Viewer’s guide: How not to say stupid things during the Daytona 500

Every single week day, I hear extremely idiotic stereotypes and statements about NASCAR. With the 53rd 54th running of The Great American Race right around the corner, I feel it is necessary to post this public service announcement. Here it is, a guide on how to not say stupid things during the Daytona 500.

NASCAR’s not a sport.

sport (spôrt, sprt)n.

Is NASCAR a physical activity? Yes. Is it governed by a set of rules? Yes. Is it engaged in competitively? Yes.

Tada, there you have a “sport”.

All they do is drive in circles… anyone can do that.

No. There is much more to it than “driving around in circles” and the next person who says this to me is getting a virtual punch in the face. Imagine this, sitting in your car (without air conditioning) during rush hour on the Capital Beltway at 195 mph for five hours.

Now, during a NASCAR race, a very small thing such as a mismatched set of tires or a little too much wedge can make a world of difference. In NASCAR racing, that small problem costs very little, maybe one-hundreth of a second. But that adds up. And if it’s the last lap and one loose car could cost you a couple thousandths of a second, in the Daytona 500, that could be the difference between winning the race and finishing second… and nobody remembers who finished second.

Along with the aerodynamic strategy, mechanical strategy and philosophical strategy are also examined many times. Teams have been preparing for the 53rd running of the Great American Race ever since the checkered flag dropped on last year’s Daytona 500. For race teams and race fans, this is the Super Bowl, the World Series, Opening Day and the Winter Classic all rolled in to one. So, please don’t insult them with your “all they do is drive in circles” drivel.

These announcers sure know what they’re talking about (usually uttered after a Darrell Waltrip prediction transpires exactly as he says it would or after he makes a comment and a driver/crew chief recites it word-for-word)

That’s right. Darrell Waltrip is one of the greatest drivers to ever step inside a NASCAR race car. Three championships, 84 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories and a win in the 1989 Daytona 500 didn’t happen because he doesn’t know about racing. Same story goes for Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond. As for Mike Joy, he knows more about automobiles and motorsports than most people will ever know about. He’s been covering the sport for three decades and his presence has been a fixture at Daytona since the days of CBS Sports. Dick Berggren has covered racing since it’s glory days. He has covered thousands of short track races across American and plenty of NASCAR races to add. Berggren won 26 races as a driver long before most of the Daytona 500 viewing audience were even a thought during the Vietnam protests.

That was a really good finish

In the Daytona 500, they usually are. The Daytona 500 almost always comes down to the final lap. That’s what makes it great. The atmosphere, the close racing, the finishes are all why Ken Squier dubbed the 500 “The Great American Race”.

Wow, I didn’t know NASCAR has been around for over 60 years

Well, it has. And it’s not going anywhere. People were racing on the beaches and the dirt tracks of Nashville and Milwaukee long before Indianapolis was even a thought in Carl Fisher’s head. It’s a way of life.

Only rednecks watch NASCAR

Excuse you. NASCAR is very much a mainstream sport. Since people don’t know how to read or translate Nielsen Ratings, you will be told that 10 million people watched the Daytona 500. In actuality, it’s 10% of American households, which translates in to over 30 million viewers… making it the second biggest event in American sports only to the Super Bowl. You probably have many friends and co-workers that watch NASCAR and don’t even know it. That “88” bumper sticker on the back of their car or SUV is not their age or their DOB, it’s a Dale Earnhardt, Jr. bumper sticker. The “11” is Denny Hamlin. The “Lowe’s Racing” sweaters you see everywhere, those are Jimmie Johnson fans. “Jimmie Johnson” is not FOX mis-spelling the former Super Bowl winning head coach, that is the media talking about the NASCAR driver who has won the last five consecutive NASCAR championships, a feat unmatched in the modern recent history of professional American sports. When you see these people with numbers on their hat, just remember that they are NASCAR fans. And I bet many of them don’t even resemble a redneck.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. sucks and he’s only around because of his daddy

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has won two NASCAR Nationwide Series championships, 18 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at almost every type of track and a Daytona 500. Daddy was dead before 16 of those NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race wins. I hardly think anyone who’s won at Daytona, Bristol, Phoenix, Atlanta, Gateway, IRP and Richmond “sucks”.

(insert driver name here) sucks

Every driver in that race on Sunday has accomplished many great things in their racing career, even some of the guys who won’t be a factor. Steven Wallace, for example, has won the Snowball Derby which is the biggest race in American asphalt late model stock car racing. Paul Menard has won ARCA races at Pocono and Talladega. Most of the drivers that are only there because of money are, quite honestly, hashed out in their ARCA days.

I hate Danica Patrick

A lot of people hate attractive, successful, talented women.  Ironically, many of the people who hate Danica Patrick like female drivers who have gotten rides solely off their looks (Jennifer Jo Cobb, Maryeve Dufault).  Danica Patrick has a racing resume that consists of wins in go-karts and success in several open wheel racing divisions.

(Any Dick Trickle comparison)

Many people who don’t follow NASCAR very closely throw out the name Dick Trickle when saying a driver sucks, because Trickle’s lengthy career has not resulted in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race win and because his name comes to the forefront because of a fictional character in Days of Thunder named Cole Trickle.

Well, allow me to educate you on something. Dick Trickle has won more races than any other driver in the history of American stock car racing. He has started so many races and won so many races in his career that there is no record of how many wins he has or how many races he has started. It’s just known that he has won over 1,100 feature races in an estimated 2,200 starts — that’s a 50% winning rate folks… another record unmatched.

