I mean no disrespect when I say this, but I have no idea why people like NASCAR. If I wanted to sit down and watch people drive cars around in a circle for hours on end I’d… actually, I wouldn’t. To be fair, I have never watched a race and I know very little about the sport outside of some of its biggest names. I don’t usually like to write scathing, ignorant observations about things I blindly dislike, but NASCAR has always irked me. Determined to change my opinion, I turned to the wise voices of the internet to help me understand this quintessentially American sport.
Car crashes. No matter how gruesome they are, people can’t help but look. I mean, they’ve caused their fair share of traffic on the highway. Why wouldn’t people go to watch them in a controlled setting? Naturally, a 400-lap race that has a history of accidents proves another enticing venue for such “spectacles.” And I hate to use that word, but that’s really what they are. When you’re watching a sport that requires you to wait for something to go wrong to get excited, you know there’s something wrong.
Desperate to understand, I pulled up a fine article by Spencer Hall from 2012 on SB Nation. Spencer posted a “How-To Guide for the Uninitiated” for people like me. Unfortunately, this guide did little to help my case. Before Spencer begins his piece, he admits that all people do in NASCAR is turn left. He concedes that Formula 1 racing is filled with much more beauty and finesse and is “undeniably superior” as a sport. Not a great start Spence.
Spencer then moves to his seven “convincing” points. Among these is the advice to “feel free to take a breather.” No disrespect, but isn’t the point of watching a sport to watch it? If Spencer’s advice to me is to stop watching NASCAR while I’m watching NASCAR then he doesn’t really make a very compelling argument. Granted, Spencer did hit on some interesting points, like the fact that you should observe the intricacies like racers running to the bathroom. Spencer also pointed out that “not all tracks are created equal.” I’m sure certain surfaces are tougher to race on than others. I know that certain hair-pin turns may evoke fear and excitement from the crowd as danger is literally around every corner. I also know how weather can impact road conditions. I did see Rush after all (not NASCAR but you know what I mean).
Still, I needed some more compelling arguments to sway me over to the “dark side.” Naturally I turned to bleacherreport.com correspondant Richard Deveau, whose 2009 article “10 Things You Must Do When Attending a NASCAR Race” would hopefully enlighten me. Point 10: “Shop ‘till you drop.” Really? Point 9: “It’s party time!” OK… But I could have a beer or two at a baseball game. This incentive is not unique. Let’s skip down a bit. Point 5: “Oh, the pretty girls.” C’mon Richard…You’re better than that.
To be fair, I am nitpicking. Richard made some good points. His best point was perhaps his number 1: “ Feel the rush!” Richard instructs fans to find the fastest spot on the track and wait for cars to come by. These are indeed powerful machines traveling at very fast speeds. I’m sure I too would “feel the rush.”
For those not already aware, this article is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. I obviously know nothing about NASCAR and don’t seriously mean to belittle it (well, maybe that’s not entirely true). Despite dips in attendance, major races tend to draw over 100,000 fans. To each his own I guess. The bottom line is that these drivers are professional athletes. Racing requires a tremendous amount of strategy. Try driving 200+ miles an hour along with 40-something other cars while simultaneously shifting gears, checking your mirrors and trying to pass people. Extend these nerves, this skill over a 4+ hour period. It’s tough. I see nothing but people driving around because I don’t understand the intricate facets of the sport and the culture it creates. But does that mean I ever will understand these complexities, the “beauty” of the game? No, probably not.