Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Joy of NASCAR

I watch the TV shows on SPEED TV and other networks, and see the fans in the background while the talking heads, namely John Roberts, Kenny Wallace, and Jimmy Spencer talk about the racing that is to take place this weekend.  If you look closely, in the background, you can see kids.

Kids will be wearing shirts and hats featuring their favorite driver's picture or number.  Maybe it's not even their favorite driver, because it could be their parent's favorite driver.  It's hard to say.

On race day, during the race itself, the camera often pans into the crowd and you see kids there.  You see grandparents.  You see people who look just like you and me, in other words, young and good looking.  You see people of every color, of every ethnic group, of every religion, of literally every background you could think of.

Sports often bring families together, for many different reasons.  NASCAR is one sport that can be a common point for families that span many generations.  Take Bristol for instance.  Some fans there inherited their seats from their grandparents.

Grandpa might have been a Petty fan.  Not Richard, but Lee.  Yeah, that far back.  Lee won championships and was one of the first legitimate stars of NASCAR before anybody had ever really ever heard of Richard.  Ned Jarrett came along and won.  Pearson, Yarborough, Allison, and a guy named Earnhardt came along.  Don't forget about guys like Waltrip, Bodine, Irvin, and a host of others.  We've been blessed as NASCAR fans.

Why have we been blessed?  We've had some of the best, and most entertaining people in the world become our heroes in a sport that literally can be either win or lose, but more importantly, life of death.  Yes, people do die doing this for a living.  A lot of good people have died doing this for a living.  A lot of good people have lived to tell about after it was all over, thank God.

I see kids on race day, eyes wide, fingers in their ears as 43 impossibly loud race cars rumble by on the pace laps.  When the green flag drops, fingers won't do it for 500 miles, much less 400.  (Parents, ear protection is important.)  They're watching cars go so fast that it seems impossible that they can possible stay on the track.  These cars are often reaching speeds of 200 miles per hour and even more, and they're racing only inches apart from each other.  That's pretty exciting for any kid to watch.  Heck, it gets my heart racing, but I've only been watching this sport for 35 years.

When the green flag drops, my heart almost stops for just a second or two.  As the cars come up to speed, I'm watching, seeing who got a good start, who didn't, who's going into turn 1 with the advantage.  No matter how long I've watched this, I get goosebumps when those cars rev it up and go for it.  They are 43 warriors with only one goal, and that is to be the first car to take the checkered flag. 

For me, racing is an ultimate high, the ultimate joy, the highlight of my week.  Even in the off season, it's fun to see who goes where, who signed with whom, and what paint scheme changes will be coming next year.  Racing is not for everyone, but for those who become enchanted by it, racing is nothing but pure joy.

NASCAR is freedom.  NASCAR is doing the seemingly impossible.  NASCAR is, above all, fun.

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