While most of my peers were soaking up the
a tropical paradise, I partook in a little Spring Break culture. Taking
in two NASCAR races over the weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, it
opened my eyes to a way of life you can't possibly fathom from your
27-inch screen TV.
The real beauty of the sport is the underbelly that is rarely revealed.
It's not 43 cars zipping around a 1.54 mile track for 3 hours at 200
miles per hour on Sunday. It's the fans and the carnival atmosphere
that presides over the venue for an entire weekend.
It's not watching the competition of the race. It's the experience.
Just like at an ECU football game, it's not just the wins and losses
which make it fun. Lately, especially, the majority of the fun comes
from the tailgating and socializing with friends. The actual game is
just the common place for all to meet. It's the same in NASCAR. The
race just gives the meeting ground for the fans to live the Southern
It's a shame that NASCAR is expanding as much as it is. While North
Carolina still is the NASCAR capitol, races are routinely being taken
away from the South. Rockingham and Darlington both lost races this
year because bigger tracks are being built such as California. It's
understandable, but how many people in California are going to have the
true NASCAR experience like in these Southern states?
What makes NASCAR fun are the differences from the other major sports.
There is no Event One staff probing your coolers for sharp objects.
Beer is plentiful and preferred. There is a prayer before each race.
It's the blue collar attitude that you just don't see at the political
correctness of professional sports.
Even so, on Saturday night, after listening to a John Michael
Montgomery concert with what ear drums I had left, our party of four
walked around a camping area outside turn four. Woodstock 1969, or at
least the Southern version. There were barrels full of fire, pick-ups
aplenty, flags on every gravel street corner and tents for miles. The
less fortunate ones roughed it as only NASCAR fans can do. They just
slept in the back of their trucks or vans.
NASCAR fans just don't care. Or is it how much they really do care?
It's both, but in different ways. It's devotion. It's the almost
undying loyalty to the sponsors, drivers, and the Southern culture that
defined the sport for umpteen years.
They put the sport above themselves, which most professional fans
simply can't say. In this world of coaches getting hired and fired and
free-agency letting players switch teams at the drop of a hat, NASCAR
fans still have faith if their driver or team is not doing well.
Kyle Petty hasn't won a race since his dad gave him the Petty
Enterprises reign. It doesn't matter to these NASCAR fans. There is
still a large contingent of Petty paraphernalia in this here tailgating
field. Sorry, it's rubbing off. Point is that Kyle Petty is the
Vanderbilt of the SEC and hasn't had success in a decade. These fans
still love him.
Just imagine if Ricky Stokes goes 5-25 next season in a revamped
Conference USA. Which side of the picket fence would you be on? Would
you still give your money to ECU? I'm not calling ECU fans fickle by
any means, but it makes you wonder what would happen if we took a new
approach. I know it's different, but what if everyone was as devoted to
ECU as these people are to their drivers and teams?
You know what would happen. I do. We would Git-R-Dun.