The Frontstretch: The Only NASCAR Fan's Opinion That Counts...to Me by S.D. Grady -- Monday May 21, 2012

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The Only NASCAR Fan's Opinion That Counts...to Me

Fan's View · S.D. Grady · Monday May 21, 2012

 

My alarm screams at me with fair regularity. I go to work. Try to keep my grass short enough so neighbors won’t lose their toys in it. I enjoy country music, spaghetti, Mythbusters, my two cats and…NASCAR. Of late, I’ve been informed by parties high and low that all I want from my favorite sport are wrecks, rude drivers, apparently Dale Jr. in Victory Lane and the ability to complain about the state of the sport as often as my fingers connect with the keyboard. Well, I’m here to disabuse certain drivers (Mr. Stewart and Mr. Busch, are you listening?) and more than a single member of the media they’ve got it all wrong.

NASCAR fans come in all shapes and sizes. How can anybody—expert or not—tell us what we’re thinking?

There are lots of things I love about this sport. Waking up in my RV at the track to the roar of unfettered horsepower running on the track. The smell of unburned fuel and shredded rubber. The drop of the green flag. The feel of sunshine on my face after sitting in the stands for twelve hours, already.

I thrill to the sight of cars piling three-wide into the corner, when I know that can’t possibly work. The sound of airguns spinning up to speed just before the car slides into the pit stop. 80,000 Americans standing up to pray and sing together. All the shades under the rainbow poured over the fenders of 43 machines ready to battle. The stink of shredded metal as a wounded car drives down the frontstretch. The gritty sensation of rolling a marble I picked up between my fingers.

My heart pounds in fear as two drivers beat on each others’ fenders in an attempt to snare the next position on track. And then the surge of adrenaline when my chosen hero of the day finds the clean air and pulls away. There’s the capricious changes in fortune while the afternoon progresses, condemning a superstar to mediocrity and raising a young gun into the light of victory. Then just when the rookie readies himself to hoist that trophy for the very first time, a much revered veteran of the sport arrives to shake his hand. Or better yet, the moment they share during practice when both sides of the conversation realize there’s something to be learned from one another.

I’ve witnessed joy in winning, anger frustration, disappointment and unbreakable concentration. Anticipation that fills your entire body, only to vanish in a split second as a tire blows. Pain. Teamwork. Unfiltered reactions to any given moment dancing across the competitors’ and fans’ faces as the day unfolds.

Besides all these positive thoughts, sometimes I will surrender to the darker moments. The entire point of racing—be it on foot, a horse, bicycle, boat or a car—is to be the first. And that means figuring out a way to leave the rest of the world in the dust. So, bringing a slightly shady piece of automotive engineering to inspection doesn’t earn my derision, but usually my respect. Testing out a new engine, and having it fail, this too is fun. And yes, should somebody decide they’ve been wronged and decide to explain the situation to the purported villain, I am happy to see the fireworks.

Yes, there are innumerable things I adore about this sport. Racing is a moment where I get to sit down with family and friends and simply enjoy the afternoon. It’s entertainment. It’s eminently surprising and sometimes a bit too predictable. And do I expect all my friends and family to react the same as I when Danica Patrick takes to the track? No.

No I don’t. For I am one NASCAR fan. Perhaps the entire conclave of fans is comprised of millions of men and women decked out in officially licensed gear, but no two of us are alike. We cheer for many different drivers and boo a fair number, too. Some of us watch the drama from our living rooms, while others actually pour cash into the racing venues. Some will sip wine in their logoed polos. I will pull on a worn out t-shirt from far too many years ago. All shapes, sizes, ages and backgrounds, our individual appreciation of the sport is as varied as our names.

So, it absolutely ticks me off when blanket statements such as, “We didn’t wreck enough today. The fans deserve [more wrecks],” are spouted by the sport’s reigning champ. I have never sat next to a fellow fan and had them jump up with glee when a car barreled into the wall. Never.

Likewise, if a driver is being particularly idiotic in a WWE manner, the fans are not making all that noise because they are happy. I can guarantee you the vast amount of discussion post-race around the campfire focuses on a certain person’s lack of self-control, not how awesome it was to witness such an embarrassing example of manhood.

