Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Why I love Nascar

Ok, so BinHex (sorry I don't know how to link to individual comments) wants to know from a fan why Nascar is so appealing, well here goes. First, you have to love fast cars. I love fast cars. When I was but a wee-child I wanted a fast car, a 69 sport-fury to be precise. As I aged, I wanted a 64 'stang but would settle for a vintage 'Vette. At 16 I wanted a mercury zephyr with two holly 4-barrells and racing stripes. As I aged still more, it was bikes, vintage Victory or Triumphs, but I digress. I love fast cars. Naturally, I would love to see fast cars in action. So, I started to visit dirt-tracks with my pops--Midget cars and dune buggy's. We'd sit as close as we could without getting splattered with mud, but we would still leave the place so dirty you could cut the mud off. Bonding with daddy helped spawn my love of racing; then it was bonding with my now-better-half at World of Outlaws races. Once your bitten by the fast-car bug, you have to see a race, not just watch it on tv. but be there to hear the roar of the crowd and the whiz of the engines as the drivers speed past your seat at 180 plus mph and while you try to pick out your driver from the blur that has shot across your sight range. There is a thrill in seeing your favorite driver weave in and out of traffic and speed to the front of the pack to cross the finish line first, or in some cases after first . . . but I digress. The race is more than just fast-cars going in circles. It is about a common-love from common folk. This is why you have to attend a race. I will give you an example: Upon attending a race in the Poconos, after which my driver had fared well but not won, I reluctantly walked with my family and friends back to the truck (see you visit these tracks with family and friends, it is the experience). I passed a group of people sitting on lawn chairs outside their motor home tending to no-less than five charcoal grills. They were cooking shrimp, hot dogs, burgers, sausage, and steaks. They had bowls of chips and coolers of beverages, and as passersby walked past their set-up, they offered a cool drink or a hot meal as friends for no reason other than their good nature. Folks, these are good people, and this story isn't just an anomaly, it is simply normal. So there is more to Nascar than the cars, you have to look at the people. Included in that group are the drivers, the most fan-friendly sports-stars today. They take time out of every race weekend to talk to fans, sign autographs, take pictures. They come to the race with their families in tow, and camp out in trailers like us commoners. They thank the people that make their dreams reality, their sponsors, their owners, their fans. There is a genuine lack of cockiness about them. There are no Randy Moss's or Terrell Owens' in the bunch. Contrast that, however, with their on-track personas. On the track, they are warriors. They have one, make that two, goals in mind. Win points, win the race. With that in mind, like rabid dogs, they defend their positions, and like skillful politicians, they play every advantage. Nascar is more than cars going around in circles. One has to remember that the cars are going in excess of 180 mph. That requires an extremely athletic individual to hold onto the wheel. In races where the draft plays a role, the driver must be able to place his car just under the car in front of him in order to use the draft to gain more speed. In races where it is difficult to pass, the driver must attempt to cause the car in front of him to "get loose" meaning he has to position himself so close to the car in front of him that he steals the air, causing that car to wobble and allowing him to pass. In other situations, a simple bump can startle a driver or slow him enough to get by. The driver has to be able to see a hole where their isn't one, and make a dive for that hole to get the win. This all takes skills beyond my comprehension. This of couse says nothing about the skills of the pit crew. How they can service, gas, and change tires on a car in 14 seconds is remarkable. I was an honorary pit crew member at a race several years ago, where I saw, up close the work each guy puts into a pit stop. They are constantly moving, preparing for the next stop, and during the stop every guy has his place, and job. If they work together well, their performance is smooth like butter, but if one guy falters, the whole team misses a step. It is a precise dance that lasts mere seconds, but could mean the win in a race. The race isn't all on the ground either. Precise calculations are made throughout the race to determine if fuel mileage will beat the driver. Fingers are crossed that the guys in the shop did their jobs, to ensure a speedy car and a ramped up engine. Ingenuity is key, the builder has to pull more power from an engine without varying from the regulated specifications, this takes skill, knowledge, ingenuity and luck. Some have it, some don't. Spotters perch on high ground so they can guide their man to the start-finish line with no, or minimal damages. Then there is the thrill, there is no other sport like it. It isn't for everyone, but it is for me. Oh yeah, did I mention the beer?

posted at the Beltway Traffic Jam

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