The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin Mouths Off : What Sort of NASCAR Fan Are You? by Matt McLaughlin -- Thursday May 15, 2008

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Matt McLaughlin Mouths Off : What Sort of NASCAR Fan Are You?

Matt McLaughlin · Thursday May 15, 2008

 

How a fan responds to various stories, occurrences, and personalities has a lot to do with how long they’ve been a fan and the mindset they bring to the sport. From the enthusiastic — if still learning — newbies, to the hardcore longtime fans (the guys who’ve been around since Richard Petty was a rookie), to the growing number of alienated ex or soon-to-be ex fans, everyone has their own take on things. It sort of reminds me of that old proverb about the seven blind men that encountered an elephant; each based their perception of what an elephant was depending on what part of it they touched. Not sure what I’m talking about? That’s OK; a lot of the time I’m not sure what I’m talking about, either. Let me clarify with a few examples:

Newbie: Favorite track is whatever venue is closest to home.
Hard Core: Favorite track has always been Darlington… on Labor Day Weekend.
Old Timer: Favorite tracks were the dirt half-mile ovals.
Disenfranchised: Favorite tracks are the ones NASCAR doesn’t run at anymore.

Newbie: Thinks Jeff Gordon is the greatest driver who ever lived.
Hard Core: Is willing to admit Gordon deserves a spot in the Top 20 best drivers list.
Old Timer: Wonders if Jeff Gordon could have raced in the era of treaded tires and no power steering.
Disenfranchised: Thinks if Jeff Gordon hadn’t been born, NASCAR marketing types would have had to have invented him.

Newbie: Can’t wait until Honda and Nissan come to Cup racing.
Hard Core: Liked it better when Toyota wasn’t part of the sport.
Old Timer: Liked it better when Hudson was part of the sport.
Disenfranchised: Doesn’t care because all the new cars look the same anyway.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. fans line the stands each week — but are most of them newbies instead of Hard Core?

Newbie: Wonders who was Dale Junior’s father — the one everyone still talks about.
Hard Core: Hasn’t seen anything from Junior to convince them racing is genetic.
Old Timer: Doesn’t think either of the Dales could hold a candle to Ralph Earnhardt.
Disenfranchised: Is ready to blow a gasket if he hears one more word about Junior — especially since he hasn’t won a race in over two years.

Newbie: Would probably put on the race at a wedding reception.
Hard Core: Might ask the bartender to tune a TV to the race.
Old Timer: Listens to the race on MRN.
Disenfranchised: Still tapes some races, but rarely watches them.

Newbie: Thinks that the two road course dates are an exciting break from the norm.
Hard Core: Uses the two road course weekends to catch up on household chores.
Old Timer: Thought NASCAR’s best road racing was back when whiskey trippers outran the law.
Disenfranchised: Thinks a road course is an oval track designed by Brian France.

Newbie: Thinks Kyle Busch is sort of scary.
Hard Core:* Thinks Kyle Busch is just another talented young driver who needs a few years to mature.
Old Timer: Tries to imagine how Curtis Turner would have handled a cocky young man like Busch.
Disenfranchised: Thinks Busch got away with his pass below the yellow line at Talladega because Toyota is writing NASCAR big checks.

Newbie: Always refers to the AAA series Saturday races as “Nationwide.”
Hard Core: Still messes up and calls it the “Busch Series” a lot.
Old Timer: Never stopped calling it Grand National racing.
Disenfranchised: Calls it “Cup Lite” because of all the Buschwhackers.

Newbie: Favorite NASCAR tradition is the Top 35 rule.
Hard Core: Favorite NASCAR tradition was the Southern 500.
Old Timer: Favorite NASCAR tradition was the Riverside season opener.
Disenfranchised: Favorite NASCAR tradition is watching sanctioning body try to milk fans of every dime in their pockets.

Newbie: Best memory of racing is standing in line to get Jimmie Johnson’s autograph at the local Lowe’s.
Hard Core: Best memory of racing is the infield parties at Talladega.
Old Timer: Best memory in racing is getting a bit fuzzy, but involves crashing one of Curtis Turner’s parties in a motel room.
Disenfranchised: Most bitter memory of racing is the loss of North Wilkesboro to move dates to Texas and New Hampshire.

Newbie: Would go to more races if there were more tracks close by.
Hard Core: Would go to more races if the on-track action improves.
Old Timer: Would go to more races if he wasn’t so concerned about his big block Superbird overheating in post-race traffic.
Disenfranchised: Would only go to races if somebody put a gun to his head.

Newbie: The worst part of going to a race is listening to the nasty comments his or her Jeff Gordon T-shirt sometimes draws.
Hard Core: Worst part of going to the races is getting your feet stepped on by Newbies hurrying to the parking lot to beat traffic with 75 laps left to go.
Old Timer: Worst part of going to races is frequent bathroom breaks and not needing a church key to open a beer anymore.
Disenfranchised: Worst part of going to races is putting another dollar in the France family’s pocket.

