We often forget that at every race track on any given Sunday there are more than just rookies on the track—there are rookies in the crowd as well.
Are you a rookie headed to your first race at this weekend's Daytona 500? Well, if so, you are in for a show!
By now you've heard about this sport we all refer to as NASCAR, right? Friends have either told you they love it, hate it, or use it as a sleeping aid on Sunday afternoon.
NASCAR has grown out of control in recent years. Once a sport that was secluded to the southeastern part of the country, now races are on display from coast to coast (even crossing borders in the Nationwide Series!)
Need proof of the amount of spectators the sport draws on any given weekend? Check out the 150,000-seat bowl-like stadium—more commonly known as Bristol Motor Speedway.
Need more proof? What other sport's minor league has its own television deal with ESPN that features season-long coverage? The NASCAR Nationwide Series does!
Remember: You don't have a rookie stripe on the back of your shirt like the rookies on the track do. People don't know you are new to the sport, so if you take some advice and act like you've been attending races for years, nobody will ever know!
What To Wear
Nothing with Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson on it, unless you want to have things thrown at you (just kidding Gordon and Johnson fans!). In all seriousness though, don't show up wearing a Dallas Cowboys T-shirt or that Cleveland Cavaliers hat—spend a couple dollars and at least get a hat or T-shirt from a gas station or a souvenir trailer.
Men—you want to look rugged. This isn't a trip to the golf course, so Polo's and khakis are out of the question. Wear some cut-off jean shorts and a T-shirt with your favorite driver on it (retired drivers' shirts are OK!)
Women—you can basically wear whatever and as a standard, less equals more (in some cases!). I've seen plenty of women show up wearing only a bikini top and some short jean shorts, regardless of whether the bikini has Dale Earnhardt, Sr.'s infamous No. 3, Gordon's No. 24 or pink camoflauge—chances are, you will still get noticed!
What To Do
Don't follow the "regulars" and throw beer cans at the track should Gordon take the checkered flag. If you can't resist, make sure you can clear the front row—or at least all the people you can't whoop sitting in front of you!
Be prepared to see various people pumping their hands in the air, screaming as their driver soars by and saluting them with their beer can held high.
Here's a secret: That doesn't help them pass Johnson one bit!
Not that I'm saying you shouldn't have a good time. Feel free to cheer when your driver takes the lead and boo when your rival passes, but remember, you are in a crowd full of passionate fans. Be careful who you boo!
What Not To Do
Get wasted at the track. Really...you are going to spend hundreds of dollars in tickets, gas, hotels, souvenirs, food, and drinks only to not remember any of it later because you were plastered before the drivers were introduced?
Take it easy if you are drinking, and know when to stop!
What To Say
Any true fan will be able to pick you out of a herd of sheep if you don't know what you are talking about. Here are a few questions not to ask:
Why's everyone booing the guy in the No. 24?
Go ahead, say that and people will quickly realize you haven't followed the sport for more than a day.
Another: When's halftime?
NASCAR obviously doesn't have an intermission (yet).
One more: Who's driving that No. 88 car? It's pretty! That's my driver!
First off, if you don't know who Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is, you might as well walk into the race wearing a suit and sipping your martini, because nobody is going to take you seriously as a race fan. Second, the cars aren't pretty and you don't select a driver and/or team based on their paint scheme. The cars are "tough" looking!
Who's That Guy?
Die-hard fans are well aware of various nicknames throughout the garage. Take some time and read up on a few before you head to the track on Sunday.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.—Junior, June Bug, Little E
Jeff Gordon—Big Daddy
Carl Edwards—Cousin Carl, Flipper, Smiley
Kyle Busch—Shrub, Rowdy
Tony Stewart—Smoke, The Big One (OK, so I made that one up)
To test your NASCAR skills and its lingo, take a shot at this simple (if you are a fan) quiz:
1. Aero push is:
a. A tight condition caused by airflow.
b. The air from one car pushing another car.
c. What you get from eating the hot dogs at Martinsville.
2. Wedge is:
a. A means of adjusting a car's suspension.
b. A driving tactic used by teammates.
c. Jimmy Spencer's underwear after 400 miles.
3. A Darlington stripe is:
a. Paint scuffs left on a car that hits the wall.
b. Special chevrons awarded to past winners.
c. See wedge...
4. Track bar is:
a. An adjustable suspension component.
b. A tool for bending sheet metal.
c. Another term for a race fan's cooler.
5. The race begins when:
a. The green flag is dropped.
b. The yellow flag is dropped.
c. You eat that Martinsville hot dog and hope it stays in for four hours.
6. Splash-and-go refers to:
a. A pit stop for a small amount of fuel.
b. Running off-course into a muddy infield.
c. A grooming technique favored in the camping area.
7. Bud Shootout is:
a. A non-points race for the top drivers of each car manufacturer.
b. A two-car race to the finish.
c. Why the young woman in the Race Girl shirt is leaning headfirst into a trash barrel.
8. Kyle Busch's nickname "Shrub" refers to:
a. A play on words from being the younger "BUSCH."
b. The stubble on his chin.
c. A wild night when he was drinking and fell off a balcony into a shrub.
9. A HANS device is:
a. A head and neck restraint apparatus.
b. A tool for measuring cylinder stroke.
c. A German bottle opener.
10. The term COT refers to?
a. NASCAR's safer Car of Tomorrow.
b. The time when Cars are On the Track.
c. Cats On the Track—watch out!
Have a fun weekend rookie!