Mike Cope's blog

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A couple days after Jeff Gordon won his third Daytona, can someone explain the whole NASCAR phenomenon to me? 1. Why is it the #1 sport in the south? 2. Why is it a sport? Don't mean to seem elitist. I'm just asking. There must be something there. I know people whose recreational lives revolve around the NASCAR circuit. Speak out, NASCAR lovers. What am I missing?

38 Comments:

  • I've lived in Alabama for all but 5 of my 35 years and I still don't get it. I don't see the attraction of watching a bunch of souped up Hot Wheels drive around in circles for 500 miles. BORING! However, the start of the NASCAR season also signals something grand; Spring Training! Pitchers and catchers have reported to all 32 teams, camps! Full rosters begin this week. It's almost time for some real events-Baseball!

    By Blogger Ed Harrell, at 2/22/2005 05:59:00 AM  

  • Amen, Ed Harrell, Amen!!

    Baseball! 'bout time too. :o)

    By Blogger Kathy, at 2/22/2005 06:12:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    NASCAR is no longer a southern sport. Let's take Sunday's Daytona 500 for example. About 200,000 people attended in person and another 18.7 million watched it on TV. It boasts 17 of the 20 highest-attended sporting events in the nation. Last year, the Nextel NASCAR series races were the only major sporting events to increase network TV ratings, finishing second to pro football. I am a "Northerner" who follows NASCAR faithfully, and I'm not the only one.

    Many people think that a race is nothing more than cars going around and around for 3 hours. But there is so much more to it (that's like saying that football is nothing more than 22 men crashing into each other over and over again for 2 hours). There is pit strategy, drafting, track condition, car setup, bump and run, and so much more. Yes, I have watched boring races -- just as I have watched boring football games.

    You should attend a race -- the Texas Motor Speedway is not too far from you, and there will be two Nextel Cup races and two Busch series races there this year (the Busch series races are cheaper and easier to get tickets for -- but just as exciting as Nextel Cup). You will never forget the sight, sound, and feeling of 43 cars rounding turn four together and roaring into the front stretch at full speed at the beginning of the race.

    But then again, I've always been a car guy and I used to be a mechanic, so that may explain my love of the sport (and yes, it is a sport).

    VRRROOOOOM!

    Jeff

    By Blogger Jeff Slater, at 2/22/2005 06:21:00 AM  

  • Ah but the sheer excitement of watching cars traveling 200 mph withing inches of each other.

    The teamwork it takes. Driver depending on pit crew and spotters. Drivers learning to team up and be stronger that they are by themselves. Knowing that one man cannot win by himself, its takes the efforts of many and the help of those who are in this race with you.

    Well, and then there are the wrecks!!

    By Blogger DJG, at 2/22/2005 06:23:00 AM  

  • Yeah, I don't get it either.

    I will try to sound elitist here, and say that hands down (or feet down, as it were), Formula One racing is much, much better. It involves right turns, and brakes!

    Now, topping at at 200 mph on an oval track must be fun, but for me, sprinting through downtown Monaco, hitting 160mph, then having to slow down to about 50 for some of those hairpins....now THAT's a sport!

    And, bold prediction...Braves win the East, AGAIN. You heard it here first folks!

    By Blogger Greg Kendall-Ball, at 2/22/2005 06:28:00 AM  

  • Greg --

    You forgot something.....Yes, the Braves will win the east again. And then they will choke in the playoffs again! ;-)

    Then again, my team hasn't been to the playoffs since 1987.

    Jeff
    (long-suffering Detroit Tigers fan)

    By Blogger Jeff Slater, at 2/22/2005 06:34:00 AM  

  • I will attest to the fact that Jeff is a long-suffering Tigers fan. I went to a game with him (five?) years ago, and Ross Cochran and I almost got arrested by an undercover Detroit cop for trying to scalp our 4 unused tickets out front. "...really, ossifer, I didn't know it was illegal." He got distracted by someone doing something else, and we kind of slid on into the game unfettered. Whew!

    And I don't get the Nascar thing either.

    By Blogger don, at 2/22/2005 07:09:00 AM  

  • Mike, I am a born and bred Southern guy, and I don't get it either. I am a sportsaholic, but I would just as soon watch paint dry as to watch cars go around in a circle for several hours. I notice a lot of Dixie flags being waved at these events, so let me ask in a whisper......could one of the draws be that this is one of the few remaining sports where you don't have to be a part of the hip-hop or rap cultures to be a participant or fan? I'm not implying that is the draw for the Christians who read this blog, I am talking about the average Billy Bob from Arab, Alabama. Is this the last bastion of true Southern culture and heritage? Just asking. I don't have anything against NASCAR, I just haven't figured out the draw yet.

