Matthew is in 11th grade. This is his third year in Journalism. He does Debate and is a Eagle Scout. In the future he hopes to attend Liberty University...
Why You Should Follow NASCAR
April 29, 2021
Imagine sitting in the middle of bumper to bumper traffic. Now take that and have the cars go 200 miles per hour, and start to worry about changing lanes. This is what a NASCAR driver mostly deals with on a weekly basis.
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (more widely known as NASCAR) is a sport that visits tracks all around the country. It is my personal favorite sport in the world, and I believe you should follow it. It is a true sport consisting of its own points, teams, schedule, and series.
NASCAR was started back in 1948 when Bill France, Sr., an American stock car driver-turned-businessman wanted to start up a true stock car league instead of one-off races where the drivers most likely wouldn’t get paid because the track organizers would run off with the money.
A stock car is a race car that looks like a car you see on the road, and when NASCAR first started, they were exactly that, cars that you could buy from the dealership. Over the years, it has strayed further and further away from stock, and has gained many famous faces including Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Richard Petty, and Dale Earnhardt.
NASCAR was, at one point, the second most-watched sport in all of America, nearly reaching the NFL in ratings, but it fell off in the late 2000’s for what many fans see as gimmicks, like the playoff system and moving away from the tracks that had brought the sport to where it was. But it still arguably has the same amount of competition as the early 2000’s.
NASCAR manages to create exciting finish after exciting finish. In the 2021 Daytona 500 held on Feb. 14, Michael McDowell won after a fiery crash involving the two leaders at the time, teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. The next week, at the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253, Christopher Bell made up a nearly 4 second deficit to pass Logano to win. In 2021, the first seven races were won by seven different drivers.
I talked about how this year’s Daytona 500 ended in a fiery crash, but how was no one seriously hurt or killed? Well, NASCAR has become one of the safest racing series in the world since 2001 when the last death happened in NASCAR. In the 2001 Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt crashed head-on into the outside wall in turn 4 on the last lap as one of his drivers, Michael Waltrip, won the race. The crash killed Earnhardt instantly. Many observations came up during the investigation, including how his choice to not wear a HANS (Head and Neck Support) device, but to wear an open-face helmet, were what likely killed him.
After losing one of its greatest drivers, NASCAR started a campaign to make the sport safer, mandating closed face helmets, HANS devices, and safer track barriers, which would help soften hits to the wall better than concrete walls. They also introduced the Car of Tomorrow, an ugly design which made the cars safer.
Personalities are a big part of NASCAR. More than other sports, drivers are generally willing to give autographs when possible and are known for meeting and greeting fans when they aren’t on track. You have drivers like Kyle Busch, who is a hothead and polarizing figure in the sport. There is no in-between with Kyle: Either you love him or you hate him.
Another popular driver is 2020 Champion Chase Elliott, who is mostly loved by everyone in the sport. But he gets flack because he is the son of Bill Elliott, the 1988 champion and 16-time Most Popular driver winner. Then there is Kevin Harvick, who replaced the late Dale Earnhardt and won in his third start, beating out Earnhardt’s former championship rival, Jeff Gordon. Harvick also won the 2014 championship and is known for his great personality.
NASCAR has and is visiting a multitude of different tracks, from 0.5-mile, paved country speedways like Martinsville Speedway, to 2.5 to 2.66 mile super speedways where the cars can reach up to 200 miles an hour (like Daytona or Talladega). You also have road courses where the drivers turn left and right instead of just going around and around the same track.
NASCAR has also mixed things up by putting the their Cup Series on dirt for the first time since 1972, as well as going back to a Nashville track which the Cup Drivers have never raced.
Overall, NASCAR is a lot more than a sport of cars going around in circles. There are exciting finishes, crazy events going on and off track with driver changes, many personalities, and so much more. Those are the things that got me hooked onto the sport, and given enough time, I’m sure you will get hooked too. Most races come on Sundays around 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon and usually last for 2-3 hours.
Check NASCAR out by going to Fox, FS1, NBC or NBCSN.