Monday, July 9, 2012

DJ's Soapbox: NASCAR

Carl Edwards heads for the fence at Talladega
Maybe I'm too set in my ways and the sports I enjoy. I'm quick to defend the sports I love and to tell you that your sport sucks. Although I am guilty of being overly interested in sports that fall outside of America's Big 3, I do also keep up with the NFL, MLB, and NBA (although it will soon be the National Handball Association, because traveling is becoming suspiciously legal). I am a huge hockey fan, and I am also a NASCAR fan. I take a lot of heat from friends and others for being a NASCAR fan, which brings me to my first installment of DJ's Soapbox.

I understand that the basic premise of NASCAR is 43 cars going in a circle (mind you, there are ZERO circular tracks currently on the circuit). This is the most commonly stated reason that I'm given for NASCAR being a waste of time. What people fail to realize is the incredible talent that these drivers and teams have. These cars push over 700 horsepower and can reach speeds over 210 mph. Basically, if your car was capable of such power, you'd end up in your regret-filled back seat from the G forces pushing you back, but more likely plowed into the wall mere feet from where your journey began.

These engines are a piece of engineering beauty and are meticulously fine tuned over the course of the week leading up to each race. Drivers go through practice sessions during the week so the teams can make appropriate adjustments for the car to reach its maximum performance. This includes endless calculations for crew chiefs, long nights in the garage for the mechanics, and long days for the drivers. For the cars to be pushed to their max for hours on end, everything must be adjusted perfectly and tested repeatedly to pave the way to Victory Lane.

In the course of a race these cars travel hundreds of miles at unbelievable speeds, all while driving inches from a wall along with 42 other brave participants, who are driving inches away from one another. The drivers have to hit their marks perfectly each and every lap to maintain lap times and to really find the best grove on the track. The smallest mistake can send a driver to the back of the pack, into the wall, into another car, or flipping down the backstretch. NASCAR is a sport of inches as some races come down to the thousandth of a second (see video).

Teams rarely have the opportunity to pit more than 3-5 times during a race. This means that they must change tires, make adjustments, and fuel the car with ultimate precision as quickly as possible when the car is in the stall. This is also where strategy becomes apparent in NASCAR. Teams will often change only two tires to have a quicker stop in an attempt to gain track position. Also, teams will take gambles on fuel, trying to stretch the distance they can get on the final run. Sometimes it pays off, other times they will run out of gas and lose all track position they had gained.

NASCAR is set apart in my mind by the race experience for the fans. I had never been to a race until this year. I've been to Talladega as well as Kentucky Speedway so far this season. NASCAR events are much like NFL football games while you are outside the grandstands. There are grills, beverages, lawn chairs, and canopies scattered all across the parking area. The most unique element of NASCAR is the fact that there are several different fan bases, each of which is decked out in their driver's gear. Instead of just two groups who can't stand one another, there are many prominent groups throughout the stands. Its an enjoyable experience that I truly believe any sports fan would enjoy.

Next time you hear someone talk about NASCAR, just for your own intelligence's sake, realize there is a LOT more going on than cars turning left. It's a classic "I don't understand that" cover-up, such as saying nothing ever happens in baseball. It's a sport that takes a deeper understanding than simply what is happening on the surface. MKYSports will be hitting the road again for another road trip in October to Talladega Superspeedway, but this time we'll be dragging some NASCAR skeptics along.


  1. I would suggest Charlotte or Atlanta to see some really good racing.

    Dont waste your time with Talladega, Brickyard, or Daytona. Those are the tracks where the skeptics get the "driving in circles" ideas. BORING.

  2. Honestly never been to Bristol and have no desire to go. Bristol is for folks who get their kicks at the local demolition derby. For the most part its not racing. I rank it with Talladega and Daytona - Survival of the Luckiest.

    Dont get me wrong, rubbin' is racing but in most cases the driver and team have no control of their finish. The field needs to be dropped to 30 or so for that race to make it competitive.

    Martinsville and Richmond are some tracks that I would like to go see live. Also wish I had gotten to see a Darlington race.

    Would also like to see F1 racing live once and see the Indy series at Milwaukee.