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Can Someone Explain NASCAR To Me?

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Hey NASCAR fans, I need your help.

Here’s my dilemma. I’ve never been a fan of NASCAR. Never got what it was that could make an individual want to sit in the stands for hours on end while cars went around in a circle, but then something strange happened – inexplicably, my five-year-old son developed an intense passion for NASCAR.

I don’t know where this came from. My wife isn’t into NASCAR, and as I’ve already said, neither am I. But there’s my little spittin’ image extolling the virtues of Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Jimmy Johnson. Who? What? The number 8 car? What in the hell are you talking about kid?

Just yesterday, my wife and I found ourselves sitting on our couch watching the last 30 or so laps of the Auto Club 500. My little one has all of his NASCAR Match Box/Hot Wheels cars laid out in front of him on a track he and his grandmother made, mimicking what he’s seeing on the screen. Well as much as he could anyway, he doesn’t have all the cars, just his favorites for now. Let me tell you – he was down-right heartbroken that Earnhardt, Jr. didn’t place well and that Stewart wasn’t in first but I reckon that just comes with the territory of being a sports fan.

Anyway, here’s what I’m asking for. Tell me. Tell me what it is that you see in this sport, what really makes it worth watching for you. I want to be able to enjoy this with my son and have an intelligent conversation with him on the same level that I’m able to talk baseball with my wife and others. What draws you in, what should I be paying attention to? What are the nuisances that really make or break a driver during the race?

I am loathe to become what I despise in those who berate soccer – no knowledge of the sport and bashing it simply for reasons of prejudice and ignorance. So all you NASCAR fans out there, enlighten me, bring me into your sport, make me a fan!

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About Mr. B

  • cc

    this is ok should put more info.

  • Benjamin Cossel

    More info? Actually that’s exactly my problem, I don’t know enough about NASCAR to…I’m appealing to all NASCAR fans to help me out here! 🙂

  • Michael Moore

    Benjamim, I also wonder about the same thing. Will watch the Indianapolis 500 every year because I like Indy cars. Never watch NASCAR. Dont understand it and Jim Nabors is not singing Back home again in Indiana. Indy as sophication like me. NASCAR has cars pulling single-wides. Thats my take anyway.

  • Ed Biles, Griffin, GA

    The first thing that you should do is to attend an event with a fan. I guess groing up here in the south was a slight advantage as I have been a fan for 52 yrs. We follow our heros of Nascar. We know therewife/girlfriends, we know their children. We buy their sponsers products. We buy trade papers and magaszines about the sport. We buy diecast cars with every paint job that they have thru the year. We talk about it at work, bars, church, whereever.

  • The best way to learn a sport is to watch an entire game, in this case a race, with someone who half-knows what they’re talking about. The telecast also knows a lot of new fans are watching and will attune the programming with them.

  • Sure its easy to explain NASCAR… The rush you get when all 43 of those cars start up at a track. You have to attend a race to understand a race. The TV cant show you everything. Trust me. It only shows parts of a race. On TV you dont see all the cars that get loose. You only see the ones that they want to show. You dont see the fenders rubbing because majority of the time they only show the top cars and those back in the pack are not shown. Its as simple or maybe even simplier than baseball. Just go to NASCAR.com and see the comments there. Read all about the sport its self. Its very interesting. Attend a race near you even if its not NASCAR. A short track is the best in my opinion. But once you get the rubber in your eyes you will see more. HA HA HA

  • Tstreet

    I too, got into NASCAR for the same reasons that you have discovered it. My 4 year old at the time saw the #9 Elliott car come around the bend as my husband was flipping channels. That moment changed his life and my family as a whole.

    Now we watch qualifying, talk strategies and discuss Silly season. My son is nearly 9 and can talk to Veterans of the sport as if he lived it. He reads everything he can (and this was a great motivator for reading) and I try to keep up so I can be an active part of the discussion.

    Something funny happened. As I read, I learned. As I learned, I enjoyed. And now, weekly, I enjoy all that is NASCAR. It’s far more than 43 cars going in a circle. There is planning, strategies, bad luck, and a whole bunch of drama (on and off the track). It sucks you in and makes you forget you have things that you should be doing on a Sunday or Saturday night.

    Explain it? Well, like you said, try to explain another sport. You really can’t. You have to put yourself in the drivers seat (or team owner..depending on who you strive to be) and then get caught up in all the action.

    It is a great family sport. You have the chance of actually meeting a driver (find another sport that upclose and personal) and you can always visit a track for the race, or if the budget doesn’t allow, for qualifying. My son loves the roar of the engines and seeing his heros up close and personal.

    Explain it? Nah. Enjoy it? Heck yeah!


  • STM

    What’s to explain? … it’s a whole bunch of V8 cars going round and round and round and round and round a track ad infinitum until someone wins. The big advantage for the average punter is that the big car companies develop race technology that can eventually be used on the cars we buy at the local dealership. Nice hat, BTW, Ben

  • I’m WaltripManiac #1 Fan of Michael Waltrip, NASCAR Driver of the #55 NAPA Auto Parts TOYOTA Camry. NASCAR is not a sport – – – it is a way of life. Once you are “hooked” you plan your whole life around NASCAR events, whether live at the race track near you or broadcast on television. I also love the smells of the fuel and burnt rubber from the tires, not to mention the rumble of 43 cars passing by in front of you !!! There is NOTHING like it !!!

  • Marilyn

    I wanted to understand what my oldest daughter was so crazy about, so read the NASCAR for Dummies (2nd edition) written by driver Mark Martin. That is when I realized it is NOT just cars going in circles. The seemingly infinite number of variables add so many dimensions to the sport. Things such as the weather, the surface of the track, no 2 tracks being exactly alike, tracks with each of the corners being different, flat tires, figuring fuel mileage, track temperature, tire pressures, parts failures, blown engines, qualifying positions, penalties, pit stops,etc., etc., etc.This book made me realize just how complicated the sport is, and that there is never any way to know how any race will turn out – right up until the finish line in many cases. Add in the earth-shaking roar as the cars go past you, the excitement of the crowd – everyone rooting for their particular chosen driver or car – and it just has to be experienced to be believed. By the way, it isn’t all turning left either. The road courses have left AND right turns!

  • Sally

    Like other sports, you have to get to know the players. Pick a car, or the sponsor and start rooting for them. This is how I got started watching Football. I grew up at the race track. If you really needed to, there is a Nascar for Dummies that might help. Do you have a go cart track near by? Maybe if you went to hear the cars, you can get some excitement from it. I LOVE to hear the cars when I go to a cup race.

  • Julie

    NASCAR Racing is one of the most popular sports in America today. This fast-growing sport reaches thousands of new fans every week. Here is a quick introduction.

    NASCAR is an acronym which stands for “National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.”

    NASCAR is a sanctioning body which oversees many types of racing across the country. The three top series under the NASCAR banner are:

    NEXTEL Cup Series
    Busch Series
    Craftsman Truck Series
    When most people say NASCAR they are referring to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.

    A modern NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race car has only a passing resemblance to its “strictly stock” heritage. These cars are built from the ground up as pure racing beasts.

    They are based on four door American made cars. For example, the currently eligible race cars include the Ford Fusion, Dodge Charger, Chevrolet Monte Carlo and the Toyota Camry.

    These are not the sleek open-wheel pointy-nosed race cars that run Formula One, CART or IRL series.

    NASCAR NEXTEL Cup cars have fenders which are important because they allow side-to-side contact between cars without allowing the wheels to hook causing a big wreck.

    A NEXTEL Cup car weighs in at 3,400 pounds and has a wheelbase of exactly 110 inches. The engine is a 358 cubic inch V8. These powerplants can generate over 750 horsepower. By comparison a showroom stock 2007 Chevy Corvette generates about 400 horsepower with its V8 engine.

    Today the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup series features 36 races on 22 different race tracks. 34 of those races feature all left turns on ovals or D shaped race tracks. Two races are held on road courses.

    The tracks vary in size from the massive 2.66 mile Talladega Superspeedway down to the tiny .526 mile Martinsville Speedway.

    The biggest NEXTEL Cup race of the year is the Daytona 500 which is the very first race of the year. Some other big races are the Brickyard 400 at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the August race at tiny Bristol Motor Speedway, and the Memorial Day Weekend Coca-Cola 600 at Lowes Motor Speedway near Charlotte, NC.

    Each race is worth the same number of points towards the NEXTEL Cup Championship.

    Some of the big names in NASCAR these days are Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson.

    Legendary NASCAR drivers from the past include names like Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, and Darrell Waltrip. AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti each ran a few races in NASCAR. In fact, they each won the Daytona 500 but they are much better known for their open wheel racing accomplishments.

    NASCAR was founded on February 21st, 1948 by Bill France Sr. Originally there were three divisions. Modifieds, Roadsters and Strictly Stock.

    The first race in the “strictly stock” division was held on June 19th, 1949 at a 3/4 mile dirt track called Charlotte Speedway. Jim Roper won that very first race. This division grew to become the NEXTEL Cup series that we know today.

    Some people don’t understand the appeal of NASCAR. To truly get it I recommend two important things.

    First, get to know a little bit about the drivers and pick a favorite. There is perfect match for every taste, young and hip Dale Earnhardt Jr., the quietly competent Matt Kenseth, outrageous and aggressive Robby Gordon or any of the other 40 drivers that start the race each week. Learning the personalities, relationships and rivalries adds a lot to your enjoyment of the race.

    Second, and most important, attend a race in person. Attending a NASCAR race is a full five-senses experience. The bright colors, the sounds of the engines and the screaming fans, the smell of brake dust and rubber, the taste of a cold beverage on a smoking hot day spent in the sun with your friends and feeling the rumble in your seat as the cars charge past. There is nothing in the world like attending a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race in person. You’ll be hooked.


    If you don’t get it you never will. Just be happy that NASCAR is pretty much drug and steroid free and cheaters are dealt with severely. The drivers are family friendly and no one hardly ever dies anymore.

    As a famous author once said, “There are only two sports, bull fighting and auto racing. The rest are merely games.”

  • Denise

    I didn’t become a Nascar fan until I saw Michael Waltrip in person at the pizza hut here in Bristol. I thought he was cute LOL think it will take more then that for you. I then started to watch races and then over about a 5 year span just became more and more into the sport and I can’t really explain why I love it so much. I stand in lines for hours to get autographs. I love the races in person, the people you meet and the friends you make. Nascar is a family sport, none of the drivers are involved with big drug scandles or murder wraps or gang bangs. I let my child pick her own drivers that she likes and of course we have some we really don’t like but so goes in any sport. Give yourself time. Pick a driver and follow him and then get more interested and pick a couple more drivers. Even get some drivers you don’t like, makes it even more fun to watch.

  • Cat

    My husband I love video games, and we decided to play the “Chase for the Cup” version. We have been hooked ever since. What’s even funnier we started watching it due to the names we saw on the game. My kids are 6 and 9 and they themselves have favorites. My daughter(9) loves Jimmie Johnson #48. My son(6) loves Jeff Gordon, like myself. My husband likes Jeff Gordon, but takes it to another level. He respects other drivers when the are doing well (all 4 of us can’t stand Tony Stewart, from an altercation with Jeff Gordon) we still haven’t forgiven him LOL! I don’t think I can explain why we became fans, I think it was more of the game that made us one. Getting in the drivers seat and adjusting your car to the way it handles properly on the track. Just like the real drivers. I think you respect them each more. Mind you we love our football (hubby loves baseball too) but when NASCAR is on…the phone better not ring because you never know what the next turn will bring you!

  • JR

    STM: The big advantage for the average punter is that the big car companies develop race technology that can eventually be used on the cars we buy at the local dealership.

    Not so much in NASCAR. The sanctioning body has done as much as it can to stamp out technical innovation in the interest of parity; any time someone gets too successful, they change the rules to even up the competition again. It’s like communism for race cars. The most interesting engineering is in the cheating.

    On top of that, until recently the only manufacturers involved have been Ford and GM – two companies not exactly renowned for their devotion to performance automobiles. At this point, I think they only build cars to support their finance businesses.

    And anyway, how much real-life application is there from only turning one direction?

  • Benjamin Cossel

    THanks for all the suggestions everyone! I’ll definitely pick up the NASCAR for Dummies book and I’ll be seeing if I can find an event around my area! My son would absolutely love that.

  • I hope to get to a NASCAR race one day. The aura to it is enticing.

  • KC

    There is one race you MUST attend…………Bristol’s Sharpie 500 in Bristol TN. This is a night race and there is nothing like a 1/2 mile track to get someone to understand/learn about racing.

  • Dear Undetermined-

    Glad to hear that you want to be more interested in racing as your five your old son has a knack for it. If you want to know about the sport I will be happy to tell you as much as I know as you will have many answers by the time you get to this one.

    As a Nascar Fan ( Jeff Gordon)I suggest you watch a few races, go with a nascar fan to a race, buy some magazines and books, if you are watching the races at home listen to what the commentators and other members that bring you news on the drivers. Watch each driver and listen to their pre-race and post race interviews to get a feel of what they are like, you can go to nascar.com to get some of your information. Be aware that you won’t know everything about the sport over night as I am five + year fan and still learning,so if you get discouraged then it is ok just know that if you don’t agree on something that happened does not mean that others don’t as well but know that it is part of the sport. If you like what you see then if you want to pick a driver, pick one that catches your eye, that is how I picked my favorite driver and I also picked by colors on the racecar, but it will be how you pick your driver, you can join other blogs and message boards to connect with other nascar fans. Hope this helps and good luck, hope you choose to become part of a really great sport.

  • Stewart Fan

    The question is this, Have you ever tried to finish first? Running as a kid, riding a bike, tried to jump the green light first? If you have and have actually won, then you already know what its about. 43 guys trying to finsih first! Its the best reality TV around because it is not scripted and anyone one of the 43 cars could get lucky and win! People get their feelings hurt, cars crashed, more feel good stories than you can shake a stick at, people get suspended, fired, even have to go home with out getting to race!!!!

    I found it hard to follow until Tony Stewart sat on the outside pole in 1999, he was a rookie and I thought, I will follow him! Once you have a favorite driver/car….it can get a little dangerous~ Watch a short track race~

  • RaineScud

    Dear Ben,

    Welcome to the world of stock car racing. The race at California (the one you watched this past weekend) was a fairly exciting considering the the wreck that “red flagged” the race and took out one of the contenders with a flat tire. There have been many more exciting finishes. The winner of the Daytona 500, which ran last week, wasn’t determined until the cars crossed the finish line and was won by a mere bumper.

    How we each become acquainted with racing runs the gamut. I became involved because my late husband owned a Citgo station in the 90’s and we were lucky enough to have the Wood Brothers #21 Citgo showcar for a day. I suggested that we start watching the races to see how our “car” did. We attended our first race at Pocono the next year. The first time those 43 cars, with 800 horses under their hoods came across the start-finish line, the bleachers rumbled along with those engines and I couldn’t even hear myself think – I turned to my husband and shouted “this isn’t the last race we will ever attend!!” After that we attended at least 3-4 races a year. Even with the crowds and the traffic, it’s well worth the effort.

    Our daughters and their husbands also got into it and came along. In fact my grandson was a week old when he attended his first race. Slept through the whole thing. Except during the cautions, he woke up then. Go figure. And although I no longer live in GA, I go down in October so we can attend the fall race at Atlanta. Every year my grandson is given a choice to go to the race or do something else – he always wants to go to the race.

    I’m not sure where in Ohio you live, but I would imagine there’s a track somewhere close by. Chicagoland in Illinois, Watkins Glen in New York, Pocono in Pennsylvania. But, may I suggest you get your feet wet with a Craftsman Truck race or a Busch race. They are less expensive to attend with children. The crowds are not so intimadating. There’s less traffic. And the racing is just as good, if not better at times. Usually, if you attend a Busch race on Saturday the Cup guys are practicing and you get two shows for the price of one.

