Three buddies are headed to the races. Jim is Captain Negativity, Bob is Mr. Glass Half Full and Cooter goes with the flow. They are the epitome of perception is reality and the way they see a race weekend unfold speaks volumes about the challenges facing our sport.
As the boys arrive at the race track, there is typical race day traffic that is backed up for a few miles. Jim is incredulous. “They have been doing this event for decades. When will they ever figure out how to handle the traffic so we don’t waste half of the day waiting to park? Bob admires the surroundings, “Look at all of these people! The different flags and shirts and hats. It is amazing how dedicated the fans are to their drivers.” Cooter loves racing. “EARNHARDT!!!, that guy had on a No. 3 shirt!”
The car finally parked, the walk to the track begins. Jim is dismayed. “Where are all of the haulers? What happened to all of the companies out here giving away free stuff? Nobody supports this sport anymore!” Bob is amazed. “Look at this place! There companies that are out here. The people welcoming us and sharing their stories. So many of these companies putting their money behind the sport!” Cooter has his head on a swivel. “Look, that’s Jeff Gordon! There is Darrell Waltrip!! I think that was Richard Petty!”
The walk up to the seats offers more observations of the day. Jim wants convenience. “Stairs, stairs, stairs, good golly do they not believe in escalators or elevators? My legs are killing me.” Bob enjoys the benefits. “Dang, this is the best cardio workout I have had in months. Walking, and walking and walking more. People pay huge bucks to spend time like this on a stairmaster.” Cooter is enthralled. “Look at this place! It is so big! People as far as you can see! The infield is like someone spilled a whole bunch of paint of different colors and mixed it together. Man those cars look fast sitting still.”
The race starts and the opinions vary like any other event. Jim is unimpressed. “Man, the leader gets out front and no one can touch him. Look at this parade! Bob loves it. “Holy cow look at what these guys are doing with these cars.The top, the bottom, the middle, they are all over the track. Denny Hamlin has passed 50 people today. Can’t wait for the finish.” Cooter can’t believe the food. “This is better than fair. They not only have everything conceivable rotating on a stick or deep fried, but it is reasonably priced for a captive audience.”
The race is competitive and comes to a conclusion with an exciting finish. Jim is unmoved. “Stupid caution at the end to bunch of the field. That car wasn’t on fire very long. They could have let it play out.” Bob is overjoyed. “OH MY GOD! DID YOU SEE THAT!! Three-wide, smoke and sparks! That was incredible!” Cooter is… Cooter. “NASCAR!!! Woo HOOOOOO!! HEY Y’all, watch this!!!”
As the boys begin to head home they start talking about the day. Jim is unfulfilled. “What a day. All of this time and now we’re still in traffic for another couple of hours. The race was ok but could have been better.” Bob is on cloud nine. “Did you SEE that finish! HOLY COW! What a show! I can’t wait for next year!” Cooter is ready for more. “YEAH MAN! That is RACIN’! Did you see the fly over? And the fireworks at the end of the race? What a show!!” When they get home they all agree to order tickets for next year’s race.
All three men had the same “experience”. They rode in the same car. They sat is basically the same seats. They saw the same race. However, if you look at how they went through the day,you’d swear they were at three different events. Jim is miserable and irritable and looking to nit pick every aspect. Bob is thrilled by the racing. Everything about it had him on the edge of his seat and he could not get enough. Cooter was just engrossed in the experience. It was bigger than life. The sounds, the smells, the action, every bit of it was taking him to the next level.
The bottom line is each person had a different perception of the event. Whether it was because of how they looked at things or what they expected going into it, they handled their sensory input differently. At the end of the day that is what determines if we have a good time or not. Going into an event with an open mind and taking what evolves in front of us at face value, with no preconceived ideas. Appreciating it without giving too much weight to past results is incredibly difficult but it is so important when taking in a sport that is trying to reinvent itself.
Perception is reality. So how will you choose to perceive NASCAR the rest of this year and going forward as they change the car and the schedule in the future?
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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