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NASCAR: It’s not what you think

David fire suitBy Amanda Ponzar

I spent the weekend in Charlotte to watch David Ragan race the UPS/United Way car in the Bank of America 500. And I’m now a NASCAR fan. (That’s saying something coming from a person passionate about Masterpiece Theater, Jane Austen and Starbucks.)  

Yes, I’ve heard of Danica Patrick (woman driver!), but I assumed NASCAR was a redneck sport full of chest beating, beer-drinking, testosterone and revving race cars.

Admittedly, there was a bit of that –- RVs as far as the eye could see, tailgate parties, carnival atmosphere, lamb-chop sideburns, cowboy boots and cutoff jeans. And a bunch of guys at the parking entrance with a lengthy jump rope made of bras. (Yes, they were accepting donations.) You jump it, they give you a margarita. View from UPS suite 10.16.10

But there’s another side to NASCAR. It’s a serious sport. 

It’s not just 500 miles. It’s a non-stop, action-packed race that rewards strategy, safety and endurance.

Former driver and ESPN Commentator Dale Jarrett said he lost 17 pounds during a race once from sweating in the car; he claimed drivers in peak physical and mental condition perform better. 24-year-old driver David Ragan told us it can be 50 degrees hotter in the car than on the track, and talked about eating right and exercising. We even got a chance to tour Roush Fenway Racing and tour the Charlotte Motor Speedway with its 24-degree-angled banks.  (I scraped my car on a concrete column in our parking garage this year and still can’t parallel park –- yet these drivers zoom around at 200 mph on a sharp incline!)

20101016ac3025 During the race, I listened on a head set and could hear the entire crew talking LIVE with Ragan while he was driving, letting him know when he was clear to pass or yelling “green, green, green!!” when a caution period was over. David qualified #26, and I was on the edge of my seat while he worked up to #16, #14 and eventually, a top 10 finish! WOO HOO! Any other NASCAR fans out there? Let me hear you!

Photos courtesy CIA Stock Photography; view of track from UPS suite photo is mine

Comments

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Sarah Butler

Amanda it sounds like you may have a little NASCAR in your blood after your experience in Charlotte. I’ll never forget my first NASCAR experience at the Daytona 500. I may have been a little over dressed in my khaki Bermuda shorts, polo top, loafers and cardigan sweater – after all it was the late 80’s. I batted my baby blues to convince the guard to let me onto the infield – what an experience - the sounds, sites and fans!

Remember today is the last day to bid on the one-of-a-kind United Way racing gear you saw David Ragan wear during the race. Bidding closes at midnight on eBay. Check-out http://members.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=unitedwayworldwide to place your bid.

Amanda Ponzar

Laura, the only sport I watched regularly in college was ice hockey! If we both like ice hockey, you'd probably enjoy a NASCAR race as well. It's fast-paced like hockey (lots of action/movement). I just don't do well with the slow sports that have lots of breaks, time-outs, etc.

Laura

I'm wondering if NASCAR is like hockey - it is soooo much better when you are there. I'm not a NASCAR fan but have never been to a race (just seen them on TV). I love hockey in the arena but not on TV. This gives me a who new perspective on racing. Since I live 5 miles from a NASCAR track, I might have to go check it out.

Lee Drake

NASCAR fan from way back. And NOBODY does marketing like NASCAR. Every square inch of the car, the pit, their uniform, their hats, etc. is sponsor driven. NASCAR itself does an awesome job of both promoting the drivers and the sport. It's what keeps the whole thing exciting because there is LOADS of money in NASCAR and that makes the fans, the crews, the drivers, the tracks and the organanizers all happy. It's a lesson that each of us can learn from.

Chris

I totally agree. This sport is all about work ethic which crosses over all demographic groups. It's all about building something to go as fast as possible for as long as possible. It also emphasizes team work as a driver can't win without his pit crew. Pit stops are such a key element of the race, so are spotters (the guys who sit on top of the speedway stadium to alert the drivers of situations on the track).

Also, if you really want to get hooked, try a night race. The atmosphere rivals that of a World Series game or NFL Conference Title game.

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