4 Things I Was Surprised By at My First NASCAR Race
I went to my first NASCAR event on Friday to see El Pasoan Jamie Dick race in the Nationwide O’Reilly Auto Parts Monroe Shocks and Struts Funyon 300. It was something close to that anyway. I had passes to something called “the pit” which, I was relieved to discover, was not an actual pit. Here are some of the interesting things I learned from my first NASCAR outing.
1.) They’re really chill about some things
Like, for instance, you know how you’re not allowed to smoke at a gas station because gas explodes? You’d think they wouldn’t let you smoke anywhere near the infield at a NASCAR race. You would be wrong. People were smoking everywhere I looked. I even saw a crew member carrying one of those huge tanks of gas over his shoulder with a Marlborough hanging out of his mouth like James Dean. It was almost like being gasploded to death only happens in places way less cool than a NASCAR race.
Also, the crews and even the racers are just hanging around eating BBQ at their trailers right up until the introductions are about to start. I thought the drivers would be in a completely silent room either meditating or amending their last will and testaments.
2.) It’s not just white people.
The fans, I mean. The drivers absolutely were all white people. But the fans and even some of the crew were of all races and colors. But mostly white.
3.) There’s more diversity among the drivers than you’d expect.
Not racial diversity, of course (see entry #2). But age for instance. Most of the drivers seemed to be in their twenties. But a few of the more established and favored drivers like Earnhardt Jr., Kenseth and Harvick looked like they were pushing 40. Some of the other guys are closer to 60 than 40. Morgan Shepherd is goddamn 72 and can still see over the wheel and hasn’t once driven with his seatbelt hanging out the door, kicking up sparks on the asphalt.
Also, some are fat. I always thought race car drivers were of only two body types: skinny, like Dale Earnhardt or skinny and short like Jeff Gordon. But, before the races start, they have all the drivers walk up on a stage and wave. 90% were fit or average. The other 10% made me feel sorry for the guy in his crew working the jack. Do a Google Image search for Jeff Green or Robert Richardson and tell me they don’t look like it would take 20 or 30 of the 750 horsepower just for the extra bulk.
4.) Unexpected Sponsors
A racing team is expensive. The cars are super-expensive. The tires are expensive and they have to be changed numerous times every race. Sure, Penzoil or Mobil can afford to be a sponsor, plus it ties in with their product. But why would the perfume story Sephora think sponsoring a car would be the right move to reach their audience? Or the movie The Hobbit. This is absolutely true. One of the cars that I saw was the number 20 GameStop/Lego/The Hobbit Toyota driven by Matt Kenseth. Are there legions of D&D-playing Rednecks out there that I’m unaware of?
Glad Hefty Bags has their own car and, as it was explained to me, the driver married the Glad CEO’s daughter and that’s how that happened.
Also, Dollar General sponsors a car. They sell things that cost a dollar. Dollar General sponsors Nascar to the tune of $35 million per year. Let me put that into perspective for you. To raise the 35 million to sponsor NASCAR, Dollar General would have to sell 35 million things from their stores.
Just sit and let that sink in for a little bit.