did I mention that the temperature in the car more times than not exceeds 100 degrees? This is a nice transition into the technology of the sport, since many devices have come about to cool the drivers down. Outside of keeping the drivers cool, advanced safety measures, not to mention the building and testing of the cars themselves are incredibly advanced and technologically based. Teamwork is also huge, since the drivers would have a hard time getting out and changing the tires and pumping the gas by themselves. Another astonishing thing to watch is the pit crew and how fast and efficiently they work. They can change a tire in a few seconds, with all 4 and fuel being added all in about 14-15 seconds. Try doing that on the family car that’s sitting in your driveway.
While NASCAR will probably always carry the redneck fan-base stereotype, that shouldn’t drive people away from watching the sport, if not for the human fascination of watching things go fast. Not to mention the close finishes and brutal crashes, as witnessed in the Daytona 500 this past weekend. So watch a race or two, enjoy a beer or Jack and coke (Ryan), and witness some talented drivers in America’s fastest growing sport.