I’ve been watching racing since I was 12/13 years old. I’ve been to Bristol and Richmond. EW and I hold season tickets to the Richmond races. I’d love to go to Darlington and Charlotte. And of course I’d love to go to Daytona. My family is from Tennessee and I had an uncle who worked for Goodyear. Because of him, I was able to get into the track before race day and see the place. My guy at the time was Darrell Waltrip. He was a Tennessee boy and I was up for that. On one of those Bristol visits, my uncle took me to the in field. Standing 15 feet away from us was DW. He was talking to a bunch of reporters, but he caught sight of my uncle and waved. Then he yelled, “You need something?” My uncle said, I just wanted one of your biggest fans to see you. DW waved his hands at the reporters as if he was dismissing them from his royal court and said “Heck I can talk to these guys anytime.” and walked away to meet me. Now that doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re 12 years old; that was a big deal. I’m sure he doesn’t remember doing it. But I sure remember it.
A few years later, I picked up on a new guy, Davey Allison. I’m not sure why he caught my attention. He was young, I was young and I liked the look of the car he drove. I can’t remember any specific one thing about him that I liked. I just liked him. So I had 2 guys to route for. Then Davey was killed. That crash in Daytona did to me what Dale Sr.s crash recently did to many race fans. I couldn’t watch any racing after Davey died.
It wasn’t until Joe Gibbs got into racing that I moderately started watching again. I was raised outside of DC, and the Redskins were the family team. So of course we huge fans of JoeGibbs. When Joe got into racing, I’d watch for all his guys to win. It wasn’t back to that avid weekend watching. Just occasionally when there was nothing else to do or it was raining outside.
Then one night in September 1999, I was watching the race at Richmond. And this kid won his very first cup race. He was so excited it just put a lump in my throat. Who was this guy? He drives for Joe? Ok even better. During his interview, this kid was so arrogant and cocky he reminded me of a young DW. Who was this guy?!
Turns out he was Tony Stewart and I’ve been Tony fan ever since. I love his attitude, his confidence and his brutal honesty. I love that kid! And I’m an avid Nascar fan once again.
When EW and I got together, we shared this passion for racing. His guy is DaleJr. I like Jr. in his own right, but that he’s EWs guy makes it easier for me to like him too. Which is funny; cause I never liked Dale Sr.
A lot of people don’t understand this fascination we fans have with Nascar racing. They assume it’s just a southern thang. But it isn’t. At the Richmond race this past weekend, we were surrounded by guys who drove down from various parts of NewYork to watch their guy race. Their interests ranged from Robby Gordon to Dale Jr. So it’s not just a southern thang.
People at my office have their share of comments. All they do is turn left. Well, that’s not exactly true. Ever see one of the guys get knocked from behind and spin the car down into the grass? Tony and many of the other dirt track racers are fabulous for getting out of those situations unscathed. And it takes a lot more than turning left to stop that kind of spin and handle the car. And evidently these people have never seen the road course races.
Then there’s those people who say they’re not athletes. Guess they missed the CNN special on Nascar Drivers and their health. Sanjay Gupta tracked the heart rate of the average racers. As soon as the engines start their heart rate races and is the equivalent of a marathon runner. Just about all the guys are fit and in shape. Even Tony got over his couple years of bulge and is back in shape this year; looking better than ever. Not to mention the strength it takes to keep that car turning left on a track with a 14 degree of banking or more. The g-forces alone are incredible. And these guys play hurt just like athletes in any other sport. The only real difference is when you’re playing for the NFL, you can have a shot of Demerol in your knee. In Nascar you’re allowed nothing! That hit home last year when Tony injured his shoulder in a Busch race and fought to start the laps for the cup race the next day. Jr. has done the same thing after a crash he suffered left him with sever burns on his leg and foot. I’d like to see some of these nay-sayers do that driving to work in i95 traffic.
And finally there’s the people who say it’s boring. The only reason people watch racing is to see the crashes. Those cars are so hyped up they could drive themselves. These are the people who have no clue what racing is about. They don’t understand ‘bump and run’, they don’t get drafting, they have no clue what it means to find a line, go into a turn low or making their car wide. They don’t understand the thrill of going 3 wide around a turn at Richmond, or 4 wide at Talladaga. They don’t watch the moves, the maneuvers, or getting a run on the guy in front of your favorite driver. And they don’t understand the total elation at seeing your guy cross that checkered flag first.
Yes, there are times when you want your guy to put that other driver you don’t like into the wall. That’s racing. But at no time would any real fan want to see that other driver get hurt. To us, Jimmy Johnson, Kyle Bush and Jeff Gordon are all members of what we call ‘The Darkside’. We don’t like them. But whileI’d like to see Tony give that #48 a little push and spin him out of the race this weekend at Darlington, I don’t want see an ambulance pull onto the track and take Jimmy to the local hospital instead of the in field care center.
Racing is a dangerous sport. People get hurt, people get killed. But we’re a family. The guys in the cars, the guys in the pits, the crew chiefs, the owners, the guys and gals back at the garage and the fans. We’re all one big family and though we may not like everyone in our family; it’s ok for us to diss that other guy; but don’t you do it!
So on to this weeks big news! Jr. leaving DEI; we’re hoping one of the speculations about him going to Gibbs Racing is true. Can you imagine?! My two guys driving for the same team! And Tony and Jr. are also really good friends. How kewl would that be?!