The Frontstretch: NASCAR Fans : Still Reviled Among The Elite by Vito Pugliese -- Tuesday October 16, 2007

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NASCAR Fans : Still Reviled Among The Elite

The Voice Of Vito · Vito Pugliese · Tuesday October 16, 2007


One of the biggest gripes about the new Chase for The Championship in NASCAR is not so much a break from tradition, but to what it represents: pandering to the masses. Every week, be it during the race, NASCAR themed shows, or in print, constant comparisons are made to other sports, drawing parallels between their post-season and the new "playoff" format that was introduced for the 2004 season. NASCAR has a tremendous amount of time, money, and effort invested trying to change the reputation and image of NASCAR. What was once thought of as a regional sport born of moonshiners and bootleggers, had grown to the one of the most popular sports in the nation, ranking second only behind the NFL in attendance and ratings. Surely NASCAR had succeeded in winning the hearts and minds of the public at large.

That is unless you work in our nation's capitol.

Last week the Washington Times reported that the Democratic head of the Homeland Security Committee (the ones who try to find the best way to keep airplanes out of buildings and bombs off of buses), instructed aides to receive immunization shots prior to embarking on a fact-finding mission. Among the diseases they were most concerned with: Hepatitis, Diphtheria, Tetanus and Influenza. Just what far flung, third-world crap hole that time forgot were they traveling to? Iraq? Sudan? The Ivory Coast?

Nope. Charlotte, North Carolina. Lowe's Motor Speedway was their target objective.

Rep. Robin Hayes, a Republican from Concord, was more than a little steamed when he learned of this apparent public health menace in his hometown. “I have never heard of immunizations for domestic travel, and as the representative for Concord, N.C., I feel compelled to ask why the heck the committee feels that immunizations are needed to travel to my hometown,” Hayes said in his letter to Bennie Thompson (D – Mississippi), who heads the Homeland Security panel. “I have been to numerous NASCAR races, and the folks who attend these events certainly do not pose any health hazard to congressional staffers or anyone else,” Hayes said.

Well it's nice to see we've made so much progress over the last seven years, isn't it?

We've all had to endure these ridiculous pre-race spectacles, poorly choreographed rock concerts, and monotonous pre-race shows that last over an hour so we can hear about how great of a race it's going to be, and that Denny Hamlin has "a real good car today." NASCAR has found a way to plaster driver's likenesses over everything from t-shirts and bumpers stickers to stuffed animals and video games. Jeff Gordon is routinely a guest on talk shows, the drivers make their yearly media blitz through New York prior to the start of the Chase, and the President has gone so far to even bring the top ten drivers to the White House and park their cars on the First Lawn.

Yet race fans are now considered a threat to public health and safety? At the nicest facility on the tour no less!

Perhaps it is more of a cultural thing; if there's anyone more detached from reality, it's likely a member of the government in Washington D.C. . However it doesn't just stop there. Recall earlier this year when Washington State Representative Larry Seaquist, made the comment, "These are not the kind of people you would want living next door to you. They'd be the ones with junky cars in the front lawn and trying to slip around the law." This while Darrell Waltrip and Richard Petty, among others, traveled there to make the case that the Pacific Northwest was in dire need of a track and a date in NASCAR's premier division. House Speaker Frank Chopp when referring to The King, said that he looked like a drunken felon and inquired, "Isn't this the guy that got arrested for DUI?!"

Further rejection came in the way of the delayed, if not abandoned, efforts to build a track on Long Island, NY.

Humpy Wheeler, never one to be undiplomatic, had a rather succinct response. “The very idea of immunization is laughable. It's like taping your ankles to a mailbox. This is not some third or fourth world country. Never before in the fifty-plus years of NASCAR has there been an outbreak of any kind at an event, other than a few headaches because someone's favorite driver ran out of gas or maybe a morning hangover.”

Ah yes. The dreaded strain of Busch Lightitis. I too was once a sufferer.

While some may argue that this story has been blown out of proportion, partially because it was a Democratic member of Congress that was involved while NASCAR is typically considered a bastion of Republicanism, I think it speaks to the larger issue within NASCAR in general; no matter what they do, there is going to be a sizeable segment of the population that sees race fans as a bunch of rednecks, hillbillies, and dirt people. There are the constant parallels drawn between racing and professional wrestling. Ratings continue to fall - this weekend's race at Lowe's Motor Speedway scored 2.5% lower than last year - and it was an apples to apples comparison, as the 2006 event was on NBC, and this year was on ABC. Couple that with rebukes from the remaining two markets where NASCAR does not have a presence, and you'll notice a glass ceiling of sorts that we keep running headlong into.

