The Greatness of NASCAR is its people

 by Tim Barrett
February 3, 2001

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You can name good and bad things about any sport and yes, in the end it's all pretty much subjective. However, I believe there are certain qualities about NASCAR that sets it apart from most other sports. I consider Winston Cup to be the pinnacle of NASCAR racing and the main focus of my subject here, though much of what I have to say can fit other racing series as well.

I have many great memories of other sports, football and baseball being foremost among them. I even liked tennis until John McEnroe came along and ruined that for me. Who could forget the accomplishments of Babe Ruth, Joe Namath, Ty Cobb and Roger Staubach to name a few? These guys were sports personalities whose accomplishments are legendary; there are not many of those type guys around today. And there aren't many of the types of teams they played on either. With the advent of million dollar salaries, free agency and the idea most players seem to have today that the world revolves around and not the teams as a whole - you have the beginnings of chaos. Then you have to consider the drug use, wife abuse and battering, drunken driving, pandering and soliciting of prostitutes, assaults on coaches and even murder.

"The greatness of NASCAR is in its people, the drivers, teams and fans". (photo by Doug Belliveau)

Some teams today have more felons for players than you can shake a stick at (and don't try it if you want to live!). It's no wonder when some teenaged high school football players in Cobb County Georgia are arrested for auto theft, trenching yards, smashing mailboxes and driving under the influence (and drinking underage), their parents defend their actions and fight to keep them on the football team. The school principal also fought to keep them on, ("we need him for the playoffs") but relinquished under public outcry.

It seems you can get away with just about anything if you can kick, run, throw, or dunk a ball these days. At this point you're probably starting to think "Hey! I thought this was an article about Racin'!"

Well it is about racing and NASCAR in particular; mostly because it's the only kind of racing I follow, if you don't count the occasional tractor pull or monster truck race! But I wanted to draw a distinct contrast between the sport of NASCAR racing today and most other sports, including football and basketball, and to some extent baseball. Maybe I'm wrong but I just don't remember the last time a NASCAR driver was arrested for beating his wife, driving under the influence, or strangling his owner! Now if you happen to know that Billy Bob Throckmorton the shock man for the Goodbread.com racing team was arrested last Friday night for drunken walking and attempting to crawl, that ain't what I'm talkin' 'bout!

I'm not trying to say NASCAR is perfect or any of its personnel are either, but I know it's a sport I can watch with family and friends and small children and not feel ashamed because of all the felons on the field. "Daddy, isn't he that guy that_____________?" (fill in with the crime of your choice)

Not to say NASCAR doesn't have it's faults; hey we all like to complain about the 'whiners' and the 'cheaters' and what new rule will they come up with for this week's race. But NASCAR racing is a sport I can be proud to be involved in and a fan of. Most of the drivers and team members, while mortal enemies on the track on race day, are close friends and fans of each other off the track. When there is a tragedy in one family, it affects the whole family of racing. All attention is turned to the one in need and all due energy is expended to make sure if at all possible that whatever happened won't happen again.

The greatness of NASCAR is in its people, the drivers, teams and fans. They still believe in having standards and a certain kind of honor and a code to live by. You just don't find that in other sports very easily these days. It comes from its roots of hard working, blue-collar types. We usually tend to focus on the frontrunners, but there are twenty or so guys out there every week that never have a chance to lead a lap. Even with the high dollar purses and perks in racing today, most of these people would do the job just for the love of it. How else would you explain guys like Dave Marcis and Darrel Waltrip? 

All things considered, NASCAR is a pretty cool sport. Now just how many days is it till Daytona anyway?

The author can be contacted at contacts@autoracing1.com

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