Posts Tagged 'women in sport'

In Which I Play #NASCAR Apologist

It’s Sunday. I’ve spent four hours helping with the dogs at the shelter, come home, showered the filth off, headed to mom’s for our Sunday family lunch. Now I’m headed home and what I should really do is take a nap. Instead I sit in front of the TV and set up my command station.

Because it’s time to watch the race, and tweet about the race, and Facebook about the race. Because I’m a NASCAR fan.

What? You’re still here? Hey cool!

I suppose I don’t really fit the stereotype for a racing fan. In that I am a woman, I have a college degree, I have all my teeth, and I know what the Oxford comma is.  Oh well, that stereotype is crap anyway.  I was introduced to the sport by people who don’t fit the stereotype either.

If you are still reading you might be wondering why I like racing. Well, I also like lists. So here:

1) The press corps and Twitter – I don’t follow any other sport as closely as I follow NASCAR, so I can’t claim that this is a unique thing about it. But it is a thing I really like. There is a core group of  journalists that cover the NASCAR beat. They’re all on Twitter, and they do a lot of interacting with the drivers and the fans. They all have unique personalities and they seem to get along with each other, too. Most of the drivers use Twitter, some have gotten into a bit of trouble for it. Some crew chiefs tweet. Even the Orange ConeThe SAFER barrier, and The Catch Fence tweet, among others. All this makes keeping up fun, and interacting with other NASCAR fans easy–kind of like a big tweeting family. If for some reason I can’t be near a TV to watch the race, I can “watch” on Twitter.

2) The strategy – During the race there is a lot of team strategy that goes on that a casual viewer probably would miss.  Each driver has a crew chief, think of him as the main strategist. There is also a whole crew of people who perform the pit stops. [As an aside: If you really watch a pit stop, they are like a ballet. Each person not only knows exactly what he needs to do, but also exactly where he needs to be at any given millisecond. They move around each other with a grace that really is pretty amazing considering they’re heaving jacks, rolling tires, and wielding gas cans. And they accomplish this intricate dance in about 12 seconds–changing all four tires, fueling, and maybe making adjustments to the car.] The crew chief and the driver have a plan for the race, but that plan can change seconds into the race or many laps into the race. New decisions have to be made on the spot: pit now, pit later, two tires or four tires, just a splash or fill up with gas. And despite how fast a driver can make the car go at any given moment, he can win or lose a race based on these other calls, and often that is what it comes down to.

3) The weekly soap opera – If it seems like the drivers just appear on Sundays, get into their cars, win or lose, then disappear until next Sunday, you’re only getting about 1/3 of the story. Follow the sport like I do during the week on social media and you’ll see that so much more goes on than that. There are power plays, trash talks, 3rd party mediations, fines, lovers, friends, haters, enemies, and equipment wars. On any given Sunday (ha!) a race can be boring, but that doesn’t mean the aftermath will be. You just never know who is going to say what. I love that about this sport.

4) The risk – Racing is a risky sport.  The racing family recently lost a young man, Jason Leffler, in a bad accident. And while no one ever wants to see that happen, and there are many safety precautions taken, and people are always working on making things safer for drivers and crews, you can’t take away the risk of driving a machine at high speeds. The only way to eliminate the risk is to eliminate racing. But we’re human, risks are fun. No? Why do you go on amusement park rides?  Why did you make that left turn when you weren’t 150% sure you had enough time? That little rush we get? That’s part of being human. Maybe I’m not brave or crazy enough to take on the risks of driving a car 200 mph myself, but it is thrilling to watch. The close calls, the wrecks that change the outcome of a race, they’re all part of why people watch racing, whether they want to admit it or not.

5) The women playing in a “man’s” sport. – One of the more recent developments in the sport is the increase in the diversity of drivers. This is not a coincidence. This is something that NASCAR has been striving toward.  I love that the number of female drivers in the sport is climbing. Like the guys coming up the ranks, some are better than others. Like the guys coming up in the sport some have been given advantages because of who they know. But these advantages generally come in the form of sponsorships and TV time. These things make it easier, maybe, to move up the ladder in the sport, to make money in the sport, to maybe get better equipment. But they can’t make a better driver, they can’t change things on the track. Results still prove how good you are. That particular playing field is even. The female drivers don’t have different tracks, they don’t have a different set of rules, they don’t get special equipment. They take the same risks as the guys, and with the guys. I love that!

And you know what I think is going to get even more interesting in the future? A lot of the guys driving now–the big names in NASCAR–are raising daughters. They’re just babies now, but they’re growing up in the sport, which maybe more than any other seems to be passed down through families. Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, and Jeff Gordon all have daughters, just to name a few.  Will we see the names of their daughters on the windshield of a Cup Car one day? I’m excited to see if we do.


So there you have it. I doubt that I’ve changed your mind about NASCAR if you had a very set opinion against it. But maybe if you hadn’t thought about it much,  just turn on a race every once in a while and keep what I said in mind. Truth is, whether you do or don’t, I’ll be watching.



A blog about my life and other stuff.

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Romania.

Dorothy Parker, Not So Deep as a Well (1937)