It’s the stuff of which legends are born and movies are made. A local boy outruns and out-maneuvers the Feds running moonshine out of the North Carolina mountains. This feat not only requires iron-wrapped nerves, super driving skills, but also cunning ideas on ways to soup up a car. After a time, when a guy is tired of fighting the law, he can take these talents and drive on a track. He can race other drivers, rather than the ‘revenuers. At least that’s what Junior Johnson did.
That’s one of the big draws about NASCAR–just everyday, down-home boys that make good. They wear overalls and baseball caps, talk with a drawl and will never win a speech contest. If they look like they just came off the farm or out of the garage, they may have. None of this matters, though, when they crawl in behind the wheel. They can drive. Lordy, they can drive. And we “drive” with them. We imagine that is us strapped in and flying around that track. The roar of the engines and the smell of oil is as familiar to us as our own driveways.
NASCAR has always been a sport for the regular guy. Starting at small, dusty tracks in cars built in the local garage and tested on back roads, NASCAR is the people’s sport. And it’s the people who support it. Older fans cheered Junior Johnson, Cale Yarborough, Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, Sr., to name a few. The younger generation follows their sons and grandsons. It’s a generational, family thing. Even the losers have the charisma of movie stars.
Then there is the specter of the wreck. What is it about human nature that enjoys watching a wreck? Unexplainable, but there. NASCAR meets that quirk in us. Fortunately, with the safety equipment in place, most of the spectacular, horrifying wrecks can still end up with the driver walking away with minor injuries. There are those other times, though, that are still talked about around the bar-b-cue pit–the war wounds of NASCAR that took Dale Earnhardt, Sr and young Petty. Unforgettable events, unequaled in other sports.
We don’t just adore the drivers alone, however. The cars are also our idols. We see them in the dealer lots as well as on the track. The muscle cars in makes and names we are know and can afford. We can buy them and fix them and test them in our own neighborhood with our family, friends and neighbors cheering us on. We reap the benefits of innovative modifications by seasoned crews and automotive suppliers. Our faithful support of NASCAR gives back to us in the new car models and accessories.
No one would disagree that NASCAR is a man’s, macho sport, but it draws the women, too. They like the thrills of the race and some dream of breaking the predominate male world behind their own wheel. Yep, NASCAR belongs to the people. I may not be able to bat .300, sink a long ball shot, or catch a pass for a touchdown, but by gosh I can drive. And while I’m behind the wheel, I can dream……