Newbie: The worst part of watching a race on TV is that the FOX pre-race show isn’t long enough.
Hard Core: Laments none of the networks cover the sport the way ESPN did in the 1980s.
Old Timer: Getting harder to tell these cars apart on a black and white screen.
Disenfranchised: Worst part of watching races is nursing your aching finger from hitting the mute and fast forward buttons on the DVR’s remote.

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Derrick
05/15/2008 07:01 AM
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This is by far the best topic for an article Iv’e read on this site ! I would describe myself as a “REALIST” fan.

Mike In NH
05/15/2008 07:21 AM
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Greaaat… now I’m really confused about what kind of fan I am! My answers are a mix from each category (even disenfranchised, though I don’t FEEL disenfranchised..) I guess I’m my own special kind of fan! :) Fun article!

mindcrime
05/15/2008 07:28 AM
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I must be schizophrenic because I can fall into all four categories at times.
Matt, maybe you have been around too long. You mention Jeff Gordon as an attraction for newbie fans but he’s old news now. Most newbies latch onto younger drivers.

Ed
05/15/2008 08:18 AM
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Wonderful Matt! I’m a cross between an “old timer” and “disenfranchised,” but I don’t even tape races anymore. I used to get nauseated if I left home and forgot to set the VCR. Now I channel surf during the races, if I am in front of the tv.

HenryM
05/15/2008 08:21 AM
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Enjoy your writing Matt, but…

Sportsman became Nationwide.
Grand National became Cup.

Janice
05/15/2008 08:37 AM
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use to be hard core fan. i’m old enough to be old timer (late 60;s era to present), but and so sick of things, i’m disenfranchised. don’t care if i miss part of races, especially first few hundred laps, don’t tape them anymore, and yawn…get nap during most broadcasts. i have a feeling the 600 will be snooze fest for a while next weekend. i’m also tired of all the “daytime drama” that goes on.

Jim Davidson
05/15/2008 09:42 AM
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Great column Matt! I’m both an Old Timer and Disenfranchised fan since 1963. I wonder if any Newbies could fathom standing in the infield at Macon, GA Speedway in 1970, watching the big boys and drivers such as, Neil “Soapy” Castles, D.K. “Double-D” Ulrich, Wendell Scott, Jim Vandiver, Buddy Arrington and the list goes on! Jeff Gordon back then…puhleeease!

tony
05/15/2008 09:43 AM
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Thanks Matt,
And Thank you Kyle Busch and Brian France for turning our Sport into the WWF/WWE. What joke this racing series has become. It’s not even worth wathing anymore.

Here it is the week of the Winston and I really don’t care.
A few years ago I would have been pysched, but now I have other plans for Saturday Night…. Too bad it use to be a good sport. Or I guess I should say it use to be real, but not any more.
Thank God the IRL is back, once they have full fields and a bring a few more manufactures back, it will be the Premier Auto Racing Series for America again. I guess Smoke was right all along.

Brian France Sucks
05/15/2008 09:46 AM
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An equal mix of Hardcore and Disenfranchised. Bring back the Rock, damnit.

marc
05/15/2008 10:25 AM
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cool read :: oh what kind of fan am I ???

duct tape larry mac’s mouth and i’ll tell ya !!!!

Steve Cloyd
05/15/2008 10:39 AM
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I’m a mix of Hardcore and Disenfranchised with the exception of the road courses. I’m apparently a Newbie in that regard. :D

Blake McNeely
05/15/2008 11:19 AM
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Was at Darlington Fri & Sat nite 1st time in 42 yrs. will be 49 yrs before I go back

John
05/15/2008 12:24 PM
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Sadly,disenfranchised.

HankZ
05/15/2008 01:10 PM
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Wa-ha-ha-how! Looks like I need to find something else to do. According to this, I’m a disennie on all but one. But If I may make one grammatical change – I proclaim myself as Disen-France-ised!
Hehe….palooontch!

Mike
05/15/2008 01:10 PM
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Apparently, some level of disenfranchised – although not totally. I’m with Ed – I still have boxes of tapes from the late 80’s and early 90’s to watch – back when a diverse field included Buick, Pontiac, and Olds. Now I’ll flip over to re-runs of ‘Deadliest Catch’ during the race if I’m even in front of the TV. My personal high water mark is the 92 season finale – greatest race ever. Three way fight for the title, King Richard’s last ride, title decided at the checkered flag. Awesome.

