I was listening to my local sports talk radio station yesterday, and late afternoons the station runs a popular talk show out of Charlotte, North Carolina. Since the show does originate in Charlotte, the host does pay some lip service to NASCAR, but 99 per cent of the time, the show is devoted to stick and ball sports.
The other day, however, the host went on a rant about Danica Patrick’s 6th place finish in Saturday’s ARCA race, and basically said that ARCA is a nothing series, more or less a sandlot league. The impression that he was trying to make was that even racing in the ARCA series proves nothing, because ANYBODY can race in ARCA.
My friends, that’s just not true. I understand the host’s frustration over the whole Danica phenomenon, because quite frankly, it’s being a little overdone in the media. But to act like ARCA is just some little dinky racing series is just idiotic, and quite frankly, this host ought to know better. Danica Patrick is not the first woman to race in NASCAR, not by a long shot. She’s obviously not the first open wheel driver to cross the bridge to race stock cars.
ARCA is not the most elite series in stock car racing. The most elite series is obviously the Sprint Cup. But nobody just soups up the old Chevy in the backyard and goes ARCA racing. Virtually all of the drivers in ARCA have raced their way up the ladder, beginning at their local bull rings, graduating on to regional series, and beyond. These folks are in ARCA because they’re all winning race car drivers at other levels. Danica Patrick did not become a Indy Racing League driver because she had a pretty face. She grew up racing, and was good enough to eventually reach the big leagues in open wheel racing.
The arrogance that seems to pervade the mainstream sports media where stock car racing is concerned is pathetic. Many prominent radio personalities simply scoff at the very idea that stock car racing is even a sport. “Anyone can drive a car around in circles,” they say. “Even my grandmother can do that. It’s not a sport.”
I’ve got a newsflash for those sports talk show hosts who just don’t get it. Not only is stock car racing a sport, it’s even more than that. Racing is the most brutal sport of all, because people actually die driving race cars. When is the last time you heard about a professional golfer suffering a broken neck on the 13th green at Augusta National? Turn 4 at Daytona International Speedway has claimed the lives of more great professional athletes than pretty much any other sporting venue in the country.
It’s much like the old saying: “Don’t criticize what you don’t understand.” I don’t understand all the nuances of the NFL, but I still like to watch it. Heck, I even watch curling, even though I don’t really get it.
Many racing haters say that stock car racing is just some stupid, redneck, hillbilly sport. That’s simply not true anymore. Judging by the readers of just this site, I have way more hits from California and New York than I have from North Carolina. Sports personalities, especially popular ones in Charlotte, North Carolina ought to know better. They do know better, but spouting ignorance such as what I heard the other day is more than pathetic.
It’s actually embarrassing.