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.
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 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.
About the author
The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.
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