Thursday, February 14, 2008

Welcome Race Fans

I have to go to Jacksonville this weekend. Have to. Can’t not go. This weekend also happens to be Daytona 500 weekend. The 50th anniversary of the Daytona 500 weekend. “The most anticipated event in race history,” according to the website.

Which means I will be sitting in traffic with a bunch of NASCAR fans, both ways, driving through Daytona this Saturday afternoon and again on Sunday morning.

NASCAR fans have a reputation for being…how shall I put this politely…less than cultured. I don’t think that stereotype is exactly accurate, but it persists. They’re considered Bubbas. Beer-swilling, beer-bellied, truck-driving, Marlboro-puffing, Confederate flag-waving, Skynyrd-listening, Jack Daniels-shooting, Bush-voting, mullet-sporting, Skoal-dipping, gun-toting, Wrangler-wearing, Wal-Mart-shopping, inbred, redneck, rocks-for-brains sumsabitches all living on dirt roads in broke-ass, single-wide mobile-homes. One of their four basic food groups is Deep Fried, which they eat when they aren’t having sex with their sisters and lynching people.

Though I’ve never seen a race, I’m sure you can find a fair share of those types in a NASCAR crowd. But I know there are other people attending. And so do the sponsors. Have a look at this roster of companies sponsoring the cars of NASCAR. Apparently, there’s some money in that big audience. And that is a list of primary sponsors, which doesn't include the dozens of smaller sponsor decals every car displays, nor does it include the sponsors running commercials during the broadcasts.

I've been trying to understand the appeal of NASCAR for a while. But really, it’s actually pretty easy to get caught up in any kind of race. Whether it’s a marathon on city streets, a bicycle race through the French countryside, skiers on a mountainside, a horserace in Kentucky or even a down-to-the-wire political battle, racing - in all its forms - includes strategy, skill, drama and a bit of luck. There are heroes, villains, unexpected turns-of-events and of course, speed. Then there’s the byproduct of all those ingredients, adrenaline. I’m almost sure that if you took a couple of the most city-dwelling, theatre-visiting, martini-sipping, toy-dog-owning, massage-getting, loft-renting, art-gallery patronizing, NPR-giving, aroma-therapy-sniffing, Hillary-loving, Starbucks-drinking, tree-hugging, nose-in-the-air, fashion-conscious, intellectual urbanites and made them sit down at the Daytona 500, they’d end up having a good time. It would be the noise, the extremely high speeds and the tightly packed cars jostling for position that enthralled them. If that didn’t interest them, the people-watching opportunities would.

I was channel-surfing the other day and stopped on something I never watch - motocross racing. I didn’t know any of the riders, but I found myself mesmerized, eventually hoping one particular rider would win. He rode in second place for the longest time, trying to get around the leader who was playing a skillful defense, cutting off any chance at passing. The second-place guy finally made his move in the last lap. I was like, “Cool! My guy won!” Then I said to myself, “You just watched a motocross race on TV and you were into it. Dude, you should be embarrassed.”

So until I actually attend a NASCAR event, I’m going to stop stereotyping these people. I can imagine the scene, with me walking in all smug and above this stupid redneck sport, looking for people who will prove me right; that this is just a collection of idiots watching cars go really fast around an oval track for a drunken afternoon.

I take my seat. The noise is deafening and it’s only the pace lap. There’s a smell of oil, grease and gas mixed with something deep-fried and maybe a hint of beer. It’s not a bad smell. The pace car leaves the track and the green flag is waved. The gunning engines of 60 high-performance cars combined with the spontaneous roar of 168,000 NASCAR fanatics instantly washes away my skepticism. I’ve just become a race fan. Don’t know what car I want to cheer for, but that one with the giant Tide logo on the hood looks cool.

Man, I hope we get to see some gnarly crashes today.

Previously in NASCAR

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  • It is surprising sometimes to discover people you would never be NASCAR fans.

    I love me some motocross. Always have. When I was younger I begged my dad to let me race in the powder puff class.

    Happy VD dawg.

    By Anonymous dirtsister, at February 14, 2008 at 3:18 PM  

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