And last of all, we are not all Junior fans. The sport would not be saved by the prodigal son arriving in Victory Lane. We’re not dumb enough to believe that. Are you?

Overall, the NASCAR fan’s voice is loud—even overwhelming at times. But it is not a single voice. We are not one with each other and oft times not with the sport. Like the paint jobs on the machines we glorify each and every week, we are unique. And will remain so as long as we are permitted the ability to voice our own opinions.

It’s a simple thing I ask of frustrated drivers and condescending media members, don’t speak for others unless you have taken the time to actually speak to those you wish to lump into a single demographic. Otherwise, you’re the ones that end up looking and sounding like the mythical group you chose to denigrate without basis.

Sonya’s Weekly Danica Stat
IOWA: NNS in the No. 7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet
Qualified: 9th
Finished: 30th (crash, 137 laps down)
Points Position: 14th

Contact S.D. Grady

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Joe..
05/22/2012 04:00 AM
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S.D. Grady, I have been a fan of NASCAR for thirty years. You’ve come up with the one word that says it all about what’s wrong with NASCAR: condescending.

mrclause
05/22/2012 11:19 AM
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You didn’t miss a single point I would have made. For those that insist that the fans want to see wrecks maybe if they were actually sitting in the stands so they could hear the collective gasp of the fans when there is a bad wreck they’d actually know that’s not what the fans want. The cheer comes when the driver is shown to be ok.

We want to see real competition, actual door to door racing. We are tired of the aero dependent, slide rule designed, over engineered cars that do little to show the drivers talent and ability.

We don’t need lucky dog rules, we don’t want gas mileage racing, we don’t want to be talked down to by the media, the drivers, the officials, or worse the chairman that doesn’t lower himself to attend the races. He is the one that said he wasn’t concerned with drivers or fans complaints. Hows that working for you Brian? Stands full? TV viewership setting records?

All we want is to see drivers, all 43, running for the win, not for points for the stupid chase.

jerome
05/22/2012 11:41 AM
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Awesome article and dead on comments. We want hard racing by drivers who seem like they actually want to WIN and not “Have a good points day.” We want passion, that translates to a will to win, not spin someone out on pit raod. We want to be able to point out what is lacking and wrong with the sport without being basically told that we are not smart enough to realize that what we are watching is ‘great” racing” not the bland crap we are being forced to watch. (Though much much less by me.) I basically want back what made NASCAR so great at one time.

Country
05/22/2012 12:41 PM
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Look, I love 98% of this article. Where I believe you went wrong is in taking Stewart’s words literally. He was taking NASCAR to task for BELIEVING that’s what the “fans” want and attempting to create a rule package to create more carnage. Maybe I’m wrong, but I refuse to believe he was taking the fans to task. Call me stupid and/or naive, but I think to take his comments literally is a mistake. Other than that, I love this article.

Timmy
05/22/2012 02:31 PM
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Yes, the point of racing is to be first. To WIN the race. Conservative points racing is boring.

I’m not spending mega bucks to go to a race just to see drivers play safe and be happy for a top 10 finish.

No. I do NOT want to see tons of wrecks. What I DO want to see is side by side, banging, hard racing FOR THE WIN. And NOT just on the last “green, white, checkered” lap either. (after the phony debris caution of course)

Chuck ellison
05/22/2012 02:37 PM
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Yes, Tony Stewart was mocking NASCAR’s rules package… not the fans.

john
05/22/2012 02:45 PM
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I have to agree with Country, I took Stewart’s comments more as jabs at NASCAR putting together awful racing than the fans wanting it.

GinaV24
05/22/2012 10:03 PM
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Well said! It’s a shame that people like BZF, Robin Pemberton, DW, Jimmie Johnson and others who disparage the fans don’t get it.

Funny thing, aren’t we the ones paying the bills?

jamiefan
05/23/2012 11:26 AM
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And who decided that the fans wanted the Indy Nationwide and Truck races moved from IRP to the speedway? I think that they did it so that the pampered drivers don’t have to take their precious helicopters to a better track 10 or so miles away. The racing at the short track on Friday and Saturday nights were the only reasons I went. I will not spend any more of my money to go to IMS for a NASCAR race just to watch the cars play follow-the-leader.

Contact S.D. Grady