I’m an NPR junkie, but every once in a while on my way to work I want to listen to music or something silly, but I can’t take Howard Stern or most of those morning drive-time guys. There was this radio station in New Hampshire that I liked. The hosts of the morning show were silly but didn’t try to imitate Stern. They joked about their kids, being parents and having day jobs. They would also carry on and on about Nascar. They’d get all excited when races were coming to New Hampshire and they’d interview drivers. At the time, I really had no idea what they were talking about. The thing that blew me away was this Nascar Math Contest they’d have to give tickets to races away. Someone would call into the show, and they’d present the caller with a complex math problem. It’d be like, Divide Jeff Gordon by Dale Earnhardt Jr., add Rusty Wallace and what do you get? You had to know the numbers of all those drivers’ cars to get the answer, and if you figured it out, you’d get tickets. I thought that was hilarious.
One day in 2001 I decided I had to figure out exactly what these guys were talking about, so I went to a Busch Series race. (The Busch series is the top minor league circuit in Nascar.) At the track, I couldn’t help but smile and laugh because everything about Nascar is really over the top: It’s loud. The colors are garish. The garish commercial advertisements all over the cars and the drivers’ uniforms. And everybody is a fan. Everybody who goes to these races wears their favorite driver’s colors. I found it very entertaining.
I also noticed how fast these cars were going. Depending on the track, they’re clipping around at 195 miles an hour and they’re six inches apart from each other and they drive like that for three and a half hours. It’s amazing. There are some tracks, like Talladega or Daytona (which are the two fastest on the circuit) where drivers will be three cars wide, 10 cars deep traveling that way. It’s like artistry. It’s pretty amazing. And it’s very competitive. Although the drivers have a strong desire to beat each other, at the same time they have to have an amazing amount of respect and trust for each other because it’s a dangerous sport. As a driver, you need to know that the others aren’t going to do something that will put you in peril. These guys are tough guys. There’s something really fascinating about the level of competition, the skill of the driver and the amount of trust and camaraderie that has to exist between them all.
My first experience at the track was great, and I’ve been hooked ever since.