Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Thursday June 21, 2007
It's a frustrating time to be a NASCAR fan. Longtime and old-school fans say they feel alienated from the sport they have followed for years, even decades. Newer fans say the racing is boring. Everyone complains about the sanctioning body and their sometimes confusing decisions.
One of my students graduated from high school this week and the guest speaker outlined his five keys to real success. All of them revolved around being happy, enjoying life. When I sat down to write this column, I got to thinking about those five things and if there were five keys to happiness as a NASCAR fan. And guess what? There are!
The Five Keys to Happiness as a Race Fan in the New Millennium:
One: Have a favorite driver and stick with him. Many people who know me know I'm a Kenny Wallace fan at heart. That means having some perspective. If I go into every race expecting a win, I'd be disappointed time and time again. That's true no matter whose colors you fly on race day. And one week I found I didn't really care so much any more. That doesn't mean I don't want my driver to win. But I find I'm happy when he's on the scanner, or does a good interview on TV, or sings in my ear when I talk to him on Monday. (OK, so that's a rare privilege not many fans have. But you know what I mean-you follow your driver in a way that makes you really feel like you know him.) Sometimes your driver picks you. I found myself liking this goofy kid in the Busch Series a few years back when he crashed and then jumped on the roof like he'd won, just happy to be alive. The kid is the Nextel Cup champion now, and he's still a goofy kid at heart. Whoever your driver is, enjoy rooting for him, win or lose. Don't let other fans dissuade you from cheering for him. If you don't have a favorite, pick one-or let one pick you.
Two: Mute the TV for a hundred laps. Ignore the commentators and the commercials, and just watch the racing. Call the race in your head. Add your own color commentary. But just let it be about the racing that you see in front of you. That's easy at the track, uninterrupted by commercials. But you can do it at home too. The pre-race show was about the hype and the drivers. The race-is about the race, and no more. Without the sound on, you'll notice things on track that you might miss listening to the announcers. So ditch them. Be them yourself. It's a whole new race.
Three: Ignore the rules. Unless you're a driver or crewmember, anyway. If you are, skip this tip. NASCAR has a lot of rules, and most of them are confusing. So forget about them. Sure, get upset if your guy gets nailed with a speeding penalty, that's part of Rule #1. But watch a race without overanalyzing the rules. They are what they are. There isn't anything I can do about the rules, except complain about them later in my column, so I try not to dwell on NASCAR's decisions too much. I don't subscribe to any conspiracy theories, because I'd get pissed at someone for sure. So follow your guy and watch the race, and don't worry about what NASCAR does to hurt or help anybody else. It's a lot less frustrating that way.
Four: There are going to be commercials. Learn to like them. I love commercials with drivers in them. Sometimes, during a boring race, they provide some extra entertainment. They're almost always good for a laugh. After all, does anyone really think those guys live in their firesuits? Shave each other while sleeping? Bring each other bunnies? There are going to be commercials anyway, so you might as well enjoy them. Crazyâ€¦ mutantâ€¦ desert guys.
Five: Racing isn't only NASCAR; go to your local track. Sure, I love NASCAR. Otherwise my job would be pretty pointless. But I also love Saturday nights at White Mountain Motorsports Park. There is nothing like a quarter-mile bullring where it's still for the love and the glory, rarely the money. The winner's purse might cover the tire bill and a few extras, and that's all, but he doesn't care. He WON a RACE. It's easy to become jaded as a fan or, I imagine, a driver, at NASCAR's top levels. But on the little tracks, it's just racin', nothing more or less. And it's great. That's the reason many of NASCAR's stars race on dirt and asphalt tracks across the country when they can. It's just fun. It's why they, and we, came in the first place.
Yes, it's easy to become disillusioned as a fan of NASCAR these days. But it doesn't have to be that way. It is, after all, just racin' really. Just with a bunch of stuff in the way sometimes.
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