The Frontstretch: The Psychology of Picking Your Favorite Driver (and MORE!) by Jeff Meyer -- Friday October 5, 2012

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The Psychology of Picking Your Favorite Driver (and MORE!)

Voices from the Cheapseats · Jeff Meyer · Friday October 5, 2012


As I was out on the road this morning, I happened to hear a radio interview with current Chase leader, Brad Kesolowski, and as it progressed it set me to thinking.

In just exactly what order do I place certain characteristics when it comes to picking a favorite driver?

However, before I delve into all that, let me say one thing. I know that many reading this are going to start whining about how “members of the media shouldn’t have a favorite!” Well let me tell you…anyone who is writing about NASCAR on the Internet on sites such as this, as well as hundreds of others, HAS a favorite driver. If they claim they don’t, they are lying! The only exceptions to this rule are those few ‘media’ members that are grossly overpaid by such sites as or network affiliated and the like. In other words, those folks who’s actual JOB it is cover it for a higher power full-time.

The rest of us, while still considered ‘media’, do it on a ‘weekend warrior’ basis and as such must maintain a job that actually pays the mortgage. ‘The rest of us’ DO have favorites simply because in 99% of ‘our’ cases, we were a fan before becoming a writer. Enough about that!

As I was saying, as I listened to Brad’s interview, I actually started to think that the kid is ‘OK’. Not that I didn’t think he was ‘OK’ before but you see, my favorite driver happens to be Carl Edwards. We all know the history between the two and of course, in my mind, that does have some effect on how I see Brad. That and the fact that I absolutely detest Miller Lite, have never really been fond of Rusty Wallace and even less fond of Kurt Busch. However, as I said, the more I thought about it, the more I got to thinking about WHY I have picked my favorite and how I view the rest of the field.

Jeff Meyer chose Dale Jarrett as his favorite driver because of Jarrett’s class and personality, his top criteria for a favorite driver.

First and foremost for me is character. My favorite before Carl was Dale Jarrett. I like DJ because he always was a ‘class act’. There was no fake persona. He was down to earth, extremely likable, extremely talented and as looks go, I would say he is a handsome man. Oh, and he is a very good golfer too!

When Dale announced his forthcoming retirement I had to find a replacement. I picked an up and coming kid who did backflips off his then Craftsman Series truck when he won. Carl had yet to run a Cup race but I knew this was a kid that I could proudly cheer on for a long time to come. Over the years, as I have gotten to know Carl (and his family), he has never let me down.

When it comes to the rest of the field, I have drivers I ‘like,’ drivers that I think are ‘OK,’ drivers that I have extreme ‘apathy’ for and drivers I wouldn’t sit and have a beer with.

Lots of people have gotten on me over the years because I don’t keep it a secret that I don’t have the time of day for either Kurt or Kyle Busch. Oh, I’ve tried, believe me but every time I even start to grudgingly give either of them tiny bit of respect, they both have the propensity to go and do or say something extremely stupid. Every time! Not only can they both be the definition of an ‘ass,’ they are both goofy looking. Looks I can sorta overlook but when you are a goofy looking ass, well, that’s two strikes against you in my book and even extreme talent can’t overcome that!

The long and short of it all is this; I guess I pick my favorites by the following criteria…

Character, Personality, Talent, Looks and Accessibility.

I would love to hear how you pick yours!

OK, here’s the ‘MORE’

I am sick to death of ‘pink’! Actually, it is one of my favorite colors but for the love of Bob! Let’s give breast cancer awareness a break! For years its been the pink magnetic ribbons on vehicles…OK, I get it, I am aware, it is a bad thing, I’ve donated in some form, be it money and or time or both at one time another, but seriously, do you donate to the bell ringing Santa when you go into the store AND when you come out?!

I read where this driver is ‘going pink’ at Talladega. This driver is ‘going pink’ at Charlotte, so on and so forth. NFL players have for a couple of years now been wearing pink this and pink that…shoes, gloves, etc. Enough already!

What about other cancers?! Colon and/or prostate cancer is right up with breast cancer in occurrence and severity. What about lung cancer?

I suppose ‘pink’ has a better PR rep than the others. “Kenseth going brown at Talladega in support of colon cancer awareness” prolly just isn’t gonna have the same effect.

I guess when it comes down to it, I’d rather see a pink “save the ta-tas” ribbon than a brown “save the rectum” ribbon!

Some things just ain’t marketable, I guess.

Stay off the wall, (and you start selling brown ribbons, remember you got the idea here!)

Jeff Meyer

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Andy D
10/05/2012 06:30 AM

Talent, Character, Personality, Looks.

Character accounts for little if the guy can’t win races. It’s an athletic event and beyond high school, winning takes priority over character building. Mother Teresa was a crappy race car driver.

Character and sincerity means a lot to me. You may find the Busches and Tony Stewart to be a pain to deal with but I know they’re being honest in their emotions. Mark Martin and Jeff Burton deport themselves with exemplary character. Some cheating is expected, but some do it cheaply, like tossing rollbar padding at an opportune moment or intentionally spinning to get a caution. Some sell out their teammates to inflate their importance to the team owner.

