Race Weekend Central

Fathers and Sons

Bloodlines run deep throughout NASCAR Nation. The legacies passed from generation-to-generation by fathers through their sons are nothing short of legendary.

In the beginning, there was Bill France, Sr. and Bill France, Jr. That lineage was followed from Bill Jr. to his son Brian.

From there, the family ties comprising NASCAR simply extend across generations.

Ralph Earnhardt gave us Dale Earnhardt, who gave us Kerry, who gave us Jeffrey. And don’t forget to add Dale, Jr. to the family’s competitive roster….

Such NASCAR royalty is famous, especially when you consider the line running from Lee Petty to his sons Maurice and “King” Richard. From Richard, we get Kyle, and from Kyle, we received Adam.

And the bloodlines simply continue to grow and amaze us. Bill Elliott’s son is locked in an epic struggle with Dave Blaney’s son for this year’s Rookie-of-the-Year honors in the Sprint Cup Series. Bobby Allison’s son, Davey, earned that title back in 1987. Maybe someday we’ll see Davey’s son, Robbie, presented with the same award.

From Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett to Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett, we’ve watched with pride as famous families in NASCAR have built on the accomplishments of previous generations. It’s often been said that NASCAR itself is like one big family, a traveling thrill show where everyone lives and works as one. And that, to some extent, is true.

What’s more accurate is the idea that NASCAR is so tightly woven across generations of fathers and son because such is the nature of the business. Rarely do we see a young driver enter the sport without some prior familial connection.

In motorsports, and especially in NASCAR, acculturation means just as much as acceleration.

The same idea can be applied to fans, as well. If a father follows NASCAR closely, the odds are good that his son will do so, too. This trait explains my own induction into the sport. My father has been a dedicated NASCAR fan for almost as long as there’s been a NASCAR. His idea of a wonderful date in 1953 was to take his newly-wedded wife (and my soon-to-be-mother) to a then-Grand National/now-Sprint Cup race at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds. Just as my mom got to watch Herb Thomas wheel his Hudson to victory, I would – years later – get to watch David Pearson and Richard Petty visit Victory Lane at nearby Pocono Raceway.

All fathers of sons, by the way, who wound up following in their dads’ tire tracks in one way or another.

And now I am a father of three children, our youngest being an eight-year old boy who follows the exploits of Chase Elliott just as closely as his dad followed the accomplishments of Chase’s Hall of Famer father. My son loves to hear how I used to see Bill carrying Chase to pre-race festivities when Chase was just an infant, and how I used to smile and wave at Chase as the six-year old strolled along pit road wearing his bright red Dodge racing jacket.

I can only hope that my life in-and-around NASCAR Nation will rub off on him. His sisters know and appreciate the sport, but there’s something special about the ties between a father and son. Maybe that’s why we have an open Sunday on the Sprint Cup calendar this week. It’s a good opportunity to cultivate and celebrate strong relationships before jumping headlong into a hectic stretch of the schedule.

Parenting is like the new aero packages we’re seeing in NASCAR. There’s no such thing as perfection, but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve from experience. Just like sons can learn from working alongside their fathers. That’s what built our sport, and that’s what can build its future….

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