Let’s talk about racing. On one hand, you have F1: Hyper technical. Cutting edge. Filled with Germans who twitch alarmingly if the paint on the interior side of a wheel strut is smudged slightly.
On the other hand, you have NASCAR: Developed by moonshine runners in the early 20th Century in North Carolina. Essentially running on technology that’s been unchanged for decades. Sponsored by laundry detergents and Viagra.
F1 is about pushing the limits of what’s technically possible. NASCAR is about going around a circle without crashing into the fellow next to you and then punching him in the face. You don’t need to be a genius to know that most of the world knows that F1 is better and more exciting in every single way. It seems fairly obvious.
But it couldn’t be farther from the truth.
I grew up in a family that wasn’t all that interested in racing. My father knows quite a bit about cars and he was happy to share his knowledge with me, but we’ve never been what you would consider a hardcore motoring group. As such, I spent my youth in complete isolation from NASCAR. I, like many of my other northern brethren, believed it a massively uninteresting and stupid sport. F1, with its playboys and yachts and emphasis on technicality and precision, was vastly more interesting.
And then I went to a race.
To be fair, I wasn’t a spectator. I was working to cover last year’s Brickyard 400. I didn’t have the full experience of tailgating or cheering in the stands. But it didn’t matter. There’s a clear reason why NASCAR is the most watched spectator sport in all of America. There’s an absolutely insane energy at each and every race. There’s something incredibly primal and thrilling about the experience.
In a time of over-the-top political correctness (of which F1 has become the most repulsive example), the bare-knuckle, blue-blooded nature of NASCAR is a breath of fresh air.
In many ways, this is due to the sport’s fundamental identity. NASCAR originated during Prohibition in the early years of the 20th Century, when moonshiners surreptitiously modified their cars to outrun local lawmen. For fun, the booze runners began to race their homegrown racecars around dirt circle tracks. In the years that followed, the sport stayed true to its humble roots.
NASCAR is the premiere example of what is known as Stock Car racing. This moniker refers to the fact that every vehicle you see in a NASCAR race is based on a production model that you can walk to your local dealership and buy right after reading this article. Now, obviously, you can’t go and buy an actual NASCAR at your local Ford dealership. However, the DNA that runs through these cars is the same. And that’s saying something in comparison to F1, where each team has a custom built racer that looks like nothing else on the road.
In addition, the no-holds-barred “if you ain’t first, you’re last” mentality that characterizes the sport is a stark contrast to a sport like F1, whose governing body has now forced the sport’s largest tire manufacturer to make defective tires that burst if a driver is going very quickly, which is after all, the entire point of the sport.
Is NASCAR perfect? No. Of course not. But it’s a lot better than anything else that we’ve got right now and it deserves to be recognized for that.