I don’t care if a driver is cheerful or moody. I don’t care how well they respond to a baited question. As long as they present their true persona. Of course if that persona is is bland, I’ll probably put them in the OK column instead of Like. I interpret Flipper’s personality as artificially ingratiating.

I shouldn’t care about looks. Although I’m a hetero-male, it still influences me. James Bond wouldn’t be the same if he looked like Andy Dick. And I think that Kurt looks just fine.

auto transport quote
10/05/2012 07:09 AM

Yes I know you are right. It is a good thing to develop the thinking related to some cause and forward it :)



10/05/2012 11:13 AM

For me it’s always been Mark Martin; when I was younger it was the grit and determination, watching him excel at every track they raced on in the Folgers car, and then over to Valvoline.

But it was the legendary battles with Jeff Gordon in 97 and 98 that turned him into a hero for me, the perennial underdog, already screwed out of a championship by NASCAR, still driving his heart out every lap and just coming up short against the Hendrick juggernaut.

And he did it all without purposely wrecking anyone, always racing cleanly, and always having good things to say about everyone. And always, always being there for his fans.

Then he goes part-time, and gets screwed out of a Daytona 500 win by NASCAR in the ARMY car, and once again somehow handles it with grace. Then he gets signed by, of all people, Hendrick, and I get to watch him damn near win a title again. And despite missing out on the title just barely to Johnson, he once against handles it with grace and a smile.

THAT’S what makes a driver, for me. Winning is a big part of it, but so is handling your losses like a man.

Carl D.
10/05/2012 11:20 AM

In the 70’s I was a Cale Yarborough fan. He was from my home state of SC and he was tough as nails and he didn’t like Darrell Waltrip. And he was a champion.

In the late 80’s and until his death in 1993 I was an Allen Kulwicki fan. I liked his independence. I got picked on by my racing budies because of his Polish name, but I had the last laugh on them in 1992.

After Allen died, I started pulling for Bobby Labonte. I enjoyed watching him race in the Busch series. When he got the chance to drive for Bill Davis and then Joe Gibbs, I felt he was on track to win a championship, and I was right.

With Bobby no longer a contender, I now pull for Brad Keselowski. He’s talented, he’s smart, and he’s cocky without being arrogant. I have no doubt that he will be another championship-winning pick as my favorite driver.

John McManus
10/05/2012 11:30 AM

Talent is all that counts.

Favorite: Alaan Kelwicki.

Carl D.
10/05/2012 12:02 PM

ALAN Kulwicki, not Allen. I’m almost old enough to blame that on senility.

10/05/2012 12:48 PM

Jeff! My new favorite writer!! I have never even ONCE read a NASCAR related story in which I agreed with every point presented by the writer until THIS ONE! I agree with you on every word and EVERY point! Thanks for making my day Jeff! The only thing that might make me even happier might be news that BZF, The Waltrips, The Busch Brothers and FOX all decided to leave NASCAR! Oh wait….that would mean I was dead and in paradise! Oh well, I’ll just be happy with a new favorite writer!

10/05/2012 01:42 PM

1 – I pick my drivers based on what I call “fanability”. Basically, is the driver fun to be a fan of? My current favorites include Juan Montoya, Scott Speed, Aric Almirola, and Parker Kligerman. I can say, Juan has had one heck of a bad year, but he is always getting talked about and his run in 2009 up the point standings was the most fulfilling moment of all my NASCAR fandom. My favourite before 2007 (the year a lot of those guys showed up) was Sterling Marlin, for a lot of the same reason. I loved DODGE, and when they came back to NASCAR, I jumped at the story lines Sterling could provide. When he won DODGE’s first race in their return at Michigan, I knew I had a favorite, and it was fun to ride that train all the way to the top of the standings in 2002. His championship is the one that got away of all the championship rallies I have felt a part of. I guess you can call me an underdog lover.

10/05/2012 02:09 PM

Jeff, you and I share DJ as our first fave driver. I still consider him my fave driver. My license plate is DJARRET. When he retired, I chose Marcos Ambrose. I think he is the AU version of DJ, but with fewer wins. I’ve met both and they are nice and fan friendly. To me, a driver is more than someone who wins, like Kyle Busch. Good thing for him that his sponsors and team have the “but he wins” mentality or he’d be out of a ride.

10/05/2012 03:21 PM

Also a big Ambrose fan too, for the same reasons. If he ever gets a ride with one of the big teams, he’s championship material. He proved that in the V8 Supercars.

10/06/2012 04:00 PM

Marty Robbins, now that was cool. It’s one of the things that NASCAR was all about back in the halcyon days.


Contact Jeff Meyer

Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:

Voices From The Cheap Seats: The Tale Of Two Tires
BSNews! Bruton’s Plans Extend Beyond Bristol’s Track
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Want to know more about Jeff Meyer or view his complete article archives? Then hop on over to his archive and bio page.