Dale Earnhardt (or Richard Petty for that matter) was the greatest NASCAR driver ever

This is a matter of opinion. But, before you spew your uneducated nonsense, consider this, Richard Petty has 200 wins in 1,184 races and seven championships. Consider this as well, David Pearson has 105 wins in 574 starts, and every time he ran the entire NASCAR Grand National circuit, he won the championship. Yes, it’s a nice thing to say about Earnhardt or Petty, but consider Pearson’s statistics before you open your mouth.

People still root for Jimmie Johnson?

Do people still root for the New York Yankees or the Pittsburgh Steelers?

(less popular) driver should’ve let (more popular) other driver win the race?

This is the Daytona 500, not Days of Thunder or Talladega Nights. NASCAR races aren’t Disney movies.

The race was rigged (usually spoken when Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or Jeff Gordon win)

No, it was not. A driver has to put themselves in position to win the race. If somebody makes a last lap pass on another driver for the win, it’s because that’s how the slingshot works not because the race was rigged.

Wow, those guys are in really good shape.

Aren’t most athletes?

I feel really bad for Mark Martin.

Don’t. Mark Martin is one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history who has accomplished more than most dream of. Mark’s very happy with his accomplishments.

Re: Mark Martin … that old man can drive.

See above, Mark is one of the greatest of all time. He has always been a fitness nut, in far better shape than Aaron Rodgers. Don’t let his age decieve you, Mark Martin’s an ageless wonder. And, hopefully, he will win the Daytona 500.

Mark Martin’s the Brett Favre of NASCAR.

No. Brett Favre is the all-time interceptions leader in football. Mark Martin is not the all-time crash leader in NASCAR. Mark Martin doesn’t make as many mistakes as he does make great moves. Unlike Favre, Mark’s mistakes are few and far between, and Mark’s always been consistent which is why he is always a contender.

Translation: Mark Martin >>>>>>>>> Brett Favre

I will be sure to add more to this list as they become necessary. Until then, put this in your back pocket as you watch NASCAR take center state at the world center of speed.

Updated February 10, 2012 at 8:09 PM EST.

Posted on February 7, 2011, in NASCAR and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Thank-you. Sums up what many people, such as myself, feel.

  2. VERY well written and even more entertaining!

  3. I basically agree with all you said except… Darrell Waltrip. Can’t stand him, now OR then.
    I love the movies “CARS” and his voice is perfect for an animated film.
    He shot his mouth off when he first appeared in NASCAR, and it hadn’t changed; the only difference is that now, occasionally, he actually says something that is correct. I guess that age has increased his wisdom.
    As a David Pearson [I got his autograph, it was my first!] fan, thanks for the education of the youngsters.
    BTW, NASCAR shows that “creative interpretation” of their own rules continue as Bobby Allison has a win they refuse to count. Other drivers have been credited with a win under the same circumstances as BA but still don’t give him credit.
    Again, well done.

  4. the fact that you have to post this …says it all …i never see screeds like this written about Football …nascar is BORING !!! Give me Formula One all day long !!!

  5. Some of this is so dead on it isn’t even funny. Your love of racing shines right through the article.

    It is amazing what people say about the drivers and NASCAR races in general. These aare the same people that have never gone to a race.

  6. While I completely agree with the spirit of the piece, there are a couple of minor factual errors. The first Indianapolis 500 was run in 1909. Most Southerners didn’t start racing until Prohibition, which began in 1920 and while they were racing on Daytona Beach from 1902 on, setting world land speed records, it’s not the same as a 500 mile race.
    JJ’s five consecutive championships rocked NASCAR, ibut are not “unmatched in American professional sports.” The Boston Celtics of the NBA won eight straight championships 1958-1965, and the New York Yankees won five World Series in a row between 1949 and 1953.
    I love, love, love Mark Martin, and would cheer if he won the 500, to say he’s better than Brett Favre is only true if you’re talking subjectively, not statistically. Sure, Favre holds the record for most sacks and interceptions, but he also holds the record for most passes attempted, completed, and most yards passing…and he’s got a championship ring in the top tier of football. Mark Martin is in better physical shape now than Brett Favre probably has ever been, but as much as I love him, does not hold those kinds of records, nor does he have a Cup championship.
    I applaud the intent of your article and you make excellent points – especially the one about rednecks-only, since the last Southerner to win the Cup was in 2000, a little fact-checking would strengthen your arguments.

    • They were racing sanctioned races in Nashville and Milwaukee long before Indianapolis.

      As for Favre’s championships — I can’t sit here and say he won championships on his own. He had great players around him. When he went to a team with weak players around him, he was one of the statistical worst QBs in the league. And we all know NASCAR robbed Mark Martin back in 1990.

      Johnson’s record is unmatched in the modern era of sports… and I can rephrase that. Although, I do think the Alabama college football team are in good shape to win the next 7 BCS titles.

    • Dear Abby… [I thought Dear Abby died… oops! wrong Abby, sorry!]
      Please note that the FIRST Indianapolis 500 was in 1911… the track DID open in 1909 and had several events in 1909 and again1910, before going the the one-race-a-year format with the First Indianapolis 500 in 1911.

      The Milwaukee Mile does, in fact, pre-date the IMS track.

      RE: Baseball and basketball Championship streaks: Impressive, but did they have the competition level that we see in NASCAR ?? NASCAR has [currently] 43 teams competing… and at one time… Did the Celtics have strong competition? same question for the Yankee team[s] mentioned… The Yankees especially have been the wealthiest team in their sport for decades and their success shows it… Even HMS does not have the financial dominance over the competition that the Yankees have [and still have, to a lesser degree] in baseball. As much as I detest JJ and HMS, it is hard to deny that WAS a fine accomplishment.

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