Which brings me to the point that I always keep coming back to: Why do we go out of our way to change for everyone else, when this is how we're viewed by so many? Why can't we just go back to the original formula that produced unparallel growth and spurred rabid popularity from 1948 through 2003 - attract fans by being different and not catering to others. Be yourself, and people will gravitate towards you. It's no different than in the real world or, God forbid, politics. Though I'm sure in Daytona Beach, FL as it does in Washington D.C., my brand of common sense and logic will fall on deaf ears.

In the meantime, here's to getting a shot to immunize yourself from those pink hotdogs at this weekend at Martinsville.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


©2000 - 2008 Vito Pugliese and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

10/17/2007 07:16 AM

Its no wonder our country is flooded with illegals, we’re approaching a recession and the war in Iraq is being mis-managed when our own goverment conducts petty proceedures such as this that amount to wasted time and finances.I hope your million dollar field trip/science project was fun.Talk about “homeland insecurity.” Not to mention a “cheap-shot” taken on race fans.

FedEx Guy
10/17/2007 07:35 AM

What a crock.
My view – a bunch of congressional staffers wanted a free vacation to go see Charlotte and Talladega, so they created a ‘fact finding’ mission so the taxpayers would foot the bill for their travel and luxury accomidations for the races.
Then some bigoted pinhead in DHS got all worked up about them going to mingle with ‘those kind of people’ and wanted them to be protected against the diseases of the teeming masses.

Just another issue to illustrate the inept cluelessness that saturates our government.

Oh well, hope the ones that went enjoyed the race.

Brian France Sucks
10/17/2007 08:07 AM

Hey, somebody put these morons in office. My suggestion is to vote for someone else come election time and let them talk s*it somewhere else. Just goes to show that the knuckleheads we elect are no smarter (and probably much less so) than the average person; just better connected. Too bad there isn’t an imbecile immunization, because these bozos already contracted that.

10/17/2007 08:37 AM

A couple of things come to mind after reading your article Vito – Ferris Bueller’s day off meets the Manchurian experiment.How bored are they over on Capitol Hill?

10/17/2007 08:52 AM

Something to keep in mind-most people who work with the public are reccommended these same immunizations. I teach public school, and we are advised to get these same innoculations. Not becasue everyone’s children are a health risk, but because all of these diseases are common and the odds are good, in any large group, that someone is carrying each of them. Hepatitis in incurable and passed by body fluids, so if one person cuts their hand and another comes into contact with that blood, the disease can be spread. The flu and other viruses which are air-or surface-borne are more likely to be passed when there is high volume of people. This was not meant to be a slight on NASCAR, IMO-it was the same advice given to millions of people who work directly with the public in many different capacities.

Guy from D.C.
10/17/2007 09:11 AM

What we need to do as responsible citizens, is vote to implement certain health mandates, that will allow all americans to be safe in enviorments considered high risk; instead of having pointless displays of concern from the ‘Big-Wigs’here in Washington.

10/17/2007 09:25 AM

Nice try, FS_amy. This certainly was meant to be a slight on NASCAR fans. The isolated, insulated group of people who populate the political world have nothing but contempt for average, everyday Americans ( especially Democrats!). I don’t think we’ll be seeing Madame Hillary at a NASCAR race anytime soon.

Steve M.
10/17/2007 09:51 AM

Amy, you have really confused me. You write one story, getting people all worked up over nothing, then you come back and try to explain why it was done. I’ve read all about the little trip to Charlotte, as well as Talledaga the week before, by these aides. As a reporter, you only supplied the readers with half the story and then in the “blog” section, you try to defend the actions taken by DHS. Had you actually stated ALL the facts in your original article, things like; the NASCAR races were events where ten’s of thousand’s of people attended and that was what DHS was looking for in regards to a terrorist attack. Also, that these government aides we also going to be visiting hospitals and other high-risk places in the area. The aides in question weren’t immunized because of their trips to the races, but because of the hospitals and morgue’s that they were also evaluating. Once again, some of press only gives half the story to get people all riled up. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

10/17/2007 10:49 AM

Steve, I don’t understand how you are confused. The Frontstretch’s own Vito wrote the article; I merely added some information from my own experience working in the public sector. This piece is Vito’s opinion piece, not a news story. I was merely adding my own perspective. Sorry if you misunderstood.

