Any NASCAR Sprint Cup Race during a season has it's share of loyal fans. It could be a particular driver, make or beverage, but they are everywhere.
It is easy to get lost in all the fandom as each person has a particular view on who will win the race. However, at one moment every Sunday afternoon for 36 races those fans join in cheering for one reason.
That moment usually begins with the phrase "Fans, at this time we ask that you please rise and gentleman remove your hats."
In that instant, those colors blend together for a different shade.
Each race begins with the people cheering for the United States of America. Every man, woman and child bows their heads as they prepare for the invocation and pre-race activities.
Sometimes the activities ask for a moment of silence for someone who was lost in the sport, or in the country. Not one peep can be heard in that instant.
As the invocation comes to an end, the crowd of thousands say "Amen" as one. Then comes the part that many people look forward to, the National Anthem.
With hats over hearts, the fans stand at attention, some mouthing the words. Military personnel stand saluting the flag. Veterans shed tears as they remember the wars they fought in or the brothers they lost in battle.
A few fans join together to hold up flags in the stands, showing unity among American citizens.
When the song begins reaching the point of "O'er the land and of the free," a rumble can be heard from a distance. Some fans turn their attention from the infield to another direction.
The rumble gets closer and closer, and suddenly the crowd looks to the skies, and begin a boisterous yell of joy. It's simply known as the flyover. The planes and jets shake the stands and the fans to their cores.
The fans cheer as the United States military shows their talents at speeds a Sprint Cup car could never reach.
It's a series of events that simply make the fans proud to be a citizen of this country. Every race, every command and every weekend it happens, but the reaction is always the same.
On occasion, the activities have a more of a meaning. Patriotic holidays always bring out more love and honor for the country. The Independence Day weekend at Daytona and Memorial Day weekend in Charlotte lead the way.
Daytona begins with fireworks on the track as the drivers beat and bang on the high banks. Then, as the winner celebrates in victory lane, the fireworks in the sky light up.
Memorial Day brings out more of a somber mood. Every branch of the military attends the Coca-Cola 600 to honor their fallen brothers and sisters.
Before the National Anthem, it is "God Bless America" hitting the people's ears, followed by a 21-gun salute.
A trumpet player then plays "Taps" to honor the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice. The fans surrounding the 1.5-mile track often have to hold back from crying, but many cannot.
But, one race weekend showed the most patriotism beyond any race ever ran in NASCAR history.
One week after terrorists flew two planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, NASCAR went to Dover with heavy hearts.
The cars showed flags and patriotic messages. The track personnel handed out American flags to everyone entering the track, so much so that they actually ran out.
Even with a moment of silence, an invocation and National Anthem, hardly anyone could hold back as tears flowed like Niagara Falls. No one was a NASCAR fan that day, they were all fans of America.
In a very fitting end to the race, it was the fan's favorite driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr, taking the win.
He keyed the radio as he came around to the front straightaway. Earnhardt made one request, saying "Get that big American flag." With one hand on the flagpole, he spun his Budweiser Chevrolet in the other direction.
Junior then did a Polish Victory Lap as the flag flew proudly beside his car. America's favorite NASCAR driver honoring their country, it was a very fitting ending to the race.
Baseball is considered to be "America's past time," but it is very hard to find a sport that has more loyal and more patriotic fans than NASCAR. They show it off in the flags they hang on their RV's or cars, fly them on uniquely made hats, or wear the colors on their backs.
American pride and NASCAR, they are never far apart.
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