Brian Spears

Poet, Editor, Teacher, Blogger.

Leaving NASCAR

I tend to write about political subjects over at Incertus, but this is personal too, and I suppose if I’m going to give David Biespiel crap about not seeing poets involved with politics, I should at least occasionally come through.

As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in the south, and NASCAR was a part of our lives well before it tried to expand into the rest of the country. I’ve been more a casual observer recently, though I’ve been known to click over and watch races from time to time, and yes, I am often able to match drivers and car numbers. That said, I’ve been pulling away from the sport in recent years, in no small part because of an argument Amy’s made to me more than once–that it’s an incredible waste of natural resources with little, if any, mitigating benefits. That’s generally true of most professional sports, but it seems to be particularly true of NASCAR. Some European racing circuits have been using the sport to find ways to advance hybrid, fuel cell, and EV technology, which puts them in a different class, as far as I’m concerned, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with NASCAR.

There’s a bigger reason, though, that I’ve decided to stop following NASCAR, and it has to do with the racism that’s winked at in various levels of the sport. On the one hand, NASCAR has spent the last decade or so trying to become more than a regional sport. There are races in California and Chicago now, and the media outreach is significant. They’ve been big in adopting the web to offer more insider information to their fans, and they’ve pushed to try to shed some of their redneck image.

But there’s also this problem. Now a sport can’t control who enjoys it, and I want to be clear–my issue here is not with the notion that a racist is a fan of NASCAR. But I do have a problem with a sport that allows fans to wear this sort of offensive shirt inside an event, whether it’s at practice or at a game. A person who tried to wear this sort of shirt to an NFL game would be denied entry, or if he put it on in the stand and someone complained, would be told to lose it or be shown the door. Same goes for any of the major sports–even sports as white-dominated as hockey or golf.

NASCAR, it seems to me, has the same problem the Republican party has–too much of its core base is made up of racists, and they can’t afford to cut them loose. But as long as NASCAR refuses to take a stand, it limits how much it can grow as a sport. Maybe that’s for the best, given the enormous amount of pollution and fossil fuels that are wasted for the sport.

Maybe one day I’ll give them a shot again, but for now, I’ve got to say goodbye to NASCAR.


May 16, 2010 - Posted by | politics, Uncategorized | , ,


  1. I thought racing events were the test kitchen for better tires, engines, and fuel economy. The endurance (the ridiculous lengths of races and waste of fuel) is actually part of the testing of said equipment. Yeah, it’s mostly a waste of oil and gas, but the parts from these stock cars eventually trickle into the regular market.

    As for the racist asshats, yeah they’re a big reason to avoid Nascar, but there’s another one that’s also turned me off too. I know a guy who watches races solely for the chance someone crashes, kind of like bass fishing meets depraved indifference. I can’t go for that.

    Comment by Raymond | May 16, 2010 | Reply

    • Maybe 40 years ago, before unibodies, front-wheel drive and emissions control became the majority of cars (as opposed to trucks) on the road. Modern “stock” cars are closer to malaise-era “funny cars” than they are to anything rolling down the road today.

      In a way, this goes along with the OP – NASCAR feeds on a longing for “the way things used to be”, even if they never really were. Hence Howard Dean’s comments about “NASCAR dads” being important to future Democratic success – you’ll never get them all, but just breaking them up might be enough to slow or halt the momentum.

      Comment by Aaron | May 18, 2010 | Reply

  2. Thanks for this post. Much appreciated.

    Comment by O. | May 17, 2010 | Reply

  3. I grew up in NC. While I was not a NASCAR fan, I did grow up around the names, numbers etc… Was told I drive like Dale Earnhardt (it was a criticism I took as a compliment) and even have a pair of #3 Mardi Gras beads (no, I did not). It was something around me that I was always interested in, but knew it wasn’t “for me” as a black woman.

    Comment by lajanegalt | May 21, 2010 | Reply

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