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Monday, May 30, 2016


If you are a sports fan and you've never seen NASCAR race in person, you need to add a weekend at the racetrack to your sports to-do list.  I did not grow up a NASCAR fan.  It wasn't until my family started moving out of the Rust Belt and into the Bible Belt ... and specifically into the NASCAR industry ... that my attention shifted to NASCAR.  NASCAR takes a lot of criticism in the sports world.  Much of that criticism is warranted, but the live NASCAR experience is truly special in the sports world.

NASCAR pit pass
Pre-race grid at the Bristol XFinity Series race
Sights, Sounds and Smells.  Every live sporting event is a spectacle.  But, some events are more spectacular than others.  NASCAR takes spectacle to a whole new level.  Before the engines even fire, the cars lined up on pit road are visually dazzling.  So bright and so colorful.  With a pit pass that can be purchased by the general public, a spectator can wander amongst the cars as they are lined up on the grid pre-race and look their favorite drivers in the eye.  Then there is the sound.  You do not just hear a race.  You feel a race.  It is impossible to describe the feeling in your chest when the full field of 40 cars comes past your seat at full speed for the first time.  There is also a unique smell to a car race.  The odor of hot asphalt, rubber and exhaust make the fans feel like they are part of the action in a special way.

Eavesdropping.  In a sport where the stars are contained in cocoon-like cars, it may seem surprising to say that NASCAR provides a more intimate fan experience than any other sport.  Due to radio access fans can know the true personalities of their favorite drivers and team members in a way that is impossible in other sports.  With a rented scanner or Fanvision equipment, you can hear every single radio conversation from every single race team.  This is the equivalent of listening in to a huddle in football or meetings on the mound in baseball.

Hellmans pit crew
JRM's 88 pit crew pre-race at Richmond
Mid-Pack Action.  A lot of the drama in a car race involves cars that are fighting to stay on the lead lap or are battling to be the first car only one lap down.  This action is almost never shown on TV.  Live, you can watch those battles all race long.  And, as mentioned above, you can listen to the spotters guide the drivers through this traffic.  At almost every moment in a race, there are cars battling for position.  When you attend a race in person, you can focus on any part of the action you want at all times.

In this modern era of 60-inch HD TVs and surround sound, sustaining live attendance is a challenge for all sports.  NASCAR will always offer something at the track that simply cannot be duplicated at home.

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