5 Biggest Reasons to Become a NASCAR Fan
NASCAR is one of the great leagues associated with American sports. It has millions of fans and all of the danger and glory of a timeless and popular pastime. And yet, outside of the South, there are more people than not who have never watched even one minute of a NASCAR race.
We’ve all heard of the Daytona 500, but how many of us actually tune into this multi-hour, 200-lap test of endurance?
NASCAR has a lot to offer, and there are good reasons to get caught up in racing excitement. These are the top 5 reasons you should watch NASCAR racing.
1. It’s Pretty Easy to Figure Out
I’ve met recent immigrants to the United States who are so ready to immerse themselves fully into American culture. They buy a 12-pack of beer, order a pizza for delivery, and turn on a football game.
The beer and pizza are easily assimilated. The football, however, leaves them weeping. The rules of American football simply don’t lend themselves to fast, easy comprehension.
NASCAR…ain’t that. At its most basic, it’s cars, driving in a circle. The most difficult thing for spectators to learn is what “counter-clockwise” means.
Unlike in a sport like college basketball, where the players just focus on scoring and the fans are the ones who spend hours creating stat tables and solving multi-variable mathematical equations, in NASCAR, it’s the drivers who do all the mental work.
But first, let’s start with the physical labor of the driver. The interior of the race car is upwards of 140 degrees Fahrenheit; drivers wear special footwear so their feet don’t ignite from the metal gas and brake pedals. In fact, NASA provides technical guidance for several NASCAR components, including the race car tire and the aforementioned footwear.
Holding a juddering, bucking steering wheel for the three and a half hours it takes to run the Daytona 500 has been likened to holding a 20 lb. medicine ball straight out in front of you for several hours without a break.
Now comes the mental aspect; racers are meant to try to win while not dying. This means that they must stay focused on finding clear lanes through and ahead of the pack, timing their pit stops, and calculating whether they can go without that final gas-up.
They need to do this while avoiding the bumpers and wheel wells of the dozens of other drivers clustered around them because a simple tap can send them spinning to a fiery death.
Not that the spectators aren’t in any danger of sudden death. See the “Fried Foods” section below.
2. NASCAR Is Historic
The most highly paid athlete of all time was Gaius Appuleius Diocles. Historians estimate his earnings to be the equivalent of $14 billion US dollars.
Diocles was the hero of a sport that was the forerunner of NASCAR: chariot racing. He lived around 100 AD (or 100 CE if you specialize in linguistic cultural evolution). He won nearly every chariot race, kings showered him with gold, and he would let his opponents almost reach the finish line and then cause his steeds to sprint ahead and take the victory.
In short, he was both an athlete and an entertainer.
Chariot racing had the same opportunities to die a pretty unpleasant death that modern NASCAR has, despite modern safety features such as a racing harness seat belt. PBS reports that charioteers could and would be thrown from the chariots and trampled by horses and vehicles. We don’t have trampling deaths in NASCAR, but we have cement walls and fireballs.
In ancient times, chariot racing became popular because of its danger. The popularity meant higher ticket sales, which turned the sport into show business. Kind of like the $4.5 billion ten-year deal NASCAR recently brokered with FOX Sports.
Roman chariot teams sent scouts out looking for top drivers. NASCAR teams don’t send out scouts in the traditional manner of football and baseball teams, but they do engage in scouting activities, such as this Diversity Combine.
Things haven’t changed all that much. In historic times, people ate, slept, tried to pay their bills, and occasionally went to war. When they had free time, they’d buy tickets to sporting events. We do the same stuff, but we’re able to pay bills online and watch sporting events remotely. And now our favorite charioteers, such as Jimmie Johnson, have Instagram accounts.
3. You’ll Have Something in Common With Southerners
You know those folks who recently moved into your neighborhood from Assumption Parish, Louisiana? The ones who didn’t quite understand what you were asking when you invited them to a brie tasting?
