Nascar: Not what you think (Part 2)
The Fans in the Stands
For most folks, racing fans and the word “classy” don’t really mix. However, lumping all racing fans into the world of friends who reside in low places isn’t fair. First of all, there is no one type of fan. But it isn’t hard to decipher who falls in what category when you spend some time at the track.
Many fans are what I think of as the Old Timers. They’re easy to spot and you know they’ll be quick to tell you of the Cale Yarborough/Bobby Allison fight at Daytona in 1979 or Dale Earnhardt’s “Pass in the Grass” in 1987 (which, let’s face it, wasn’t really a pass, but an astonishing feat, all the same). Those are the guys with a million stories to tell that require little prodding. It makes for great listening but not for great people watching. For my money, that’s where a lot of the fun is, right in the stands watching people making complete spectacles of themselves.
I sat in back of a husband and wife for my first race; she was a Jimmie Johnson fan, he a Tony Stewart fan. You didn’t even need to look at the track to know how well Johnson was doing. All you needed to look at were her reactions, especially to hubby, as Johnson pulled ahead. She was more than ready, willing, and able to remind her better half who was in the lead and did so every chance she could. She would bounce in her seat and stand up, tugging her shirt in approval with every pass Johnson made. Since Stewart finished in back of Johnson, one can only imagine what the ride home must’ve been like for hubby.
That woman represents the fastest growing segment of NASCAR fans, the knowledgeable, vocal, sometimes rabid, female racing fan. I think her husband represented another equally growing segment of NASCAR fan–the man with a total inability to fire back.
Then there are the Haters. Someone out there hates Kasey Kahne. I mean really hates Kasey Kahne. I’m not sure if there was a personal wrong doing at some point. Maybe Kahne stepped on this guy’s dog. Maybe the guy just doesn’t like pretty boy drivers with baby blue eyes. Who knows? What I was certain about was the hatred from this fan towards Kasey Kahne. For about 15 solid laps, he never missed an opportunity to bring out the scowl, bite his lower lip in anger, and extend the Jersey Salute. How do I know that Kahne was the target of this fan’s disapproval? It’s not hard to figure when Kahne would be the only one passing by, the finger following the red number 9 the entire way. Here comes Kahne again, out comes the finger. Just like clockwork. Kyle Busch has a similar following. It appears about half the fans are Busch haters, from what I have observed in the stands.
With Kasey Kahne comes that other segment of female fan. This fan isn’t unlike the Jimmie Johnson fan earlier in this article. Take a walk past Kahne’s souvenir trailer and you would swear you walked into an arena with an 80’s hair metal band headlining. This particular female fan is very much aware of her appearance. She may be sitting all the way in the last rows of the track, but she’s dressed to kill. Maybe it’s Jeff Gordon’s TV-friendly appearance or Joey Logano’s boyish appeal, because Mark Martin sure isn’t attracting this particular fan.
During tire testing several weeks prior to the Coca Cola 600, one Kasey Kahne fan took it upon herself to break out a stopwatch and time his laps. Funnier was the visible frustration she showed as she failed to take a picture of his car in motion. She practically turned shoulder sagging into an exercise. Do not do anything to anger these fans. They may not know the difference between gas, brake, and clutch but what they do know is their driver is cuter than your driver. Those good looks supersede any argument for driving skill, or lack thereof. Handle this fan with extreme caution.
Then you have the fan who loves to be the center of attention. He’s not one to mince words–he is outspoken. Yes, you all know him as “That Guy.” Never one to keep his comments to himself or his friends, “That Guy” makes sure all of those in his section, as well as the adjacent sections, get to hear every drunken pearl of wisdom. Friends, I was fortunate enough to sit in back of “That Guy” at the last race I went to. “That Guy” was the first one to remind us all how much Tony Stewart loves the Whopper. His constant cries of “TONYYYYYY” served as our reminder as to whom he was pulling for. He didn’t fail to fill us in on how poorly Earnhardt Jr. has been doing this year, and we knew exactly where “That Guy” stood on every NASCAR related issue. And we all let him speak, because “That Guy” was going to provide us hours of entertainment, at least until he wore himself out.
It takes all types to fill a race track the size of the Lowes Motor Speedway (or any track for that matter), but it’s the daredevils in their speed machines we all come to see. If it’s drivers you want, in Part Three, it’s drivers you get.