Monday, March 12, 2007

Culture Is Where You Find It

By Bobby

Culture has been an issue, as I have read in the past few installments. But it reminds me of this from a 2001 National Review Online piece, written after Dale Earnhardt Snr's death:

"But the most glorious aspect of all is the fact that racing represents a total rejection of several negative cultural developments. This fact is quite obvious to anyone who attends a NASCAR event.

"Races open with a prayer and a showing of the national colors, both of which are reverently received despite the fact that many fans are ingesting booze at a ferocious clip. Because prayer has now been officially deemed as a private ritual, the sight of 100,000 or so bowed heads at a non-religious gathering is a reminder of how much religion once infused American life.

"This can cause despair among nostalgic members of the audience, yet they can be assured that the Good Lord is much more likely to make his reappearance at a NASCAR race than at a general convention of the Episcopal Church, for the crowd will be much friendlier. "

(NOTE: This reference is directly aimed at the lack of beliefs in the Episcopal Church because of the scandals in the church. You may have heard of many of those scandals, mainly because they have turned their back on the faith in favour of social actions promoting leftist views. Since this column was written in 2001, a rule change was implemented in 2004 where drivers are now required out of their cars during all official pre-race ceremonies, and the Episcopal Church elected both Bishop Schori and also Bishop Robinson.)

"Pious heads return to earth at the start of the engines. These horses roar. Because sound begets sound, soon enough the audience is roaring as well. This is helped along by the fact that race patrons are allowed to bring in their own alcohol, which is in great contrast to other professional sports, which not only insist that the public pay for stadiums through tax increases but mercilessly gouge the drinking public. "

(As a rule, most speedways are not funded by taxpayers; they are paid by entrepreneurs, such as Kevin Whitaker, the Greenville-Pickens Speedway owner, who owns a local Chevrolet dealership in the area. In your state, Elko Speedway is not funded by the government. Elko drivers race for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Minnesota State Championship. Some tracks have banned bringing alcohol in the wake of 9/11 and strictler laws.

In some states, you cannot bring alcohol to the venue if they are selling booze. You can bring your own sandwiches and drinks -- preferable non-alcoholic -- at the hotel, camper, or home, and have them ready to munch at the track.)

And drivers aren't afraid to make public appearances, and that includes the ballet, the orchestra, or Broadway theatre (which some drivers and crew are known to visit during their championship banquet week).

In 1998, Texas Motor Speedway had Van Cliburn play the National Anthem for their race, owing to Cliburn being from Fort Worth.


  1. NASCAR fan and blog reader here (haha! See, I was reading the other day!)

    I've noticed the decided scarcity of Catholics at NASCAR events. It's mostly a Protestant club. I'm usually the only one crossing myself before the opening prayer. I, also, can't remember the last time I saw a Catholic priest doing the opening prayer. If ever.

    I better be able to bring my own brew. A weekend of NASCAR can be REALLY expensive. I'll be at Chicagoland in July and I'm planning on spending about $1,000 on the weekend (transportation, RV rental and parking, food, gas, tickets, gear etc.)

  2. Cathy,

    Years ago, I read an article in NASCAR Scene magazine where the Mattioli family (who are Catholics) admitted they offer both a Protestant and a Catholic service at their track during the races at the family-owned Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, PA. There are some occasions where a Catholic minister does the prerace ceremonies at Pocono, owing to the Mattiolis being Catholics. Some of NASCAR's greatest people were Catholics -- the Allisons, 1992 Cup champion Alan Kulwicki, and current Fox analyst and 2-time Daytona 500 champion Larry McReynolds (1992, 1998).

    The Mexico Busch race uses a Catholic minister as part of their ceremonies.

    Most Protestant churches participate in local track ministries. That's why they are usually dominant -- they are active in wanting the outreach. This is a byproduct of the fact three Protestant drivers took time to start an outreach.

    Illinois allows you to bring your own brew to the track. Also being able to cook your own dishes trackside and munching on them is a blessing. The later starts NASCAR has implemented the past two years allows fans to hop over to local churches in the communities for services before the race starts -- usually 2 PM or later. Many churches encourage fans to be at their church before the green flag.

  3. Bobby: Excellent! Thanks for all the info.


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