    In HIM,
    DU

    By Blogger David U, at 2/22/2005 07:21:00 AM  

  • Interestingly enough, I had the same conversation this weekend with a friend in Atlanta. He is an Oklahoma transplant, and married into a very southern (ie: pro Nascar and SEC) family. We came up with the conclusion that it is more a mullet support group than a sport.

    By Blogger EBC, at 2/22/2005 08:06:00 AM  

  • NASCAR--

    People drive from all distances, obeying all speed limits and usually wind up sitting in traffic for a period of time before and after the race so they can get to the track and say, "Oh, so THAT'S what a car is SUPPOSED to do!"

    :-)

    By Blogger Jared Cramer, at 2/22/2005 09:43:00 AM  

  • I agree that watching the NASCAR is odd. I don't understand how people do that. But two weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet a man that listens to NASCAR on satelite radio. LISTENS TO NASCAR!

    I find it hard to watch cars go around in circles, but listening to cars go around in circles, that's something. WOW!

    By Blogger jimps, at 2/22/2005 09:43:00 AM  

  • Really can't relate all that well to NASCAR or other sports for that matter. I guess it has to do with your familiarity with it -- football is my favorite, but even then I only watch unless our team is good(GO BRONCOS!) Ah, but the Olympics! Can't tear myself away from that. Summer/Winter, doesn't matter. The human interest story is just as entertaining as the actual event!

    By Blogger Cindy, at 2/22/2005 10:25:00 AM  

  • As a Fresno boy, born and raised, I've always been surprised by how many NASCAR addicts there are in the San Joaquin Valley, miles and miles from the south. It seems like an adventure in "Go straight, turn left, go straight, turn left" to me.

    On the other hand, spring training gets my blood pumping. This is the Angels year again, friends. If anyone out there happens to know John Lackey, tell him I'm predicting 15-18 wins this year. And it brings up a question: is it WRONG to pray for a championship???

    Steve

    By Blogger Thurman8er, at 2/22/2005 10:31:00 AM  

  • I like listening to baseball on the radio, but listening to a NASCAR race on the radio is much more exciting -- there is constant action (listen some time and see for yourself). The same cannot be said for baseball ("The pitcher looks in, now he steps off the mound. The pitcher gets the sign...now the batter steps out of the box. The pitcher winds up and delivers. Ball one. The pitcher steps off the mound... The batter once again steps out of the box... etc. etc. etc.)

    At a baseball game you might catch a ball (yawn). At a NASCAR race, you might catch a tire!

    Jeff

    By Blogger Jeff Slater, at 2/22/2005 11:10:00 AM  

  • With hockey suspended this season ( and maybe forever) my prediction is that there will be thousands of white guys north of the Mason/Dixon who need thier fix of other white guys hurting one another. It is my belief that they will turn to racing. Buy stock in this sport... its gonna be even bigger than it has been this year.

    By Blogger tjmccloud, at 2/22/2005 11:11:00 AM  

  • Hmmmm. Your guess is as good as mine. I still can't figure out why everyone hates Jeff Gordon. Funny thing though while I was attending CrossCreek Christian they used to put the races up on the big screen after church and a bunch of people would show up to watch it. Probably next to our youth days the biggest outreach. I had to leave though to many girls with halter tops on and guys missing teeth sitting in lawn chairs between the pews.

    Ouch.

    By Blogger happytheman, at 2/22/2005 11:30:00 AM  

  • Oh Mike Sorry but speaking of sports I will be sitting behind home plate at the Angel game while your speaking at Pepperdine....

    By Blogger happytheman, at 2/22/2005 11:34:00 AM  

  • Let me begin by saying I am not a NASCAR fan. I do enjoy watching the end (last 20 laps) of a race because that's where the real drama is in MHO.

    I live about an hour from Bristol. On race weekends, cars and RV's pull in from all over. It is not just a southern thing anymore. If you have noticed, southern tracks have been losing races to races in the west and now there is talk of a track in NY state.

