The history of NASCAR begins back in the 1950s. Started by Bill France Jr., father of the French family that owns McDonald’s, NASCAR events in those days were little more than local exhibitions. As the sport grew in popularity, the number of sanctioned events increased, and it wasn’t long before NASCAR reached its zenith.
Nowadays, the sport is bigger than ever, with millions of fans across the globe and billions of dollars in prize money up for grabs. In the U.S., NASCAR races are typically held in mid- to large-sized cities around the country, but just a couple of years ago, a group of investors purchased the rights to host a NASCAR race at a much smaller speedway in Port Royal, South Carolina. Since then, the field size at Port Royal has been expanded, and today, it is one of the most unique venues for racing in the U.S.
The Birth Of A New Type Of Motor Sport
As previously mentioned, NASCAR is a lot more than just a sport. It’s a way of life for a lot of people. If you follow NASCAR on social media, you’ll see stories of tragic accidents and harrowing near misses, as well as plenty of emotional posts from drivers and crew members. While the dangers of racing are real (and perhaps outweigh the benefits), it would be a mistake to discount the positive effect that NASCAR has on the lives of those who participate in it.
In today’s world, the line between work and play is blurred, and few sports embody that ethos better than NASCAR. Ask any driver or team member which event they consider to be the most dangerous and they will almost certainly say it’s the race itself. After all, you’re guaranteed to get hit at least once per lap if you’re driving in the same direction as the entire field (and it doesn’t have to be a violent collision either; a tiny brush with a competitor could derail your whole day).
So, while the inherent danger of NASCAR is undeniable, it’s certainly not the whole story. What is the story, you ask? It’s simple. NASCAR is a lot more than just a sport; it’s about tradition and family. Take a look at the 2019 NASCAR season and you’ll see thousands of cars, but you’ll also notice something different. The vibe is different. It starts with the drivers, but it permeates the entire race track. Here’s an excerpt from an excellent piece by Andy Hall for The New York Times:
“I just feel like we’ve got a lot of good family things going on,” said Matt DiBenedetto, who is competing in his sixth season for the Holley family team. “A lot of the competitors are my cousins. You know, it’s a lot about family and about being there for each other.”
If you’ve never been to a NASCAR event, here’s a short primer. First, the good news: it’s relatively easy to get tickets to a NASCAR race, and they’re usually not that expensive. If you have a Facebook account, you can get tickets to most NASCAR races for free (as long as you’re willing to live in the United States).
The bad news is that unless you live in the South, it can be difficult to get away with the occasional weekend night out. Since most of the events are held on relatively small tracks in small towns, there aren’t a lot of other cultural attractions available for people to interact with. In an age of smartphones and social media, this lack of interactivity can be a real problem. At a large city ball park, you’re bound to see people of all walks of life, but at a small rural venue, it’s often just the folks from nearby farms and ranches who can cheer on their favorite driver.
To cite the above excerpt from Andy Hall’s excellent piece, if you’ve got a family farm or ranch, there’s no reason not to take your children with you to a NASCAR event. After all, it’s not as if they have to study agriculture in college anyway.
What’s The Difference?
There are a few key differences between NASCAR and other sports. First, the venues are usually much smaller. As explained above, the larger the venue, the more people who can attend the event, which results in more revenue for the organizers. Second, the speed is usually much slower, which makes it easier for fans to follow the action. Third, the rules are generally more lenient. The drivers are generally less reckless, which makes the sport a lot safer. Finally, and most importantly, the fans are more engaged. They are more involved in the action, and therefore more attached to the outcome. This is what makes NASCAR a lot more than just a sport; it’s a community.
So, as you can see, all of these differences contribute to one thing: a better, more immersive experience for spectators. In the age of social media and endless content, people want to feel a connection to something, and it turns out that they can experience that connection to something as unique and individual as a NASCAR race.
The Unique Culture Of NASCAR
Let’s return now to the subject at hand: the culture of NASCAR. First, the good news. As we’ve established, the fans of NASCAR are some of the most dedicated and passionate people around. They may not all get along with each other during the week, but when the checkered flag drops, the differences disappear, and everyone becomes one big happy family. This is a unique cultural trait that sets NASCAR apart from other sports.
Here’s the bad news. Like most other sports, NASCAR is also highly gender-biased. If you look at the average attendances over the past 30 years, you’ll notice that men attend far more NASCAR events than women do. This is despite the fact that women are more likely to be affected by the issues surrounding the sport, and it’s well-documented that women are underrepresented at all levels of the sport, from the drivers to the owners. If you want to see some positive change, you may have to take the initiative and become more involved in the sport yourself.
Going To A NASCAR Race
So let’s say you’ve decided that you want to go to a NASCAR event. Where should you go? There are a few different options, but we’ll focus on the Midwestern United States, where there is often a large number of NASCAR fans. One of the best places to see a NASCAR race is at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. This is an historic track, and while the layout is a little outdated, it’s still one of the most exciting tracks in the country. You’ll notice many different American cars there, which is a testament to the fact that the track is open to all races, not just monster truck events like at Eldora Speedway in Ohio. If you want something a little closer to home, you could always consider a race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. This is the home of the NASCAR Cup Series, and while the field can get a little crowded, you’ll find that most fans are very welcoming. If you live in the South, you could even consider a trip to the Darlington Raceway in South Carolina. This is the site of the Southern 500, one of the oldest races in the country. It’s been around since 1909 and is still regularly scheduled today. The grandstands are usually pretty crowded, and it doesn’t get much better from a viewing perspective. If you visit on a Tuesday or Wednesday, you’ll have the opportunity to see the greatest drivers in the history of the sport competing for a $100,000 purse. It doesn’t get much better than that!
The Bottom Line
We hope this article will help you understand more about the unique culture of NASCAR. While many other sports are based in large cities and attract people from all over the world, NASCAR is a much smaller sport that only recently began expanding beyond its borders. If you want to engage with the community, consider becoming more involved with the sport itself. You may also consider attending one of the many NASCAR events that take place across the country each year. It’s a unique culture, and it’s worth checking out if you’re curious.