The Frontstretch: Nurture those young NASCAR fans by Cheryl Walker -- Monday February 7, 2005

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Nurture those young NASCAR fans

Cheryl Walker · Monday February 7, 2005

 

Our racing season is about to burst before us, NASCAR fans. The hibernation is over, so give yourself a shake, get the coffeemaker going, and make sure you’ve got your cable or dish bill paid. It’s time to go racin’.

For the first few races of the season, I realize that all of us are going to be experiencing pure bliss, pure pleasure as those engines rev and those green flags fly. It will be hard to think of anything except the high-octane rush, and the sheer joy of a new season beginning.

Once we’ve caught our collective breaths, however, and our minds have accepted the jubilant reality that our weekends will be full again, I would like to make the suggestion that this year we all make the effort to nurture those young NASCAR fans.

During any of the race broadcasts, as the camera does a dizzy swing over the fans in the stands, take notice of the smaller and younger ones wearing their favorite drivers’ t-shirts and ball caps. Their faces will be just as excited and intense as their adult counterparts, and they will feel the same swell of pride when the driver they idolize makes a great move on the track. Some of them can tick off the statistics of particular drivers with more speed and accuracy than the older folks that have taught them, and some of them dream of being one of those racing warriors one day.

These young ones are the future of NASCAR, and we all should do our best to bolster their allegiance to the greatest sport in the world and to encourage their participation in it. There are so many ways to live and breathe NASCAR, and they should know about all of them. Anyone can be a faithful spectator, but there are also possibilities in the world of journalism and reporting, being a member of a pit crew or working in body shops, as a staff member at a favorite track; one only has to think a short while to come up with a list of choices. You never know which young one watching a race that will grow up to be a future NASCAR star in some form or another.

Of course I mean folks should do this with their own children, but beyond that I am talking about the kids in the neighborhood that your kids hang out with. As NASCAR is still the most spiritual sport around, it would be a terrific suggestion to the other adults in your church’s congregation to consider exposing their children to that wonderful part of it. That there are many drivers that are great possible heroes for these kids is another bonus; the number of honorable gentlemen and women to admire these days seems to be seriously dwindling.

The next time you attend a race, and you find yourself sitting next to one of these young fans, please take a moment to shake their hand, and ask them about their favorite driver. Listen respectfully as they share their thoughts about the race, the track, or anything else that might be on their mind. And it really wouldn’t hurt to be mindful of their presence, and to keep the obscenities and buffoonish behavior to a minimum, to set a good example. This world is so lacking in respect of others these days; this is a great chance to still have fun without being a jackass, and to pass that on to younger generations. The good times these kids take home with them are memories that will last a lifetime.

If I seem to be a little bit like a cheerleader, please indulge me. I just recall with great clarity the shining eyes of a wee little boy that stood with me while we both watched Jeff Burton helping his crewmen set up his car one bright day in Martinsville. This little tot was clutching a No. 99 Ford diecast car in his hand, and bobbed his head energetically when I asked him if he was excited. That was such a moment for me, seeing that slice of NASCAR through his eyes. I wish that everyone reading this would have a moment like that to remember forever.

Let’s keep the NASCAR circle widening and growing, starting with these terrific young fans.

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Barbara
02/08/2005 08:24 AM
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Hi Cheryl!!

Great article! It brought tears to my eyes. My son and two daughters are race fans, but not die hard Nascar fans like me and my husband. BUT, my just turned three year old grandson, Quentin, is a BIG fan of racecars and Nascar. He spent lots of Sundays with Grandma watching the race. I have a 5 month old grandson too; he’s William and hopefully I can impress on him too about the wonderful sport of Nascar.

 

Cheryl is no longer a contributor to the Frotnstretch, having branched out on her own, starting CawsnJaws with her son Josh. If you'd like to see more of Cheryl's Frontstretch articles, check out her bio and archive page.