Monday, February 25, 2013

Am I Missing Something About NASCAR?

After reading about how 28 people were injured as a result of a car wreck at Saturday's Nationwide Series in Daytona, I was just thinking about NASCAR and how people either love it or hate it. I also thought of the film The Final Destination. Let's roll.

Oh, NASCAR. How I've avoided writing about you for so long. I guess that ends today.

Since Monday has rolled around, most major news outlets have been showing countless replays of the horrific crash that occurred Saturday afternoon in Daytona on their evening news reports. While this event wasn't exactly the "main event," so to speak, it has practically overshadowed Sunday's Daytona 500, in which Jimmie Johnson took the checkered flag and Danica Patrick took eighth.

The main question that I have had swirling in my head for the longest time is simply this: What makes NASCAR so popular? Believe it or not, there have been more instances of freak injuries occurring at these events than any other sporting event when it involves fans. Why is that? Considering that there are spectators that are up-close and personal while at these events--albeit some aren't just sitting there, they are at concessions stands and such--there's more risk for injury. There are people that will argue that there are guard rails and fences to block any debris from flying into the stands, but here's my counter-argument: What happened on Saturday? Debris flew over and through those fences and injured over two dozen people. Awesome, right? When spectators go to an event like that, they have to throw caution into the wind because anything can happen at any time.

Regardless of what happened on Saturday afternoon, Sunday's main event went off without a hitch, and numerous spectators cheered on their favorite racer.

With that said, I've also thought this: Have I missed something?

I understand that the idea of racing has been a long-standing sport of sorts. From simple foot-races to chariot races to those kinds of drag races you see in film, it's been a kind of "sport" that might not be seen as a "sport" to the people that turn a blind eye toward it. When it comes to races that don't require full-human effort and participation, it doesn't exactly seem like it would be one. This is when I start throwing physics and biology in your face. When it comes to something like driving a car at nearly 200 MPH and making quick turns and gear shifts, you have to be able to fight gravity and do a lot of resistance and weight training to prepare for it. C'mon people, we think it's a chore to drive a corkscrew doing 35 MPH--they would have to do something equivalent to that at nearly 200. These racers are absolutely jacked in the muscle department. It's almost as if the driver inside of the vehicle is controlling an animal--like four horses. Do you see where I'm going with this now? 

It's a sport more of intellect and indirect warfare than anything else. When it comes to cutting a driver off and risking your own neck for that to work, you're considered a maniac in my mind and a team player to your crew. It takes a lot of guts and smarts to pull off an impressive driving performance while going at that velocity. Plus, you have your teammates (the pit crew, basically) giving you the heads-up advice you need along the way. So what if you've got a bubble in the tire? They've got you covered. Boom. Teamwork. There's a madness and a method to each pit crew's routine. The faster they work, the faster they can get their teammate back on the track. There's also that "common courtesy" piece where if there's a problem on the track, everyone is forced to take a breather and use caution while things get fixed up. Then stuff gets real again on the track.

Maybe it's been a sport after all of this time. When it comes to someone like me who is more of a traditional sport-lover who thought that NASCAR was weird, its sport-status makes a little more sense to me now. Does that mean it will win me over now? Not necessarily. To each his own. NASCAR fans see this kind of stuff as a religion and raise their kids in it. Milk is a delicacy, and the modern-day chariot race is a marathon full of literal twists and turns and crashes and burns. While it might not be my cup of tea, I respect the people who take all of that in and make the most of their experiences while watching the race live or on television. I'm pretty sure it takes a lot for one person to truly appreciate the concept of NASCAR and even indy-car racing. There's a massive adrenaline rush that flows when there's high-speed action involved in a sport, and sometimes that's what appeals most to the fans. That rush is what makes this unorthodox sport exciting. It might not be a traditional sport, but it has evolved from something so incredibly simple, and it still delivers the same kind of feel and message today.

Is there anything else I missed about this sport?


No comments: