A Way of Life
While all sports have a fan base to follow them, NASCAR not only has the fan support, but for most of us, it’s a way of life. The only time other sports see a fanatical gathering of fans is when the playoffs start. How many times during regular season does one actually see fans get as fanatical of their sport as NASCAR does? Every race in NASCAR is like a playoff for the fans. They plan their vacations, their finances, and their overall schedule by it. So for most, it’s not just a sport, it’s a way of life.
If a NASCAR fan’s vacation isn’t to a race, it’s usually planned around an off weekend or the off season. Most fans attend at least one race a year, and while some are lucky enough to attend several, some plan their next year vacation around just one. For most of the super speedways there are many different things that take place the week before the race. If you ever watch a race at Talladega or Daytona, you will see an infield that is full of campers and motor homes. These fans will spend up to a week experiencing everything that NASCAR has to offer. At the track, fans will get the opportunity to meet other fans that live just as they do, and in many cases, these fans have made life long friendships.
One track in particular, Bristol, the fan base is so strong that it is nearly impossible to find tickets. Tickets here are purchased years in advance and to think about buying a seasonal pass is impossible. These are the only known tickets that have actually been willed to family members.
Finances are always put into consideration for a NASCAR fan, whether it’s going to a race or buying memorabilia of their favorite driver, these attributes can take a heavy toll on anybody’s pockets. Attending a race can be expensive as the price of tickets not only varying from track to track, but also vary by where you sit. Unlike most sporting events where the closer you are to the event the more they cost, NASCAR is the complete opposite. Ticket prices at the racetrack start costing more the higher and further away from the track you are. Pit passes may also be purchased which allow fans to walk around the pit area; of course these also vary in price whether they are for a cold or hot pit pass.
Fans attending the Daytona 500 will pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for tickets but consider that most attending this race also watch races all week long. This is the first race of the season and actually starts the Sunday prior to the Daytona 500 with the Bud Shoot Out. Along with that race you have the dual qualifying races on Thursday, the IROC race and Craftsmen Truck race on Friday, and the Busch race on Saturday.
Some, like me, have made “race jars” to save money for a following year’s race. Once fans arrive at the track it’s time to shop. With diecasts starting around $60 and t-shirts and hats around $25, it quickly gets expensive. All of those things don’t have to be bought at a track. They can also be found online or at a NASCAR store such as Dixie Thunder.
With all the memorabilia fans have collected, they have rooms filled with it. My room is completely filled with anything I can find. I have numerous shelves filled with diecasts and many other items. I even have cans of beans with Tony Stewart on them and Brian Vickers Mountain Dew cans and boxes. Fans will also go out of their way and only purchase products endorsed by the drivers’ sponsors, while others will refuse to buy because the product is sponsored by a rival. I use Garnier Fructis shampoo because it’s a sponsor of Brian Vickers.
Saturdays and Sundays you will always find a NASCAR fan glued to either a TV or radio with the race on. Cable TV has made fans lives even better when they introduced the Speed Channel. With their televising of qualifying, practices, and the NASCAR news shows leading up to the race and the shows that precede the race, these fans have gained a wealth of knowledge. Also the technology of TIVO has made it easier for most to be able to fit all that’s available into their busy schedules.
To all of us, NASCAR is much more than a sport. The roots of NASCAR started out in the backwoods of the southern states, with the redneck fans that truly do live and breathe NASCAR, into a national following that still lives and breathes the experienced. Fans, for the most part, not only watch the races every weekend, but they completely live the experience all year long. They mourn the “loss” of it from mid-November until Daytona speed weeks start. This is their spring time, when everything seems to breathe life back into existence and all is well again with our colors of spring in bloom, green, yellow, blue/yellow, white, black, red, and black and white checkered. These are the only colors that matter to us, for when we see these we know our lives have become whole again.
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