In The Shop: I Don't "Get" NASCAR
Feb 20, 2011
Like most farmers and virtually all mechanics, I enjoy racing. I used to race motorcycles, would enjoy drag racing if there was a track within reasonable driving distance, and am fascinated by just about anything that involves open headers and excessive horsepower.
Today I will follow my annual tradition and watch the Daytona 500. I will watch the pre-race show and first 50 laps, then fall asleep until the last 50 laps and the finish. For the rest of the NASCAR schedule I'll pay scant attention. I might catch a race on a rainy Sunday afternoon when it's too wet to fish, bicycle or work outside. But for the rest of the year I'll get my weekly racing fix at local dirt tracks, watching friends and heroes battle it out.
I truly enjoy local-style dirt track racing. I like being able to buy a pit pass and watch close-up as drivers and mechanics wrestle to make their cars into winners. I like standing so close the methanol racing fuel fumes make my eyes water. I'm addicted to the sound of open headers. My dream vacation would be to take off across the midwest and south and attend as many IMCA, UMP, WISSOTA, and USMTS races as I could in a month's time.
For as much as I enjoy oval track racing, I have minimal interest in attending a NASCAR Cup race. The races are too long. I can't get into the pits. And the driver's don't live in my world. I have contacts and friends deeply involved in NASCAR Cup racing, and the days of Dale Earnhardt and common men rising through the ranks to dominate the sport through sheer skill and determination are gone. The current crop of NASCAR drivers are excellent drivers, the best in the world, but there are hundreds of other drivers with equal skills who aren't driving a Cup car because they don't have the millions---and I mean millions--of dollars it now takes to literally buy a ride in a Cup car.
I've been told by more than one NASCAR insider that for a young driver to earn a "development" ride with a NASCAR Cup team, somebody has to be able to write a check for at least $1.5 million. There are still old dogs in NASCAR, guys like Kenny Schrader, who fought their way to the top from hard-scrabble beginnings. Clint Bowyer was working in a Kansas scrap yard and racing dirt tracks in Missouri and Kansas only 10 years ago. But that type of climb to fame is a thing of the past.
So this afternoon I'll watch the race, catch a nap, cheer for the victor, and bide my time till the first "Frostbuster" races in early April at my local dirt track. I'll put on my coveralls to ward off the chill of an early spring night and wander through the pits sucking up methanol fumes and risking tinnitis from open headers. I'll gorge on cheap hot dogs flavored by dust and chunks of mud that blow off the tracks as the cars roar past. I'll be grinning from ear to ear.
This blog doesn't have much to do with farming, turning wrenches or fixing farm equipment, but, hey...everybody occasionally needs a break from their job!