More than two years ago, as I’ve mentioned on occasion, I was hired for a part-time job that pays me to watch TV. I’m still not making that up. Come in, sit down at a viewing station, get paid. Well, there’s more to it than that, but that’s not important right now.
Sounds great, though, right? Well, the kicker is that I can't actually pick the shows that I watch (try having to sit through a two-hour long Lifetime movie called “When Husbands Cheat” … bleah), so I've found myself getting assigned to view all sorts of crazy things. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen (in detail) how they make bacon these days.
Point is, one of the things I've had to watch on a regular basis is NASCAR. Now, I’d never watched NASCAR before. I knew nothing about it. I recognized some names, I understood what it meant when they said someone was heading in for a pit stop, I was clever enough to figure out what a caution flag was, but beyond that, I was pretty much seeing everything for the first time.
(Until then, the only car races I'd ever seen that interested me were in nostalgia movies like "American Graffiti" and "Grease." Apparently, teenagers had nothing to do before the Vietnam War but race cars down straightaways. I feel like marijuana might have been somehow responsible for ending that.)
Anyway, I discovered that NASCAR could be surprisingly interesting. I say “surprisingly” because I grew up in the part of the Northeastern section of this country that long looked down on stock car racing as something “other” people were into. It wasn’t that we thought poorly of it, but if we wanted to be bored to death on a weekend afternoon watching a group of men do the same thing over and over again for hours at a time, we’d turn on golf.
Sure, there were people who loved NASCAR, but where I came from, they were the same people who thought professional wrestling was real. They still might.
Which is why, again, I say “surprisingly.” First of all, the commentary absolutely served to keep things interesting. Those guys do a hell of a job. (Though part of my job required identifying which commentator was talking and, honestly, it’s not always easy to tell Wally Dallenbach from Benny Parsons).
Secondly, I realized just how much goes into the whole racing process. When people argue that it’s not a sport, these days I can muster up a (short) diatribe on the coordination that it takes, the stamina required, strategy involved, and the skill it takes to stay alive. Then I can take a long shower so I don’t feel dirty anymore. It’s amazing.
I feel I should also mention that just last month I learned something else about NASCAR. If you're flying through Atlanta on your way to Indianapolis, and your flight out of New York is delayed by three hours so you won't get to Atlanta until about midnight, it is imperative that you follow these directions to a tee: 1) check and see if there's a NASCAR event at the Atlanta Speedway the following day. 2) if there is, do not wait until you land in that fair city to try to find a hotel room.
On a related note, if you ever find yourself having to stay overnight in the Atlanta airport with about 200 of your closest strangers, call me. I can tell you exactly where the least comfortable place on the floor is located.
That said, I do have a ton of questions about the sport -- and yes, any action where competitors race with each other at 200 mph, enduring hours at a time in a sweltering chamber where the penalty for messing up could be death, that's a sport in my mind. I wish I could blog like Lewis Franck (if you happen to be a NASCAR fan, check his stuff out, too) Hell, someone explain to me the difference between a Busch series car and a Cup series car. They look the same to me, I’m sorry to admit. I just don’t know what I’m looking for.
Actually, I think maybe I'd be less proud if I didn't have any questions about NASCAR.
Regardless, this is where you, my faithful readers, can help me out. It’s only fair since you’re all significantly better off in life from taking the free advice I give out all the time. Right?
Now, I'm not too proud to admit when I don’t know something. I’ll let you sound off on your picks for Driver of the Year (Yes, I'm a blogger there. Yes, they promised me a free trip to Vegas), predictions for who’s gonna kiss the ground at the Brickyard, and whether Barry Maguire ever stops smiling (he might actually be Car Crazy).
All that aside, and the questions I wrote above notwithstanding, here’s one for you: I notice that year after year there seem to be two classes of drivers: the ones who are going to win, and the ones who aren’t (bear with me). You look at drivers like Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, or Carl Edwards in NASCAR. Or Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves in IndyCar. These guys are going to win. Then you look down the field and you see names that just never make it into the top ten, guys who have been driving five, ten, who knows how many years and yet have never been in contention (and forgive me if I’m wrong about this; I rarely know what I'm talking about), a Johnny Benson or a P.J. Jones, to name two (I think).
