The two months between the end of the football season and the beginning are baseball season have usually been a ‘sports black-hole’ for me. Sure, there March Madness, but only for the last half of March.
A couple years ago, my uncle introduced me to a different sport; one that wasn’t part of the four major sports in the country. One sport that starts the weekend after the Super Bowl, and goes until Thanksgiving.
And that sport, was NASCAR.
I started following the sport in 2004, with the switch to the new ‘Race for the Cup’ playoff format, adding excitement to the season. I have been a Jimmie Johnson fan since then, and have been loving the fact he has won the last five championships.
When I first started out watching it, I didn’t appreciate the little nuances that made the sport what it was. I just enjoyed seeing the cars navigate around the track, wishing I could go 200 miles-per-hour around a track.
But as I go older, I started to notice the little details that made the sport so interesting.
NASCAR is a sport of measurements. Each car has to be a specific size, given a plus/minus of thousandths of an inch.
Take a moment to think about that.
A couple thousandths of an inch.
The width of you hair can decide whether a car is too big or small. If your original measurement of the car is off, and the NASCAR officials see this, your car is deemed illegal, and you can’t race until it is fixed. Crew chiefs and drivers are in a constant state of war with the NASCAR officials, pushing the envelope of what is legal. When all the cars are the same, the parity in the sport is there, and you are always looking for that one edge you can get on the rest of the field.
Another exciting part of NASCAR is the exciting finishes. This past weekend, we saw Kevin Harvick make a last-turn pass of Jimmie Johnson to take the lead, and win.
And that wasn’t even the closest finish in NASCAR history.
In 2003, Ricky Craven edged out Kurt Busch by .002 seconds to win the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400. The photo-finish of the race is below:
(Photo Courtesy of http://rcfca.com/2009/12/31/rickys-darlington-win-in-2003-race-of-the-decade/)
Do you see how close that is? Doesn’t that excite you? These drivers race for 400 miles, but it all comes down the last lap, the last turn, or even the last front-stretch. These finishes are few and far between, but when they happen, you realize that you have just seen something special.
So next time you are flipping through the channels, and stumble upon a race, stop and take a watch. Once you get past the constant lap-after-lap racing, and think about what it takes to drive a race car, how you build a car to exact specifications, and how exciting it is, you will get hooked.
I never thought I would be a NASCAR fan. But now, that’s where I will be on Sundays. On the couch, cheering on my driver.
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