    NASCAR does some things right -
    1.They hold drivers accountable
    a. to play by the rules (same tires for everyone, pre & post race checks) b. Fines for colorful language on air.
    2. They realize that this lifestyle is hard on families, so they don't schedule a race on mother's day. That's just nice.
    3. I haven't heard any track owner asking for public funding for anything. (Again I am not a fan so it might have happened).
    4. Many of the tracks use non profit groups to man their concession stands to allow them a chance to raise money for their cause. (I know cheap labor but it's a win win)

    They have somethings to work on like diversity but they know it and appear to be working on it.

    Give me a choice and I will watch Baseball or college football but I do like somethings about the way NASCAR runs its sport. Can the same be said for baseball or college football?

    Final thought - I am troubled by the tone of the stereotyping of NASCAR fans. Why is it that we have stopped stereotyping every other group of people but southerners?

    By Blogger Steve Duer, at 2/22/2005 12:15:00 PM  

  • Steve, we stereotype southerners because it's funny, and we southerners don't mind it. In fact, we're proud of it. The longer we can keep the dang yankees (slight concession to this genteel blog) thinking we are dufuses, the less of them will move here and spoil it all for us.

    By Blogger don, at 2/22/2005 12:55:00 PM  

  • Mike,

    I've lived in the south over 30 years now, but I still can't answer either of your questions! But, best I can tell NASCAR lovers are also the folks who frequent monster truck rallies and the Abilene K-Mart late at night...a somewhat scary bunch to me! Hee, hee, hee! (Note for you SERIOUS types: I'm just joking!)

    By Blogger Cheryl C, at 2/22/2005 01:35:00 PM  

  • Although I am not much of a fan (probably because I did so poorly with my soap box derby model car in Boy Scouts), I know several folks in the west Houston area who are big NASCAR fans. It may surprise some that these guys are engineers and oil company executives--very intelligent folks. Also, many years ago I sold to a few race car companies in the Atlanta area and found that the mechanics were very similar in personality and intelligence to jet mechanics -- the top of the profession. I imagine there are those who enjoy the sport because of the precision it takes to have a winning team.

    By Blogger David Michael, at 2/22/2005 02:02:00 PM  

  • i didn't know NASCAR was even a sport...wow...i learned something today.

    By Blogger katy taylor, at 2/22/2005 02:27:00 PM  

  • Okay, y'all...

    I LOVE NASCAR.

    My brother-in-law is from North Carolina and grew up a HUGE Dale Earnhart fan. He introduced my family to NASCAR about four years ago when he married my sister.

    Previously, I was among those of you who find it "boring" and "odd" to watch cars "drive around in circles for 500 miles". But as Jeff said, there is much more to a NASCAR race than 500 miles of turning left! There is drafting (which I proudly explained to my daddy yesterday) and teamwork. There are nail-biting pit stops. There is rivalry and friendship between competitors. There are new race tracks and the classic tracks -- Darlington, Daytona, Bristol! NASCAR fans appreciate both the history (Dale Earnhart; Bobby Hamilton, Sr; Richard Petty) and future of NASCAR (a growingly diverse group... not just "the folks who frequent monster truck rallies and the Abilene K-Mart late at night"!)

    Let me give you a piece of advice to get you started watching NASCAR... pick a car/driver and cheer for it/him. NASCAR fans are INCREDIBLY loyal to their drivers, and it is part of why NASCAR is so much fun. There's a healthy rivalry in my family because we all cheer for different drivers. I'm a Dale JR (Budweiser car) fan. My husband is a Tony Stewart (Home Depot car) fan. My oldest son is a Bobby Labonte fan (his favorite color is green and Bobby drives the only green car). My youngest son is an Elliot Sadler supporter because he drives the M&Ms car (Cal's favorite candy are M&Ms).

    And once you become a fan of one car/driver and his team, you have automatic rivals. Can anyone really cheer for both Dale Jr AND Jimmie Johnson? Both Rusty Wallace AND Jeff Gordon? Of course not... it would be sacrilege!

    Seriously... I don't know anyone who is "sort of" a NASCAR fan. NASCAR is ADDICTIVE! Don't even get my husband started...

    Mandy Richey

    By Blogger Mandy, at 2/22/2005 02:55:00 PM  

  • Ok, I have to jump in and defend myself...I am working on my Master's in Divinity and have lived in Texas my whole life (without picking up much of an accent) and consider myself a fairly intelligent person...and I LOVE Nascar!!! :-) It is a hard obsession to describe how it begins or why one loves watching someone "going in circles" for hours and hours on end...but let's just leave it at this: there is much much more to it...

