Watching the Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Wednesday, I came to some conclusions: 1. The Hall of Fame is great. 2. The first five inductees to the Hall of Fame are great. 3. NASCAR is a cult.
Why do I say that NASCAR is a cult? First off, let me qualify that I am not using the word "cult" in the negative sense that it is often used. I say NASCAR is a cult because its members consistently act to spread the sport, "spreading the message," if you will.
The Hall of Fame was opened to glorify NASCAR (and will do a mighty fine job, I might add), the TV personalities present their shows in a way that would glorify NASCAR, and heck, even I write this column to help spread NASCAR through the country.
Whenever I send videos of the 2007 Daytona 500 finish , Michael McDowell's Texas qualifying cartwheels , the "big one" at Talladega , Joey Logano's Dover flips , the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona finish , or Craven v. Busch at Darlington in 2003 to non-NASCAR fans, that's exactly what I'm trying to do—"convert" them by showing them how cool NASCAR really is.
I found two definitions that I particularly liked for "cult":
1. An instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers.
2. A particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies. (dictionary.com)
Now, when I talk about worship in the second definition, I'm not necessarily talking about godly worship. I mean, there's actual worship, and then there's worship (though some fans come very close to that line).
First of all, NASCAR does have a body of admirers—a rather large body of admirers. These admirers, to one extent or another, organize their lives around NASCAR. They come home from church and turn on the race, ask for race tickets for Christmas, and get aggravated when having to miss a race for one reason or another.
The clothes they wear don their favorite driver, and they may drive the same brand of car their particular driver drives.
They name their sons "Dale."
As for me, I talk NASCAR with anyone and everyone, and I do mean everyone—all my acquaintances, from my friends, to my boss, to my professors, to my students know about my obsession.
My cello professor simply chuckled when I informed her I turned down a chance to perform Beethoven Cello Sonata No. 1 in order to go to a race at Chicagoland.
We all love NASCAR, and there's enough of us for NASCAR to justify having eight separate series and attracting sponsors that pay millions of dollars to reach us.
NASCAR fans also cannot intermarry with non-NASCAR fans. My family once told me, "I hope your future wife likes NASCAR." I replied, "I don't think she'll get that far if she doesn't."
Racetracks are communal places. We all love to be in the presence of other NASCAR fans. A racetrack is a place where we can strike up instant conversations with anyone around us, it doesn't matter if one party is a CEO and the other is a redneck—if the two of them both like Junior, all is well.
For the most serious of us, is taking a trip to Charlotte not unlike visiting Oz?
To bring this back to the Hall of Fame...
I was waiting, just waiting, at the announcement on Wednesday to hear Brian France say, "All hail NASCAR."
So, as the NASCAR Hall of Fame nears opening, let us pay respect to the founding fathers, Bill France Sr. and Bill France Jr.
Let us give homage to the late Dale Earnhardt, who left us when he had so much left to give.
Let us praise Richard Petty and Junior Johnson, two of the most legendary figures to have ever stepped in a car.
Finally, let us go forth and spread NASCAR to the masses.
Other NASCAR Notes
WAVE Energy Drink has signed on to sponsor Tommy Baldwin Racing's No. 36 Toyota for the rest of the season. You see, this is why teams start-and-park—they need to be at the track qualifying for races every week to be seen in the hopes they might get a sponsor.
Now, they have a sponsor. Though it may not nearly be enough, let's hope it allows them to have a few good runs and set up for next year.
I also hope Bobby Labonte and sponsor Ask.com go to TRG next year. Just sayin'. After watching Mike Bliss’ qualifying run Thursday night in the TRG car, I just get this feeling that with a little more money and a little more support, this team can go places.
Also, after listening to Kevin Harvick's pre-race interview on ABC last week, does anyone get the impression that he will probably be leaving Richard Childress Racing when his contract is up?
He doesn't sound set on staying, and instead of flatly confirming or denying rumors that he may leave, he simply says, "You know, sometimes when you finish reading a good book, you say 'boy, that was a good book,' but you put it down and realize it's time to start a new book."
Finally, The 2009 Chase will go down in history as one of the most exciting championship battles ever. I’ve read a lot of commentary about how NASCAR needs to change the Chase format again because Jimmie Johnson’s leading again (one article was titled, “Thanks NASCAR for Giving Us A Great Championship Format that the Same Guy Wins Every Year").
OK, look: yes, Jimmie’s leading… but by 12 points! The battle between him and Mark Martin is one of the best we’ve seen in years, and has all the looks of something that will go down to Homestead.