These folks will get NASCAR. Although there are NASCAR tracks in Las Vegas and Sonoma, as well as Mexico, Canada, and Europe, it’s a sport that’s typically associated with the South, and with such famous and storied tracks as Daytona and Talladega.
In the early part of the 1900s, land speed records were made and broken in Europe. Makes sense, since the first real car—the Mercedes—was made in Germany. However, land speed record attempts and successes then moved to Daytona Beach on the Florida coast.
NASCAR was created to make sure drivers were paid after casually organized races, and it’s been a Southern mainstay sport ever since.
4. NASCAR Is Full of Characters
Baseball had its Shoeless Joe, football had its Knute Rockne, and figure skating had…actually, never mind. I have no idea who any historic figure skaters were. Mrs. Claus, maybe? But back to racing. You can discover some interesting people and some fun facts about the Daytona 500 here.
It seems that NASCAR has more than its fair share of colorful, unforgettable drivers. Some of them have had legions of cult-like followers. What’s significant about the NASCAR experience is how approachable the drivers are to fans, signing hats and t-shirts without breaking their stride as you mingle with them track-side.
Here are a few favorites.
Fireball Roberts was a baseball player who became addicted to racing. It’s been said that he finished in the top five of nearly half of his races, winning pole position many times.
Ironically, Fireball perished in a ball of fire. His death did, however, lead to better fire safety elements in race cars.
Dick Trickle was a great driver, but perhaps he was even more famous for his name. Because who doesn’t like to imagine a sweet little boy named Richard sitting next to a babbling brook? I always imagine him in England, for some reason, even though Dick was as American as Kraft powdered yellow cheese. And, for that matter, spelling Kraft with a “K.”
Trickle won more than 1,000 races and was considered a top-notch driver. His personal life wasn’t as easy as his winning career, however. Dick lost a nephew to a drive-by shooting (a murder which was never solved) and a granddaughter to a car accident.
Perhaps these losses are what pushed Dick Trickle to commit suicide in 2013. It says a lot about Trickle’s personality that he politely did it at a cemetery after a call to the police.
You must admire this man’s commitment to self-sought justice. He prepared expensively and mightily for the Daytona 500. Then another car bumped him during the race, and Yarborough exited his car and engaged in a fistfight with the other driver.
Remember that NASCAR racing is an expensive sport; one must pay pit crews, mechanics, transport specialists, and engineers, just for one driver to drive one race.
Yarborough’s fistfight occurred during the first Daytona 500 to be shown on nationwide television. Thus, one of America’s first introductions to NASCAR was seeing two grown men throw aside an important race to sissy-slap each other.
5. It’s a Hootenanny, Fried Food Included
Half race, half carnival, going live to a NASCAR event has been likened to “a nice day out, on another planet.” Fried bologna sandwiches, avocadoes “breaded” in bacon, and other cardiovascular challenges are a staple of the NASCAR circuit.
Furthermore, because so many fans drive so far and arrive so early to the tracks, there are often auxiliary entertainment options. These have included concerts, fun zones for the kids, an exhibit by NASA highlighting the connection between space science and race car research, and other pick-a-mix offerings.
If you’re new to NASCAR, you’ve got a fun adventure ahead of you. You can bet on NASCAR at online sportsbooks, and you can meet a group of fans that are pretty committed to having a great day, no matter who is first to the checkered flag.
Unlike in football or basketball, where the entire day is considered a waste by some fans if their team wasn’t the victor, just hitting a NASCAR race and sitting in the sun with other enthusiasts is deemed enough by most fans to make it a pretty successful event.
If that’s not enough, the fact that many events allow fans to bring their own beer is a major plus point. I was once given free tickets to a AAA baseball game (the Albuquerque Isotopes) and had to spend $100 on overpriced beer just to get a buzz.
At many NASCAR events, you can haul in your own brew and save your cash for funnel cake. And then, later, for a stent. But life’s about having fun, right?