    I, too was once a skeptic and when I would run across a race on Sundays I would just keep flipping...then I met by best friend in college and her family. They are nutty-they get their shirts on, put their stand ups out, yell at the TV, and I couldn't understand what was going on...but after awhile they sucked me in, and I'm glad they did! Watch it sometime with someone who is really, and I mean REALLY into it-and you'll see what I mean (or just come on over!) I have even sucked people in to my redneck world-without even trying, but have never made anyone watch a race. I feel sorry for my (hypothetical) future husband if he is not into it-his Sundays will be robbed. LOL

    So hats off to the #2 watched SPORT in the nation...even the President went to the Daytona 500 last year!! Oh, and Mandy-amen sister...Loyal and addicted we stand!! Oh, and one more thing...JIMMIE JOHNSON ROCKS!! :-)

    By Blogger Katherine, at 2/22/2005 03:01:00 PM  

  • Well, I had to post just so there wouldn't be "24" comments anymore! I'm a huge racing fan and not just NASCAR - I'd watch lawn mower races. I was raised by a daddy who loved cars... old cars, new cars, broken cars,and race cars. Of course, I'd do anything to get more of Daddy's attention so, I became a fan.

    A huge percentage of today's fans are highly educated, professional people. We're all different - isn't that a blessing - I couldn't stand it if we had to watch soccer or hockey all the time.

    I was a snobby sorority girl in college but still had a favorite driver...it's fun for me to sit (or stand) in the sunshine (or rain) and watch the bright shiney cars chase one another around and around... hey, I'm blonde - it doesn't take much to entertain me!

    By Blogger That Girl, at 2/22/2005 03:48:00 PM  

  • I am a huge Nascar fan just recently, and to me it is a sport and takes a lot of strategy to be good at it. This year's Daytona 500 in my opinion, was way more entertaining than the Super Bowl

    By Blogger Chris, at 2/22/2005 05:25:00 PM  

  • I'm from Indianapolis originally, so there are only two sports ... the one with the hoops and the one that happens on the Sunday before Memorial Day.

    Everything else is just ... well, what Aunt Eller said about Jud Frye and Curly in Oklahoma:

    "A couple o' fools tradin' noises."

    By Blogger Keith Brenton, at 2/22/2005 05:43:00 PM  

  • I have been a NASCAR fan for 8 years and I'm from the north and a big Jeff Gordon fan. Unless you've been to a race and been to the garage and seen the cars in motion not on T.V you really don't understand what the whole thing is about and how exciting it is and all that. Much much better in person. It's fun screaming for your driver at a race. You hear the engines (not whiny like open wheel) and you see the wrecks and the wins, nothing is like it really. You need ot experience it.

    By Blogger Dreamnfleet, at 2/22/2005 05:53:00 PM  

  • Just attend one race with good seats and you'll be absolutely caught up in it.

    Did you know? Research shows that the highest level of brand loyalty in any sport is in NASCAR.

    Go 24 (Gordon)!
    Go Cardinals!

    By Blogger Khris, at 2/22/2005 06:07:00 PM  

  • Guess what: sport preferences are mostly irrational, don`t push yourself too hard trying to explain them. Being borned and raised in Southwestern Europe (Portugal), I really find baseball the ultimate boredom (of course, I don`t understand the rules either, because I never wateched a game long enough to understand them... I usually would get bored within the first 5 minutes).
    On the other hand, football (what you people call soccer) really gets me and 300 million Europeans crazy - just take the English hooligans, for example.

    By Blogger O_Pombo, at 2/22/2005 06:37:00 PM  

  • Mike,

    I will say this. NASCAR is the only sport I know of that still has an invocation/prayer before every race. I don't follow the sport much, but my buddy does and he always talks about how Joe Gibbs used to share the word among groups of drivers and fans. I think he is a class act and great example to football and racing fans.

    Steve

    By Blogger Steve Puckett, at 2/22/2005 07:49:00 PM  

  • After I moved to Tennessee from Texas, I knew something was wrong when the sports guy ran down the Nascar standings before going to the Friday night football scores.

