Monday, July 25, 2005

NASCAR - post

Yea.. So I'm back and let me tell you.. missing the final 2 days of the Tour was extremely hard to do and missing them for NASCAR was probably the dumbest thing I've ever done.

What a colossal waste of time.

NASCAR has got to be the saddest reflection of the average American that exists. Well, that's not true, I'm sure there are others that are worse, but for the purposes of this post, NASCAR takes the cake.

How is this the most popular spectator sport in America? I’m not even sure it should be considered a sport since I’m not even sure it is a race. Automobile racing is a race, sure, but this is far from a race in my mind.

First of all, I spoke to this guy there who was excited to tell me that they recently changed the rules of the race so they could eliminate the need for the drivers to shift! From the official program : "Gone are the days when teams had to out-think one another on transmission and rear-end gear ratios to achieve maximum horsepower...In other words mash the gas, feather the brakes and may the best man win".. further in the same article, a quote by a driver: "We actually have a chance to enjoy the race a little because we won’t have to do all that shifting"

I mean, as if it was hard enough to go around an oval track (in Pocono it’s a triangle, but still just 3 left turns), now they only have to step on the pedal and go. These drivers are so worshipped by the fans as being superior drivers and athletes.. give me a break.

Now I’m being unfair here. I have to say that this should be a competition of sorts but not of the drivers (who are simply there to put a pretty face on the mindless fans). The completion should be more focused on the pit-crews. We had infield passes and pit access with our tickets. I also rented a scanner so I could hear the pit crews crating with the drivers so I had awesome access to the part of the "race" that actually makes a difference.

It was in the pits where the range of preparation really showed. Some crews were simply amazing and prepared. Some crews were a disaster. It was actually fairly humorous the day before in a minor league race when I heard on the scanner, during the race, a driver arguing with his pit chief about how many tires they brought to the race. It went on literally for 10 minutes: "But bubby, we done used those tires already!", "just tell me yes or no? How many sets did we bring? 4?", "we had the set you are runnin on now..." And on and on.. Yesterday at the NASCAR event (the big leagues) one car ran out of gas heading to pit row.. the advice to the driver from his chief? "don't hit the brakes bobby, just roll it in here..."

On the other hand, the pits of the winning teams were poetry in motion. I was blown away watching them all function as a team. Like a great offense running a play in the Super Bowl, everyone had a job to do and they executed it perfectly in synch.. glorious.
And is has to be this way since the cars are all identical in mechanics. Sure you can set them up differently but all the parts are the same. The advantage comes from having a great mechanic and pit crew.

Now, where there apparently is no limit is in how much money you can spend on the crew. Some crews barely had a set of tires in their pits. They had no uniforms, nothing. Other crews had mini auto-shops with computers and radios and video feedback, tires, air conditioners, etc. These were the winning crews. Essentially the race is broken into two groups, the big money crews and the low budget crews. Of the big money crews, the "race" comes down to luck (assuming they are all equally motivated to win that day). This is a sport?

Ok, I can argue more about this, but I’m not sure it’s worth it. I really want to make a commentary on the phenomenon itself. I mean, there were a literal fuck-load of people there.. I would guess well over 100k in the stands and probably 4-5000 RV’s loaded in the infield. It was incredible. They were all camped out there from Friday until Sunday. Everyone had a beer in their hand at all times. It was 72 hours of drinking and wandering around aimlessly. And that, I believe is why NASCAR is so popular. It’s a cult, it’s a community, it’s a way of life for some people. They get in their RV, pile in 8-10 cases of beer and go camping at the track with others. What to talk about? Well, hardly politics or anything of consequence, lets all just talk about something simple, like what number driver we support.

I made the mistake of wearing a colored shirt on Saturday. Everywhere I went, people assumed I was a Tony Stewart fan (who apparently is represented by the color Orange). As I looked around, I didn’t see one person that wasn’t affiliated with some driver in some way. It was kind of like gang colors. On race day, I was conspicuous in my white shirt and jeans.

NASCAR was an experience that I really didn’t need to have. I had assumed the race would be boring, I had assumed that the fans would be mindless flag waving Americans, I had assumed that the only fun I would have would be listening to the pit crews on the radios, I had assumed that I would be assured that America is falling into a Soma-like sleep. I was right on all counts..

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