A few days ago, I had an engaging conversation with someone I had just been introduced to. He was an acquaintance of an old friend. When our dialog got around to what we both did for a living, I offered up my relationship within motorsports and NASCAR in particular.
“Not my cup of tea,” he said.
“Why is that?” I asked.
“It’s too confusing to watch and I don’t understand it.”
I went on to give him a quick NASCAR 101 lesson, sprinkled with some key historical information and then I finished up with, ”And the season starts in a few weeks with the sport’s biggest and for most people, its most important race, The Daytona 500.”
By the look on his face, I could see that I lost him. He didn’t understand why the most important race of the season was the first race and not the last. I explained that the final race in Homestead is very important, because its outcome often decides who will be the series champion. I added that history has placed a special aura around the Daytona 500 and that a win in the 500 is the sport’s most sought after goal next to a championship.
“Then why not have the Daytona 500 be the last race of the season, instead of the first?” he asked.
I went on to explain that it wasn’t always the first race of the season, but as the young series established itself more than half a century ago, the Daytona 500 evolved into being the first race, as well as being its most prestigious.
His raised eyebrows revealed a continuing skepticism about the whole sport. Dare I try and explain the 500′s qualifying procedure, which is confusing to even the most hardcore of fans (and a good percentage of the sport’s media)? Or that the winner of the race is often not the best car, but the car that happens to be in the right place at the right time when the checkered flag flies? Or that a strong showing by a team in the 500 often doesn’t translate into a strong season-long performance?
I told him that most teams look at the second race of the season, the follow week in Phoenix, as the real start to the season.
“So, I think I get it,” he said. “You’re telling me that the Daytona 500 is basically a made for television sports event, right?”
I thought about it for a minute. He was probably right. I realized its easy to see how someone who doesn’t follow the sport could come to that conclusion.
“I think you’re right,” I told him. “I guess when it comes down to it, every NASCAR race could be called a made for television reality show.”
He nodded his head in agreement. I think we finally connected on some level. I smiled with satisfaction.
“Well, I’m not a fan of those reality TV shows, either,” he said. ” Not my cup of tea.”
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