I just can’t imagine a way that that level of interest (on my part) will ever be equaled in the current NASCAR

Mark
05/15/2008 01:11 PM
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Outstanding,Outstanding, Outstanding,Outstanding article. This is the best article describing na$car i have read in a long time. I have responded to several articles on this site because there is no candor and they get to the point. As i have noted in previous comments, i was a die, die-hard fan up here in pa. since the mid 1960’s. What this sport has been turned into, especially in the last 5 years (this was done intentionally, it didn’t just happen) is beyond sadly disgusting. The problem with all the postings here, mine included is none of the idiots at na$car will probably ever see them, or just dismiss them. I went from the biggest na$car junkie to not even having a schedule of this years races, usually forgetting to turn them on and maybe watching them in passing thru a room. na$car will continue to do what they want. The only message i could send i have, i stopped attending races, stopped buying na$car merchandise and basically lost almost all interest in what was once near my biggest concern in almost anything.

Mike In NH
05/15/2008 02:19 PM
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I have a question for you all – why do you go to boards that talk about what’s going on in NASCAR if you’re not interested in the races anymore – for years now, as some of you seem to indicate? That doesn’t really make any sense to me.

Frank
05/15/2008 02:19 PM
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“Hard Core: Laments none of the networks cover the sport the way ESPN did in the 1980s.” “Disenfranchised: Worst part of watching races is nursing your aching finger from hitting the mute and fast forward buttons on the DVR’s remote.” Perfect! Just freakin’ perfect!

sherry
05/15/2008 03:07 PM
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50% hardcore, 50%disenfranchised….but 100% missing the good old days.

Rocky
05/15/2008 03:54 PM
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Back in the mid 80’s my best Harley riding bud was stationed in Germany as a 2nd Louie. I used to record and send him all of the races to remind him of what it was still like back here. I wish I still had all those tapes. What Classics! Fender-rubbing, tire-smoking, wall-banging, cage-rattling, spinner-outers, and slingshot passes, Dammit Boy!!!

Mike
05/15/2008 04:09 PM
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why do you go to boards that talk about what’s going on in NASCAR if you’re not interested in the races anymore

While I don’t think I’ve become totally disinterested, I guess its hard for some to totally turn their back on something that previously brought so much enjoyment. I also feel this is the vocal minority of fans – most that have become disinterested probably DID walk away without bemoaning the fact on message boards.

FWIW, its taken me about 5~6 years to get to the level of disinterest that I’m currently at. I still know who most of the drivers are, and what’s going on each week – but, the race is not ‘must see TV’ for me anymore.

The ‘Chase’, the top 35 rule, the $25M sponsorships, cookie cutter tracks, the rush to get 18 year old drivers in the cars, all sort of took the enjoyment out of the racing for me. There’s no more sense of tradition – it’s all about the here and now. Its hard to get attached to anything in the sport anymore because the only constant is change.

Joe
05/15/2008 04:20 PM
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Im a mix of the bottom three despite being only 26. btw? i like road racing…R.I.P. Riverside :(

john
05/15/2008 04:47 PM
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I’m a hardcore fan, with a little “disinfranchised” thrown in… but I love Road Course racing and think it’s pretty silly to complain about it. NASCAR has a thousand other reasons to suck these days, road courses aren’t one of them.

Joe
05/15/2008 05:50 PM
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I still think a big part of the sport and fans died in Turn 4 at Daytona in February 2001.

You know how they say the Hooters 500 in 1992 was the watershed race for the new era of NASCAR? Last race of the King, first Jeff Gordon race, 5 guys had a legit shot at the Cup and a single car owner driver won it with a fraction of the budget of the other teams? Well, I consider the 2001 Daytona 500 the Era of Wussification of NASCAR. Fox came on board, the big catch phrase was aero push, the wicker strip, a car that no one liked and a few deaths that were not really answered.

Ed
05/15/2008 10:28 PM
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We old time disenfranchised fans are holding out in the hopes that the sport we have followed for so long (in my case almost 50 years) will somehow return to some semblance of its former self. It is hard to give it up completely, but we are getting close. I’ve been following this sport since 1963. It is only over the course of the last five or six years that the drastic changes have come about. The older drivers have been pushed out in favor of “good looking,” generic talking, whiney ones, good, historic tracks have been thrown aside, tickets prices are off the map, and NASCAR has become more openly selective and inconsistent in its enforcement of rules.

MilChad
05/16/2008 11:17 AM
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50% hardcore 50% Disenfranchised

Patrick
05/16/2008 02:13 PM
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I am certainly all over the board on this one. I still enjoy going to the races. Thank God there is such a thing as a DVR or it would be impossible to watch the races with the pathetic TV coverage and the chosen few that get covered. Nascar is no longer the same after that fateful day in Daytona 2001.

Linda
05/17/2008 02:42 AM
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I am a hardcore fan, but am some what disenfranchised. I still love racing, but am getting tired of NA$CAR and their stupidity.