My questions are a) what makes these other guys drive every week? What makes them get up and go, knowing that if they qualify, they’re probably going to be starting toward the back of the pack, and they’re not very likely to be passing Kenseth, Harvick, or Biffle any time soon? And b) What makes a champion driver? I know guys have off years, or whatever, but overall, you can look at the last, say, five years and see the same names coming up over and over again in the top 20. The same guys in the Race for the Cup. So what do they have that those other guys don’t have? Someone must have an idea.
While you’re at it, maybe you can tell me why they have yet to throw caution to the wind and hold a race running clockwise.
Also, if you can figure out how I can start getting corporate sponsorship on my work clothes, I'd appreciate it. I think I'd look good in a Little Debbies/UPS/Budweiser tie.
A native of Elkins Park, PA, Adam Kraemer spends way too much of his time repeating "K-R-A-E..." He moved to New York City in 1998 and earned Master's in Journalism at NYU; don't let his writing fool you. He feels he is best known for saying the things no one is thinking, but afterwards wish they had been. He spends his free time wondering where all his free time goes and why he can never come up with a decent kicker for the ends of his articles.
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
4.9.08 @ 9:30a
Adam, dahlink, as the only living southerner who hates NASCAR I may be the wrong person to answer any of your questions, but what the hey! It's all genetic. You're born a NASCAR champ or you're not. Simple. You can practice all day and all night, you can build a car so much better than anybody else's that there should be no contest, you can recruit the best pit crew in the whole wide world and if your DNA ain't right you ain't gonna win. I've about decided that it's DNA that ultimately decides all athletic adventures. That's just my opinion, I could be wrong.....
4.11.08 @ 10:47p
I've about decided that it's DNA that ultimately decides all athletic adventures.
That's a pretty decent summary of what the Nazi's seemed to believe...
Anywho, I HATE ME SOME NASCAR. I am proud that a citified metro-sexual like Kraemer has embraced it, that speaks volumes about his Hebrew ass, but I have to admit that I feel more masculine watching fierce hot tranny messes on Bravo than watching racing.
What can I say? I haven't put the time in that Adam did. I mean, there's no ice, no puck, and nobody fights. Maybe if they had razor-blade spinner caps and oil slicks like that old Spyhunter video game, that would redeem it as a sport.
4.12.08 @ 1:53p
I live in Indiana Adam... You know that, since you've been here to visit me. Still, I think it's funny that I have been to the Indy 500 and still never seen it (yeah camping!) I have no answers for you, but I can tell you, I really do think Golf is boring to watch. I'll play you any day, though.
4.13.08 @ 7:56p
I didn't even know they had fierce hot tranny messes on Bravo, Dan. I guess I just never sought out that kind of fare. But, hey, if that's what it takes to make you feel masculine, go for it, man.
But while we're on the subject, you anti-Semitic douchebag, I don't recall saying anywhere in the column that my "Hebrew ass" has embraced NASCAR. I said I found it "surprisingly" interesting, given that I was getting paid to watch hours of it every weekend. I still have yet to view a race outside of the auspices of RewardTV.com.
I guess you're right when you insinuate NASCAR isn't like hockey, though. When they start skating at 200 miles per hour, we'll talk.
As for the rest of your accusations about me, I really don't have the time nor energy to worry about what you think. But I ask you to do me a favor and stop polluting the commentary on my columns (and my girlfriend's columns, for that matter) with your hate-speak. If you want to share your particular brand of uninformed, reactionary, incendiary, prejudicial ignorance with the Intrepid Media readers in your own columns, that's fine with me. Hell, if you want to create a Web site dedicated to the fact that Judaism is "crawling with alcoholic Zionist musicians like Kraemer," that's your right as an American. But as long as my columns don't start flinging mud in your direction, I'd ask you to locate some semblance of a sense of honor and stop attempting to fling mud in mine. Thanks, Dan. Always a pleasure.
dr. jay gross
4.14.08 @ 10:04p
Hey, golf can almost be considered a contact sport. NASCAR is just golf speeded up. The only difference between these two sports is that NASCAR goes 200 mph and golf goes 200 yards almost as quickly.
When was the last time a South African beat the great Tiger? The symbolism is amazing. What a metiphor! What's this about the top 20? New names and faces feed and perpetuate any sport.
The only problem I have with NASCAR is the tightness of my neck muscles after the first 50 laps or so.
NASCAR - After all I did go to college in Lexington, KY.