A Misunderstood Sport

May 21, 2009
By
While surveying my classmates about my favorite sport, NASCAR, I found that not many were familiar with it. Some commented about it not being “worthy enough” to be classified as a sport. Most made comments about the fans and about the people who work within the sport. They stereotyped them as hillbillies or uneducated people. I feel that the people of NASCAR are one of the farthest things from uneducated. Immediately I recognized that they knew little or nothing about the sport, and I made it my goal to educate them about the sport I love.
First off, I think stock car racing or any racing for that matter, should defiantly be classified as a sport. One of my fellow students even called it “a bunch of guys driving around in circles for hours.” To someone unfamiliar to the sport, I can see how it might seem boring to watch, but through my years of watching and following it I find it thrilling, nerve racking and heart racing. Many fans, including myself, would never use the word boring when describing NASCAR. Just like followers of other sports, we get attached to our favorite drivers and teams and carefully follow their progress. NASCAR fans have to be loyal through thick and thin because every racetrack is different and not one driver is going to win every single race of the season. Many times when cars don’t finish the race because it was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and the crew or the driver couldn’t do anything to prevent it.

Racing is extremely tough on the drivers not only physically but emotionally and mentally. NASCAR racecars are nothing like cars we drive on roads and highways. Racecars are louder, smaller, hotter and harder to drive. Personally, I could imagine being stuck into a tiny space for 3-6 hours, every weekend, for 36 weeks. Sometimes drivers even race up to 2 or 3 events in one weekend. Inside a racecar the average temperature is around 120 degrees Fahrenheit, not including the long sleeve one piece pant suit, gloves, helmet, socks and shoes that are required for the drivers to wear. You might think that the suits drivers wear are just a flashy outfit that advertises for their sponsors. This suit is actually made from the same a fire-retardant material as the driver and crew’s shoes, socks, gloves and helmet linings. If there was to be an engine fire, which is very common throughout the race, these suits could protect drivers from these fires, some of which burn anywhere from 1,800 and 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit. During each and every turn, drivers experience 2 to 3 g’s, which is equal to the g’s felt by astronauts in a space shuttle lifting off. A “g” is the acceleration due to gravity. NASCAR drivers feel this force 600 to 2,400 times each race, depending on the racetrack size, length, shape, and banking. Every weekend drivers have to battle extreme heat, long hours of exhausting car driving, and claustrophobia.

Of course, any athlete would be nothing without their team. The drivers of the cars may be the ones on the TV, in the magazines and on cereal boxes but personally, I believe that the crew behind each team is the hero. A race team consists of more than a driver, crew chief and a few guys jumping over the wall to change the tires and put gas in the cars. Of course, cars don’t build, prepare or repair themselves. The unknown heroes are the men and women behind the scenes. These people who work so hard to give a great car to our favorite drivers start at the shop where the cars are a pile of sheet metal and random car parts. The fabricators and builders clock in numerous hours to make sure that the car not only is aerodynamic but also fits into the extremely severe and strict rules put out by NASCAR. The job of the painters is probably a little more noticeable to the fan’s eyes. They paint the cars color scheme with is easily recognizable to race fans everywhere, even without the sponsor decals. Obviously, the car has to get to the track somehow and this is where the driver of the haulers come in. Within every team there are engineers and crew members who work on getting the car exactly perfect for every race. Which leads us straight to that age old question of, “What exactly is the perfect set-up?” This depends on the driver and the track. With over 47,500 different variables to put into consideration, these crews have their work cut out for them. The crew chief is like a manager of the race team and sort of a communicator between the driver and the crew. Together the driver and the crew make critical decisions during the race. Next we have the spotter. The spotter usually stands on top of the suites or press boxes at the track and is a lookout for the driver, notifying him of upcoming crashes, spin-outs and the whereabouts of other drivers. Drivers are probably the most well known individuals on the race team, and their goal is to drive their car to the best of their ability and not disappoint all the hardworking people who worked on the car. Lastly, each team needs one last thing to complete them, fans. Fans are an important part of each team. They cheer them on through thick and thin and any sport would be nothing if they didn’t have us, their loyal followers.

From the green flag to the checker, through the crashes and spin outs, from local dirt tracks to steaming asphalt of the super-speedways, pit stops to aerodynamics, timing, speed, dedication, passion, love, teamwork and of course tradition. All these and many more are the reason why I love this sport. This is why I plan my weekends around these races and my favorite part of my week is when I hear the 4 most famous words in NASCAR, “Gentlemen start your engines.” This sport is, and will always be, my favorite.

Sources:

www.ask.com

Bonsor, Kevin and Nice, Karim. "How NASCAR Safety Works ." www.ask.com (2009) Web. 21 May 2009.

Weber, Bill. "Guys behind the scenes make the sport special." nascar.com 14 Feb 2007 Web. 21 May 2009. .

Leslie-Pelecky, Diandra. The Physics of NASCAR. New York: Dutton, 2008.





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DorkyDory said...
Apr. 23, 2010 at 9:09 pm
It's nice to know that I'm not the only adolecent out there anymore who loves NASCAR, evryone else seems to think that it shouldn't even be a real sport... Lovely article but concider shortening your paragraphs.
 
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