It has been officially three months since I arrived on the campus of American University, and to my surprise, I have not met one person out of the 6,000 plus students in the enrollment who like NASCAR. New York Jets fans, Phillies fans, but no Dale Jr. fans.
I, for one, am glad that I have been able to hang on to my love of the 800 horsepower, fire-spitting machines since I got hooked 13 years ago.
Since Sunday was the final race of the 2010 season, this is a perfect time to prepare for Daytona next February. Here are four simple things to keep in mind for novice NASCAR fans.
The Chase is not a good thing
In 2004, NASCAR CEO Brian France wanted to create a “playoff” like atmosphere for the drivers by taking whoever, after 26 of the 36 races, was in the top 10 in the point standings and giving those 10 drivers a shot at winning the championship by competing in the final 10 races. The problem with The Chase is that it does not award consistent drivers. If someone is on a hot streak at the midway point of the season and doesn’t make The Chase, then all of his momentum is lost.
Pick a favorite driver, then the rest is easy
For example, say you choose Kyle Busch as your favorite driver next year. His fans will probably see him win a few races and make some new rivals. Picking a favorite driver will give you some vested interest in the sport. If you have a favorite team, it is second nature to feel the highs and lows. In NASCAR there is also the element of teammates and rivals. Usually, the driver you select is part of a multi-car team, so teamwork is integral to the sport even though people think of it as solitary.
Respect Dale Earnhardt Jr.
You don’t have to like him, but do not say he is your least favorite driver or else Junior Nation will get you. By that, I mean if you sit behind a Dale Jr. fan during a race and boo him, chances are you will get involved in some form of confrontation. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is not untouchable, but he is a symbol of the sport. He grew up in Kannapolis, N.C., worked his way to the top and carries a prestigious name. Disrespecting someone like that is like hating Babe Ruth.
Try to go to a race next year, it is quite the experience
Going to a NASCAR race is like going to a state fair. There is a lot of fried food, always something to do, a lot of standing or walking around and you will meet and see very interesting people from all walks of life. It is one of the best ways to spend a Sunday afternoon. Having gone to multiple races, I have had my share of toothless, tattooed fans and proper gentlemen attending races.