There is no hotter sport right now than NASCAR. Seriously. NASCAR is so hot, that you can’t even touch it, unless of course, you’re mega-conglomerate ESPN, which has picked up the sport to add to its dizzying array of sports telecasts, which already include bowling, poker, and spelling bees. And the commercials that ESPN has been using to promote their upcoming coverage of the sport have shown us – the average no-nothing, judgmental idiot – that NASCAR races aren’t just for getting drunk off of Schlitz and watching women flash their boobies, although that’s still pretty cool. NASCAR, in addition, brings families together, and teaches children the values of hard work, commitment, teamwork, the positioning of the lower-right axle, and Schlitz. My own father never brought me to a live NASCAR race, and thus never allowed me the thrill of that first inhalation of exhaust fumes, followed by hours of watching excruciatingly loud cars drive around in circles. Instead he took me to baseball games, where the opportunity to see boobies was drastically reduced. I am working towards healing our relationship with forgiveness, but it is a process.
Not only did NASCAR’s biggest (and only?) race – the Daytona 500 – take place this weekend, but it also featured a dramatic photo finish, whereas one guy’s extended front spoiler proved to be the deciding factor. And yet another example of NASCAR’s hotness is its evolution into the mainstream. “Days of Thunder” is often viewed as the Lewis and Clark of NASCAR exposure, and we are just now – 50 years later – reaping the benefits of that Oscar-winning drama. (Best Sound Editing.) Now, movies like “Talladega Nights” have proved that NASCAR is so successful, it can even poke a little fun at itself, the first true sign that you’ve made it. (Twenty bucks says NASCAR hosts SNL in the next few months.) Drivers like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. have been seen on popular shows like “MTV Cribs” (still on?) and have been featured on confusing Jay-Z Budweiser ads. And Danica Patrick is a woman, which is just freakin’ crazy!
Anyways, everything you just read was the intro to my first-ever NASCAR column! I hope it got you adequately pumped. Now you are reading my transitional sentence, in which I will tell you that for the rest of this column, I will outline major aspects of NASCAR that you are required to know as you embark upon your journey of falling in love with car racing. Because, let’s face it – you don’t want to be “left in the dust” while everyone else is “riding high” on the wings of NASCAR’s glorious ride to short-lived relevancy. Here goes…
Every time cars race, it is not necessarily NASCAR. This is something I learned the hard way, by making jokes about NASCAR that involved drivers who had nothing to do with NASCAR, which I actually thought was even funnier, but whatever. True NASCAR fans are offended by this kind of ignorance, as well they should be. So don’t just go assuming that every track with cars racing on it is a NASCAR event. For example, when you’re watching ESPN 2 at 3:30 in the morning, and they’re showing that race where two weird-looking cars line up next to each other, and then race for like, three seconds until their parachutes open, or until one of the cars sails into the air and bursts into flames, that is not NASCAR, to my knowledge. There are a million different kinds of races, including Indy Car racing, Stock Car racing, the Preakness, and the Tokyo Drift, so don’t you go putting everything under the umbrella of NASCAR! You don’t want to sound like an idiot. Trust me.
Okay, then….but what, exactly, is NASCAR? Excellent question, even though this is not a question-and-answer column. And I don’t know.
Get to know your drivers. I’ll let you know what I can without looking anything up on online. Hopefully these are all NASCAR drivers. Here we go…Dale Earnhardt, Jr. gained extreme popularity after the passing of his legendary father, and even won the Daytona 500. Now he’s kind of like the Williams sisters in tennis – focusing on stupid crap like advertisements for paper clips and runway fashion, thus allowing his performance to suffer. Many in and around NASCAR believe he is the most overrated person ever. Now there is a chance he may leave his father’s company – NASCAR – because he doesn’t get along with his stepmother. Dra-ma! Jeff Gordon used to win pretty much every race, and then he sucked for a while, and now he’s okay again. He’s got a whiny voice, making it comical when he tries to talk smack to other drivers. Divorced. Kevin Harvick just won the Daytona 500, slightly edging out an elderly man named Mark Martin, the Dan Marino of racing (?). Tony Stewart is the people’s champion, but not really mine, which makes me something less of a person. He is really good though, and drinks a lot. He is also considerably shorter than Jared of Subway fame, but they are still friends (although they adamantly disagree on what, exactly, makes Subway subs so delicious). I don’t know any other drivers.
Winning a race is cool and all, but the real winner has the most points. There’s nothing like a season-long accrued points system to get the ol’ juices flowing. Sure, there are big races – the Daytona 500, Nabisco 250, and Daytona 500 – but it’s who has the most points at the end that becomes the real champion. In fact, you don’t even have to win any races to win the whole shebang, as long as you don’t crash and finish at least twelfth every time. You also get bonus points for punching another driver in the face if that driver pulled an illegal maneuver on the track that violated the unwritten code of NASCAR. (First rule of NASCAR? Don’t talk about NASCAR.) Last season’s points winner was…I have no idea. Tony Stewart? Also, I am not sure if anything I mentioned in this paragraph is even remotely accurate.
Celebrities love NASCAR, and so should you! You know something’s cool when celebrities are doing it. Anorexia? Totally cool. Adopting foreign babies? Sign me up. Exposing your private parts in public? Did it yesterday. And guess what? Celebrities have been doing NASCAR for a while now, so you better get on board before it’s too late! Ever hear of David Letterman? He pretty much invented NASCAR. Jay Leno just loves cars in general. And what about celebrities who aren’t nighttime talk show hosts? Well, how about Joe Gibbs? He was somehow involved in car racing before he came back to football to put the final nail in the Redskins coffin. He’s a celebrity, right?
And finally, Brad Daugherty is somehow involved in all of this. Sports fans may remember Brad Daugherty as the dominating UNC center, underachieving Cleveland Cavaliers center, or even as one of ESPN’s 12,445 former-athlete-type talking heads. Well, get this – he also loves NASCAR! I know this because ESPN did a “Let’s introduce our viewers to NASCAR segment,” which included “analysis” from some dude, as well as Brad Daugherty himself. Weird, yes. But totally awesome? Also yes. And what did Brad Daugherty have to say about the upcoming 2007 NASCAR racing season? I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention, half because I was trying to figure out why Brad Daugherty was talking about cars, and half because it involved NASCAR. Whatever.
So there you have it! I hope you have learned everything you need to know about NASCAR. Because like I said, you don’t want to come across as one of those guys who makes vast generalizations, and takes cheap shots at an entire sport simply as a result of his own unfamiliarity with it. That would be ignorant. I hope you enjoyed my concluding paragraph! If you didn’t, here’s more: