Recently it was pointed out to me that I need to broaden my sports horizons. While my interest in the major sports (baseball, football, basketball, etc.) is endless, I have yet to learn to appreciate others. I’ve never been one to listen to the endless grunts and groans as tennis players exchange volleys, or catch a world cup soccer match in Spanish other than for the occasional, “GOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLL!” But with the World Series over, and the NBA still an agonizing two days away, I decided to give another sport a try. I flicked through the channels and came across one “sport” that I never fully understood: NASCAR. Prepare yourselves: The following is a running log of the, “NASCAR Nextel Cup: Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500.”
10:51am: Read the title of the race again. I count three sponsors in the title of the race alone! Can they do that? I think they just did.
10:52am: I just woke up. And no-I’m not starting from the beginning. My guess is that some country singer sung the national anthem, a couple fighter jets flew overhead making loud noises, and then the camera panned around and showed a bunch of overweight white men wearing shirts depicting other overweight white men who happen to drive fast cars. As you can see, I will be completely unbiased in my diary today.
11:05am: So it’s a little after 11am, we’re on lap 129, and currently the cars are in a caution. For those of you unfamiliar with NASCAR (like say-me) that means the cars are circling at slow speeds, not actually racing, because there was a crash 999,999 laps before and they are still cleaning it up. Oh, and by the way, the laps under caution actually count. Because, you know, that makes sense-
11:09am: Finally, they get back to racing- and within four minutes, another crash. Nothing spectacular as it only involves two cars, #39 and #9. However, the #39 did start to slide out, followed by the #9 nudging him just right in order to flip the #9 car around 360 degrees. The end result was the two cars (and therefore drivers) facing each other as they rolled down the track for a good quarter of a mile. It looked as if some game of “chicken” had gone horribly wrong. I’m mildly amused.
11:13am: I was just informed that someone did not decide to pit (go in for a refuel/change of tires) in order to lead one lap in the race and therefore receive five “bonus points” in the “NEXTEL chase for the cup point standings.” I am now on a mission to find out just what these “points” are.
11:30am: Ok, so after twenty minutes of “research” here are my findings. The winner of each race receives a whopping 180 points, the runner up gets 170 points, and every driver after that gets five points less for his position until 12th, where the point margins reduce three points less for each position down. You also receive five points for leading any lap, or five points for leading the most laps. With 10 races left, the NASCAR equivalent of a playoff system is the chase for the cup. At that time, the top ten drivers have their points reset so each are separated by only five points, and then the last 10 races decide the champion. Apparently there are only three races left in the “playoffs” so this race means a lot. Simple huh? I can’t understand why people don’t easily understand this. Or why people don’t care about a sport where the winner and loser are divided by 5.6% in points.
11:42am: I immediately regret this decision to try a new sport.
11:58am: You know, a lot of negativity can be said about the over-branding of NASCAR. You can make a case that this “sport” has sold itself out and lost all credibility by sticking an advertisement on anything with enough surface area to be readable. That having a mosaic of ads on every car, uniform, camera, socket wrench, and bolt could be a little overboard. Or that having advertisements for hard liquor or beer on hoods of cars racing at 200+ mph promotes drunk driving. All of which are valid points. But anything that gives me an excuse to write, ‘If this race lasts longer than 4 hours, Mark Martin and his #6 Viagra Car are going to require immediate medical attention,’ is OK in my book.
12:10pm: Am I the only one who remembers analysts endlessly babbling about the supposed “NASCAR Mom vote” in the 2004 presidential election? They kept saying how they would be a deciding factor in the outcome. I remember thinking at the time how ridiculous that was, but I’m beginning to see what they were talking about. These women in the crowd look, well- let’s say- “intimidating.” The thought of these women, (the same ones screaming at cars speeding by to go faster) deciding anything is downright terrifying. I think I have an idea for my Halloween costume next year.
12:38pm: Zooom. Zom. Zom. Zom. Zoom. Zoooom. Zoom. Zoo. Zoooooooooooom-..
1:22pm: Interviewing the crew chiefs sitting on high chairs with fancy walkie-talkies is not going to make any fan feel like they are a part of the action. What about having a reporter in the passenger seat inside every car? Can you put a price on the entertainment value of watching as a reporter asks a driver, “Are you going to let him pass you like that?” “Can I push that button?” or, “I have to use the restroom, is now a good time to stop?”
1:32pm: I’m unashamed to admit that I’m freely browsing the internet right now. What’s the record for most times logging onto “thefacebook.com” in a 15 minute span? We need people keeping track of these types of things. Would this not completely solve the unemployment problem in America? Give every bum on the street a computer and a clicker. That’s genius: in fact, this will be my platform in the 2024 presidential election.
1:40pm: In a last ditch attempt to assimilate myself with the NASCAR culture I’m playing country music in the background as I watch the race. If this doesn’t work, nothing will.
1:55pm: My interest in NASCAR remains at a steady negative three on a scale of 1 to 10; with 1 being asleep and 10 being any Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers playing. However I suddenly have the urge to buy an old pickup and move to Nashville-
2:02pm: Five laps to go. It must be the end of the race that keeps people coming back for more- (continues to lie to self)
2:03pm: With less than 2 laps to go we get this gem from the announcers. “The #99 car is just so much faster than everyone else out there. He’s on cruise control right now.” Way to keep us excited. Can’t they lie to me and tell me he’s about to run out of gas at any moment? Or that his cars have a history of spontaneously combusting? If this were an NFL game, this would be the part when John Madden starts stuttering about his latest video game as the Colts run out the clock.
2:05pm: Congratulations to Carl Edwards driving the “Office Depot” #99 Ford car on winning the Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500. He thanks his crew as he drives into victory lane, stands on his car waving to the crowd, then lands a back flip onto the pavement. Well that settles the issue once and for all: these guys are athletes.
2:07pm: Time for the post-race interviews. Mark Martin drinking his Gatorade and saying, “I want to thank all the guys that support us- Gatorade man-we raced hard today; I’m thirsty.” Good to see the race ended in time and Mark turned out okay.
2:08pm: Jeff Gordon drinks his Pepsi, stammers through the standard thanks for the crew, and then says, “There’s a few people I forgot to thank last week, ah-um, Lays- I want to thank them.” I missed the part where potato chips were people, or had anything to do with how fast a car goes. Unless that car is running on grease from potato chips, there is no excuse for this.
2:09pm: This just in: Jimmie Johnson drinks Powerade.
2:10pm: Matt Kenseth drinks Gatorade.
2:11pm: Gregg Biffle: Coca-Cola.
2:12pm: Insert Driver Name here: Insert Beverage here:
2:13pm: Insert Columnist Name here: Insert lack of interest in NASCAR even after watching it for three hours here:
Bradford Applin is a sophomore majoring in aerospace engineering. He is cautiously optimistic about his bid for the presidency in 2024, as long as it does not come down to the “NASCAR Mom” vote. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments on this article or observations on sports in general.