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Fan’s View: Thumbs Up! Keeping Those Traditions Alive

Late night Saturday, I was pleased when my TiVo switched the channel to start recording the Knoxville Late Model Nationals. Many times I’ll find a race my little DVR has recorded while I wasn’t looking, which is awesome when you’re looking at infomercial purgatory. Anyway, I noticed this little raceway still did something I’ve missed in NASCAR over the past few years….

During the parade laps, the track safety workers lined up on the inside of the turns and gave the four-wide (yep… four-wide) field a thumbs up. It’s not a big thing, but it is. It’s letting those drivers know that the safety workers are wishing that the teams will experience an awesome race. It’s a tradition that has vanished from the major NASCAR events. I miss it. However, we still have a few good traditions.

Most other sports do perform the Star Spangled Banner before they play ball, but many of them avoid broadcasting the performance. That’s a shame. The singing of our National Anthem doesn’t have to be done by the latest recording diva. I’m happy if school kids are singing the words every American should know. By making a point of clearing enough time in our pre-race presentation for this pledge to our country, it says something better about our chosen sport.

I’ve also always enjoyed NASCAR’s decision to go one better – the invocation. I’m not what you’d call devout, but in a sport where the drivers are going fast enough to die should something go horribly wrong, a prayer before we commence with the excitement seems appropriate. Did you, perhaps, catch the invocation on Friday Night for the Nationwide race? Now, that was a prayer worthy of a NASCAR event!

Even if the safety workers and officials have been banished from standing trackside during the parade laps, not all of them have abandoned that forgotten thumbs up tradition. On Saturday night, Marcos Ambrose was being so nice as to do a pre-race interview from his cockpit. And in the midst of the usual patter between Marcos and the broadcast booth an interesting little thing happened on camera….

One of the officials paused by his window, stuck his fist in the car, Marcos casually reached over and exchanged a quick fist-bump. The official moved on and Marcos didn’t even pause in his conversation. It took about two seconds. I imagine that official made the trek all the way down pit road, stopping at each window net. It wasn’t quite as visible as the old-fashioned system, but just as effective. The wish for a good race and good luck was received loud and clear.

But what about the fans? What tradition do we have to add to that positive vibe that will send our “asphalt warriors” (I tell ya…it was an awesome invocation!) on their way? It’s called a hat. At our local tracks, including New Hampshire Motor Speedway, during the last parade lap, we stand up, wave our hats in the air and cheer for our heroes. It doesn’t seem like much… but it is.

In a sport filled with driver “signature moves” and traditional celebrations, it’s always important to remember that we – the fans, safety workers and officials – are part of the racing tradition, as well. And that’s kind of cool.

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