    By Blogger Longhorn, at 2/22/2005 09:20:00 PM  

  • My friend Katherine (see above-ish post) has tried to convince me of the greatness of NASCAR. In fact just this Sunday afternoon while staying at her house, a certain NASCAR event was being televised and in her case taped (due to lectureship driving duties). After said duties (and on my part a full stomach of Abuelos) we watched the conclusion (fear not avid fans, the first part was still in the vcr for further viewing). The repetitive buzzing sound of all those cars driving lap after lap after lap was the perfect thing to fall asleep to. Working with a campus ministry has taken away the option for a Sunday afternoon nap for me. However, not this special weekend – thanks NASCAR.

    By Blogger Jen, at 2/22/2005 09:27:00 PM  

  • Mike:

    After reading your NASCAR entry earlier, I was trying to find my way back to your blog. I got lazy and simply typed "Mike Cope" into the address bar of Explorer.

    What came up was the website of a racer named Mike Cope (I kid you not) http://www.mikecoperacing.com/

    He even has this entry in his bio which really sounds bizarre to me since I know a different Mike Cope:

    "Racing is Mike Cope's life, always has been. He comes from a racing family. Mike's parents both raced and both of his brothers have been racers. Even his Grandmother worked at the family's home track back then, which was Florida's Sunshine Speedway. In fact, you could say Mike has been going to the racetrack since before he was born."

    Thanks for the Twilight Zone moment Mike. I feel as if I just crossed over into an alternate reality where everthing is exactly the same - except Mike Cope is a race car driver instead of a preacher!

    By Blogger Chris Benjamin, at 2/23/2005 03:07:00 PM  

  • Mike,

    To the unititated, I quote Ernest Hemingway. "There are only two sports: bull fighting and motor sports. Everything else is just a game."

    By Blogger Mark Tucker, at 2/23/2005 04:49:00 PM  

  • To Mike again,

    Let me elaborate: auto racing, in the form of NASCAR, is about teamwork, hard work, mental toughness, physical endurance, precision engineering, strategic planning, fair play, close competition, and abiding loyalty. To succeed requires courage, skill, discipline, and concentration that virtually defy our ability to communicate. Actor Paul Newman has said that he gets as much satisfaction putting his wheel at the same spot on a track for two consecutive laps as he does making a successful scene in a movie.

    NASCAR has problems: issues involving diversity and the parochialism of southern roots (I have a right to say this. I spent my first 27 years in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee and never saw a race while growing up).

    NASCAR is a national phenomenon with attendance having doubled in the past 5 years and with races in New Hampshire, New York, California, and several Midwestern states.

    Football is bigger than auto racing in the U.S. But the U.S. has 1,200 tracks for oval and road racing (where cars turn both directions). Tracks at Bristol, Tennessee; Jackson, Michigan; Indianapolis; and Daytona have a seating capacity larger than that of any football stadium in this hemisphere.

    Since racing is a spectator sport, it is a family sport like few sports are. One trip to a NASCAR race convinced me that the typical race fan is as well-behaved while watching competition as the typical fan at any other sport.

    Since competitors work on Sundays, they worship at the track, assisted by Motor Racing Ministries. Their charities include Habitat for Humanity, Boys and Girls Clubs, and Victory Junction (a camp for children with terminal diseases).

    Since moving to Abilene from the Midwest, I gave up my tickets to the Indianapolis Motor Seedway, but hope to visit Texas Motor Speedway soon. Would you care to join me? You would not be the first minister I have introduced to this most compelling sport.

    By Blogger Mark Tucker, at 2/23/2005 05:53:00 PM  

  • Maybe because it gets your heart racing? If that is the criteria, though, then a lot of other things would be deemed "sports."

    By Blogger Roonie, at 2/25/2005 10:03:00 AM  

  • Timing is so funny because for years I've not understood the draw either. Last week I began to, though. For the first time I sat down with family NASCAR addicts and watched and asked questions - learned about it. [Nuttin's too interesting if you know nuttin' about it; if ya don't know an "inning" from an "out," even my beloved baseball can't be too interesting.] When I began to learn stuff like the aerodynamic effects of one car tucked away behind another one, that several drivers are sort of teammates (don't understand all that, tho) and help each other out on the track, and then you begin to get to know the personalities of the drivers, well...it CAN become more interesting. Kinda like people - I can make all sorts of assumptions but really don't know what lies beneath and what makes 'em tick 'til I probe a little bit and get to know 'em.
    So if you really want to understand the craze, get to know NASCAR; if you'd rather keep saying "I don't get it," then do that. Your choice.

    By Blogger Amy H, at 2/28/2005 01:07:00 PM  

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