10/17/2007 11:00 AM

>>…all of these diseases are common and the odds are good, in any large group, that someone is carrying each of them.<<

Good answer, Amy, as far as it goes.

But isn’t Congress a large group too, honey? Particularly when you throw in the multitude of staffers, support and security people, tour groups and the hordes of lobbyists flying in from all over?

I see the DHS people have trotted out the they’re-visiting-hospitals argument to cover their tracks. Nice try, but it turns out there wasn’t a whole lot of hospital visiting on the itinerary.

No, I think the get-your-shots-before-going-to-‘Dega-and-Charlotte suggestion spoke volumes about the ignorance and bias of the person who uttered it.

Vito was right. Some of those politicians up in DC just don’t get it.

Vito Pugliese - FS Staff
10/17/2007 11:11 AM

Steve –

The way I read the article, that explination and response from Thompson sounded like a cop out. The suggestion was for “those attending the event”…not those visiting hospitals and morgues. There was never a mention of such action taken for those attending an NFL or MLB game. Let’s face it – who is the ONE group of voters that Democrats have made an effort to attract but cannot: NASCAR Dads. Why else would they be going to Talladega and Charlotte? Call me naieve, but I don’t see our nations enemies pegging central Alabama as a hot spot for symbolic terrorism.

Steve M.
10/17/2007 12:03 PM

Amy, my apologies, I did not pay close enough attention that you were not the author of this article. I jumped to conclusions when I saw your remarks in the blog. Again, my error, and my apolgies. Vito, when it comes to politics, as I work for the government, I find that the best thing I can do is simply communicate all information that I know as fact, and leave any other assumptions or guess work to the idiots who get paid to run our country – regardless of being a republican or a democrat. All I would ask is that if an article is going to be written, especially one directed towards NASCAR fans, please make sure all sides of the story are laid out. That would not only educate the reader of all the facts, but let said reader make what one would hope to be, an honest, educated opinion of the story.

Marty C
10/17/2007 12:54 PM

I don’t believe they have come up with a immunization shot for the dreaded Busch Lightis. It would surely win the Nobel Prize for Medicine, especially if Al Gore can win the Nobel Peace (???) Prize!

Vito Pugliese - FS Staff
10/17/2007 01:28 PM

Steve –

Again, this is an opinion piece – not a hard hitting expose on our government – the relevant quotes and facts were laid out to make the point that NASCAR fans and locales aren’t exactly held in the highest of regard, particulary in large epicenters such as the Northwest, Washington D.C., and New York to some extent with the Long Island track. If there was one part I should have maybe included was Thompson’s response to Rep. Hayes, but again….it sounded more like a CYA comment, since it was originally intended for people attending the “event”.

I was hoping to avoid this degenerating into a political discussion, but with each of these three instances, there seems to be tangible auora of elitisim involved.

Robert Eastman
10/17/2007 02:12 PM

Arrogant people try to cover their feelings of inferiority and lack of self-esteem by acting superior. People who understand this are not offended by their attitudes and actions, but instead “sit-back” and enjoy a good laugh at their expense.
The way people act and speak is a commentary on themselves, not necessarily on the people they are “putting down.”
Maybe it’s a “blessing in disguise” that the people who are “studying national security,” suffer from “personal insecurity.”
The only problem with that is, we all have to pay (in higher taxes) for their paranoia, when they try to “help us” with too much legislation.

10/17/2007 02:53 PM

I was born and raised in NYC, but have been a NASCAR fan since I was in elementary school. I know this is hard to believe, but I was the only one who watched it then, and I still am. NASCAR has just managed to annoy fans like me with all this extra crap and probably won’t gain many more fans by keeping it up.

10/17/2007 03:00 PM

So let ‘em get their shots or be too scared to go. Why waste time worrying about people who by their actions seem to not be the kinda folks we’d want to camp near anyway.

Whether they intended to slight us or not,the fact that it became an issue shows that these folks need to go elsewhere to do their “studies” I suggest the political conventions if they want to study large groups of diseased people.

These folks are just taking up space that could be used by a real fan. They wouldn’t last ten minutes in the campground at Bristol or ‘Dega.

Don’t be offended by this. Be glad, maybe they’ll get so scared that they’ll leave us alone.

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