Race Weekend Central

Matt McLaughlin Mouths Off: What Sort of NASCAR Fan Are You?

How a NASCAR fan responds to various stories, occurrences, and personalities has a lot to do with how long they’ve been a fan and the mindset they bring to the sport. From the enthusiastic – if still learning – newbies, to the hardcore longtime fans (the guys who’ve been around since Richard Petty was a rookie), to the growing number of alienated ex or soon-to-be ex fans, everyone has their own take on things. It sort of reminds me of that old proverb about the seven blind men that encountered an elephant; each based their perception of what an elephant was depending on what part of it they touched.

Not sure what I’m talking about? That’s OK; a lot of the time I’m not sure what I’m talking about, either. Let me clarify with a few examples:

Newbie: Favorite track is whatever venue is closest to home.
Hardcore: Favorite track has always been Darlington… on Labor Day Weekend.
Old Timer: Favorite tracks were the dirt half-mile ovals.
Disenfranchised: Favorite tracks are the ones NASCAR doesn’t run at anymore.

Newbie: Thinks Jeff Gordon is the greatest driver who ever lived.
Hardcore: Is willing to admit Gordon deserves a spot on the top-20 best drivers list.
Old Timer: Wonders if Gordon could have raced in the era of treaded tires and no power steering.
Disenfranchised: Thinks if Gordon hadn’t been born, NASCAR marketing types would have had to have invented him.

Newbie: Can’t wait until Honda and Nissan come to Cup racing.
Hardcore: Liked it better when Toyota wasn’t part of the sport.
Old Timer: Liked it better when Hudson was part of the sport.
Disenfranchised: Doesn’t care because all the new cars look the same anyway.

Newbie: Wonders who was Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s father – the one everyone still talks about.
Hardcore: Hasn’t seen anything from Junior to convince them racing is genetic.
Old Timer: Doesn’t think either of the Dales could hold a candle to Ralph Earnhardt.
Disenfranchised: Is ready to blow a gasket if he hears one more word about Junior – especially since he hasn’t won a race in over two years.

Newbie: Would probably put on the race at a wedding reception.
Hardcore: Might ask the bartender to tune a TV to the race.
Old Timer: Listens to the race on MRN.
Disenfranchised: Still tapes some races, but rarely watches them.

Newbie: Thinks that the two road-course dates are an exciting break from the norm.
Hardcore: Uses the two road-course weekends to catch up on household chores.
Old Timer: Thought NASCAR’s best road racing was back when whiskey trippers outran the law.
Disenfranchised: Thinks a road course is an oval track designed by Brian France.

Newbie: Thinks Kyle Busch is sort of scary.
Hardcore: Thinks Busch is just another talented young driver who needs a few years to mature.
Old Timer: Tries to imagine how Curtis Turner would have handled a cocky young man like Busch.
Disenfranchised: Thinks Busch got away with his pass below the yellow line at Talladega because Toyota is writing NASCAR big checks.

Newbie: Always refers to the AAA series Saturday races as “Nationwide.”
Hardcore: Still messes up and calls it the “Busch Series” a lot.
Old Timer: Never stopped calling it Grand National racing.
Disenfranchised: Calls it “Cup Lite” because of all the Buschwhackers.

Newbie: Favorite NASCAR tradition is the Top-35 rule.
Hardcore: Favorite NASCAR tradition was the Southern 500.
Old Timer: Favorite NASCAR tradition was the Riverside season opener.
Disenfranchised: Favorite NASCAR tradition is watching sanctioning body try to milk fans of every dime in their pockets.

Newbie: Best memory of racing is standing in line to get Jimmie Johnson’s autograph at the local Lowe’s.
Hardcore: Best memory of racing is the infield parties at Talladega.
Old Timer: Best memory in racing is getting a bit fuzzy, but involves crashing one of Turner’s parties in a motel room.
Disenfranchised: Most bitter memory of racing is the loss of North Wilkesboro to move dates to Texas and New Hampshire.

Newbie: Would go to more races if there were more tracks close by.
Hardcore: Would go to more races if the on-track action improves.
Old Timer: Would go to more races if he wasn’t so concerned about his big block Superbird overheating in post-race traffic.
Disenfranchised: Would only go to races if somebody put a gun to his head.

Newbie: The worst part of going to a race is listening to the nasty comments his or her Gordon t-shirt sometimes draws.
Hardcore: Worst part of going to the races is getting your feet stepped on by Newbies hurrying to the parking lot to beat traffic with 75 laps left to go.
Old Timer: Worst part of going to races is frequent bathroom breaks and not needing a church key to open a beer anymore.
Disenfranchised: Worst part of going to races is putting another dollar in the France family’s pocket.

Newbie: The worst part of watching a race on TV is that the FOX pre-race show isn’t long enough.
Hardcore: Laments none of the networks cover the sport the way ESPN did in the 1980s.
Old Timer: Getting harder to tell these cars apart on a black and white screen.
Disenfranchised: Worst part of watching races is nursing your aching finger from hitting the mute and fast forward buttons on the DVR’s remote.

About the author

Matt joined Frontstretch in 2007 after a decade of race-writing, paired with the first generation of racing internet sites like RaceComm and Racing One. Now semi-retired, he submits occasional special features while his retrospectives on drivers like Alan Kulwicki, Davey Allison, and other fallen NASCAR legends pop up every summer on Frontstretch. A motorcycle nut, look for the closest open road near you and you can catch him on the Harley during those bright, summer days in his beloved Pennsylvania.

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