This past weekend I made a trip to Seattle. I was curious to see this hot bed of NASCAR fans that is clamoring for a Cup race. Having flown out of the airport in Charlotte, which sports a Robert Yates show car in the ticket lobby, I assumed I would see quite a few indications of the rabid NASCAR environment that exists in the Northwest. There obviously would be plenty of evidence of the thousands of NASCAR fans located throughout the area that justifies all of the discussion around putting a track in the area.
As I walked through the airport, I glanced into the various shops that dot the corridors of the terminal. Not one of them had the first indication of any NASCAR memorabilia available for purchase. No biggie, I'm sure once I get out of the airport I'll be inundated with advertisements festooned with the images of drivers and cars that grace the track every weekend. Pulling out of the airport and driving down interstate 5, I was amazed that I did not see a single billboard. No Ryan Newman Alltel ads, no Dale Junior and the Budweiser Chevrolet, not even a Jimmie Johnson Lowe's advertisement. Surely I must have just picked a small area that hadn't had their billboards renewed with the latest NASCAR PR.
As Friday afternoon rolled around, I was sure I would hear some discussion on the radio about the upcoming race and then get to listen to the qualifications from Chicago. I put the radio on scan and listened for almost an hour. Not once did I hear any discussion about the upcoming race or qualifying. How could such an avid fan base not be served by their local media? I must have just not had a radio that would pick up the station that was broadcasting the qualifying.
Saturday afternoon rolled around and I decided to see where the local fans got their public fix for racing. I went by a couple of different sports bars. They offered plenty of televisions. They were tuned to various baseball games from around the country. The World Cup was visible from any area of the establishments. However, not a single set, in either bar, was tuned to the Busch race. Maybe I am mistaken. Maybe the Northwest isn't the hotbed of NASCAR fandom that I had been led to believe.
When I got back to my hotel, I inquired at the front desk as to where the local race fans went to watch the races. None of the front desk attendants had ever heard of anyone watching NASCAR. They couldn't help me find a hangout. I also asked why they didn't have SPEED available on their in-house channel line-up. They informed me that I was the first person who had ever asked about it and they were not sure that it was available on their local cable provider.
Lucky for me, the race was on TNT on Sunday. Thank goodness there are enough Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean Claude Van Damme fans in the Seattle area so that TNT was available on the hotel TV. I watched the race for a while before heading to the Mariners/Tigers game.
While at the game, I inquired of several people around me if anyone was listening to the race on the radio. I received some of the oddest looks I’ve gotten since my high school days when I would occasionally have a zit the size of Cincinnati in the middle of my forehead. I was also the only person in attendance who happened to be wearing a NASCAR themed T-shirt.
As I headed to the airport on Monday, I once again was unable to find any NASCAR advertisements or radio programs. It struck me as very odd since, during my annual trip to Canada this year, I saw hundreds of billboards throughout Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota with Dale Jr., Ryan Newman and Jeff Burton. The closest NASCAR track to that area of the country is Chicago. Not only could I hear the NASCAR race on the radio as I drove through the Northwoods, but I could also see people decked out in the garb of their favorite drivers.
Now I may have just been poorly informed, or in the wrong place to see the NASCAR faithful in the Northwest. But from my personal experience, I could not find a soul in the Seattle area who was a NASCAR fan. I'm sure they are there. Maybe it is a closet, underground movement that will swell to the surface once a track deal is finalized. All I know is that, when I walked out of the Charlotte airport after arriving home on Monday, I intentionally walked by the RYR show car and gave it a pat. I was sure glad to be back among my own kind.
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