    Go for it. You’ll always have the memories of going to an event with your son. There’s nothing that can replace that.

    Sorry, I got long winded.

  • This explains it:

    One of my childhood friends from Lincoln, Neb., Ted Wright, who’d never been to a race before, was at California Speedway with his friends David Jachetti and his wife, Shawna Jachetti. They sat in a box about 20 feet above Tony Stewart’s pit stall. When Kevin Costner gave the starting command and the engines fired, the thunderclap of noise caused all their eyes to grow wide with wonder.

    Then the green flag waved and the field of 43 cars charged into Turn 1 at full throttle. Shawna was so overwhelmed by the entirety of the experience — the speed, the sound, the smell, the danger — that tears welled in her eyes. “It was just so amazing,” Shawna told me later. “It was one of the most powerful things you can imagine.”

  • Another Stewart fan

    NASCAR is all the things others have said. The one thing I didn’t see anyone talk about was the generosity of the sport. Most of the established drivers have foundations to benefit children, animals, various diseases, hospitals, etc. Read about Victory Junction Gang Camp (a Paul Newman Hole in the Wall camp). The drivers are constantly giving items to be auctioned, making appearances for charity (in addition to the full schedule of racing and sponsor appearances). They ran in ‘bush’leagues with all their winnings going to charity. And, yes, even give out of their own pockets. You will hear the drivers and owners and crew chiefs say over and over: I’m so blessed I have to give back.

  • elvis2girls

    I was like you a couple of years ago. My daughter(quite a bit okder than your son)had been watching Nascar for several years. I also could not understand what she saw in a bunch of cars going around a track wrecking each other. So, a couple of years ago, I decided to watch a race with her. I knew nothing about Nascar and had to keep asking her questions of what was going on. She told me to pick a car to see if that particular car could/would win the race. So, I picked a green car, just because it looke pretty to me and I liked the color of the car. I did not have a clue who at the time drove the car, which happened to be Bobby Labonte. Then I got to noticing this orange car coming up through the pack of cars and passing cars on the track to get to the lead. I told her that I kind of liked that orange car, but she told me that since I had picked the green car I had to stay with it. but I told her I really liked that orange car. I did not have a clue who Tony Stewart or Bobby Labonte was at that time. By the end of the race, I was hooked. I could not wait until the next Sunday to get to see what that orange car was going to do at that race. It did not take me a real long time to pick up on the lingo either. Now I am a dye hard Tony Stewart fan. My daughter and I went to both of the races in Texas last year and plan on going again this year. That is so awesome to go to a live race and see the cars on the track. Hope all of these comments have helped you to understand why so many people are Nascar fans.

  • I was gonna post something sarcastic, because I am not a NASCAR fan and do not understand its appeal myself…but then I read all these other good-natured, helpful, and earnest posts, and decided against it.

    The question I now have is: Would Al Gore approve of NASCAR, while sipping chardonnay in his 20-room mansion and polishing his Oscar for best politically-correct science-fiction propaganda film? No? Good.


  • This is a recommended article on the BC Sports General forum…

  • Rick

    Not sure what to tell you. As a lifelong fan, over 40 years, I am biased. I grew up around racing, and nascar. I will say that watching on TV does not give the sport justice. Until you go to a race and combine the smell of high octane fuel, the noise of the cars, and feel them as they pass by you at high speeds, there is no way anyone can understand.

  • Tim Eldred

    go to a race…i was at daytona last month on row 8…43 cars together doing 185 mph will demo the nascar attraction.

  • David Blight

    What a clear question, not answered, by so many.
    I thought the point of religion was the only thing this hard to define.
    Seems the same to me as all these answers are
    “believe, then you will get it”. “Become a fan and you will be a fan.”
    Give me a break!
    NASCAR is a religion,
    as pointless, expensive, and unexplainable as all the others.
    Christian, Muslim, Catholic, Nascar, Tarot, Tea leaves, etc. all the same.
    Some even believe sacrificing others cleanses their soul.
    Fucking nut cases the lot.
    Appreciate your Input.