As previously mentioned, many of my good friends are huge motorheads. I don't get it, either, but I am an expert at nodding and smiling as this friend drags me to stare at a Corvette he rebuilt or another friend jumps up and down while we watch an incomprehensible Formula 1 race and tells me why she loves Ferrari or another carefully explains why Rossi is the greatest motorcycle racer of all time. I have friends that are addicted to muscle cars, even ones with a flaming chicken painted on the hood, friends who could tell you to the penny what Michael Schumacher made last year, friends who earnestly tell me that I could make money as an umbrella girl. (Yeah right.) Racing maniacs. And to the last one, they loathe NASCAR.
I thought of this when reading posts by Greg and by Hugo trying to figure out the popularity of NASCAR. For those standing outside of the whole thing, it's tempting to be open-minded and generous towards NASCAR fans. They merely like racing and it's just what they know. They aren't racist, they just like to see racers that look like them. I sympathize with that urge.
My racing fanatic friends disagree strongly, to say the least. A couple of them I know can be can be encouraged to expound on it at length given a cocktail, a cigarette and a sympathetic ear. According to fans of other types of racing, superior types that have sophistication and technological advances like Formula 1, the only reason to prefer NASCAR is that one is a xenophobic redneck who would prefer substandard sport in order to never be assaulted with images of people who speak English as a second language giddy with victory and the cash and sex with supermodels that comes with it. This does not come from a bunch of blue state Americans who sneer at our redneck brethern. I am of our redneck brethern and still we look down on idiots who would rather watch Ford race Dodge instead of BMW race Ferrari.
Truth told, the growing popularity of NASCAR is one of the signs of the Apocalypse. There is no excuse for giving a shit about one substandard American manufacturer bettering another substandard American manufacturer in a contest that deliberately excludes foreigners who might make it interesting. When Toyota joined the Truck Series, it gave me a perverse glee to watch them start kicking ass right off the bat. Please don't condescend to my fellow Southerners and figure that we don't know better. They know better. They are just being assholes. Getting a tattoo referencing the late Dale Earnhardt is asshole behavior, and no one should be obliged to expend effort trying to understand it.
NASCAR succeeds for the same reason the American spirit we all remember from our youth and cherish, the belief in the spirit of freedom and the power of individuals working together, is giving way to ass-licking subservience to The Man and lavish yet ignorant patriotism. It gives people a cheap thrill without the challenge or fear they might get by actually engaging international racing. For fans of real, aka international, racing, NASCAR is reminiscent of football--a sport that no one but Americans enjoy, and one that Americans enjoy while trashing on a sport that is actually enjoyable--soccer--for no other reason than a bunch of foreigners like it.