As we make our way down the home stretch, I can’t help but think of all the discoveries made in my first year of regularly following NASCAR. Along the way, I’ve made a few discoveries:
1) NASCAR fans are passionate!I’ve been hanging around the sports scene for 30 years, and I can tell you there are no more passionate people on earth than the followers of Earnhardt, Junior, Jeff Gordon, Smoke and even Kasey Kahne! That passion manifests itself in good ways (the sense of community among fans on places like message boards, the outpouring of sympathy upon the families of drivers that died) and bad ways (throwing beer cans at Gordon in Talledega when he passed Earnhardt on the all-time wins list). NFL fans don’t even come close to this, I’ve not seen it in NBA fans or MLB fans in some years. Even Jim Rome has backed off on his criticisms of “Neck Car” because of the fans.
2) NASCAR is everywhere!Have you checked you cereal or cracker boxes lately? We’ve got car cut-outs on Chicken In A Biscuit boxes, HMS license plates given away on the boxes of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Vitamin Water trucks that say “Raising Kahne” in obvious reference to the driver of the #9 UAW/Dodge. My 4-year-old son thinks Home Depot is the “Tony Stewart” store, Office Depot is the “Carl Edwards” store, and on and on. We even have NASCAR in prime time, for Heaven’s sake! I remember a day when you’d be lucky to get 15 minutes of a NASCAR event on “ABC’s Wide World of Sports.”
3) It’s not just a man’s world.I honestly thought I’d never see the day when I’d find a sport where my wife is as passionate about as me. My wife LOOOOOOVVVVEESSS Junior, and she’s as involved in every race as I am. I look at the Yahoo Answers! forum- there’s just as many women there as there are men- and it’s not just because they think a driver is sexy! They love the speed as much as the guys do! It will be just a matter of time when we have a Danica Patrick type who will take NASCAR by storm.
4)NASCAR is a tightly run shipI can assure you the NFL’s Roger Goodell, the NBA’s David Stern, and MLB’s Bud Selig would just die to trade places with the likes of Brian France and Mike Helton. Think of how many times a driver has spouted off after a race, and has then come out of “The Trailer” looking like a whipped pup. I’ll agree with some folks by saying that kind of power can be badly misused, and you can only hope Mssrs. France and Helton get that. On most days, I think they do. What they get is that this sport is still about the fan. I’d love to see those guys get ahold of Barry Bonds and set his arrogant attitude straight. I like how there was no pussy-footing around with the Craftsman Truck Series driver was busted for heroine. See ya later, pal! You’re out!
5)People just love talking about NASCAR!There re message boards everywhere. It’s too bad Yahoo Answers! doesn’t keep a tighter rein on miscreants who invade the forum to cause trouble. But you know what, good comes out of it. There’s a new nascardriversrule group on Yahoo! As well as nascarlfordummies. Not much gets by these fans. It’s also cool to see the experienced share their knowledge with the less experienced. I just don’t see that kind of community other sports.
6) Foreign influences are finding their way in, making it a NASCAR world. Word is out that names like Villanueve and Franchitti will be joining names like Montoya and Ambrose soon. Of course, Toyota joined the Nextel Cup landscape this year, and will be supplying a major team in Joe Gibbs’ Racing next year.
Do you honestly think Bill France, Sr. had any idea how HUGE this sport would become? Maybe? No doubt, he engineered and pioneered a lot of what we see now. Has the sport changed? Oh yeah! Old schoolers would say for the worse. Many of those old fans aren’t following as closely, but they’re still following it and hate to admit it. I think we’ll continue to see changes and watch the sport further evolve. That’s the beauty of NASCAR, they don’t treat change like a disease. They rather tend to embrace it.
I think this may be the sport’s finest hour!