Friday, November 12, 2010

God, Country, Beer, and NASCAR

Oh, how southerners love their NASCAR - a true phenomena. Although some of us sit back and scratch our heads - how did this become a national sport? How did these drivers become household heros? Why do Tide and Duracell and Lowes want their names and colors pasted all over the sides of these cars and the suits of these drivers? Why do fans pay a high price for tickets every Sunday afternoon to watch cars go around in an oval for several hours to cheer their favorite driver on? Or, pay for an extra cable tier for "In Car Access" to see their favorite driver, so they can truly be part of the race.  

But now, as my Aunt Kat would say, NASCAR has gotten too big for their britches - they have out grown their roots. Now 60% live outside the south, since 2000 the number of fans making $100K a year has almost doubled (from 7% to 16%, with almost 50% making 50K),  the number having a college degree has "swelled" to 25%. (And, 33% smoke - cigarettes.)

OMG, their base is getting downright sophisticated. Wall Street can no longer make fun of the red-necks and their stock cars, although I'm not sure Las Vegas and Pennsylvania quite know what to do with the fans when they descend for the Shelby 427 or Pocono 500 This is big business. Maybe that is why the sponsors have moved from Mountain Dew to Nicoderm or Pabst Blue Ribbon to Miller Light. But then, you can build tracks and have races all over the country, the fans' demographics can shift (a bit), but some things never change. When the engines start, there is still a lot of big hair, beer, and good ol' boys. 

What most people don't know is that the roots of NASCAR started with bootleggers in North Carolina and Florida. Everyone who studied history (and paid attention)  know in the South during prohibiton there was a very healthy industry of bootleg whiskey - moonshine.  Liquor stills were located there, especially in the hills of North Carolina and Tennessee. The good ol' boys were always trying to out smart the revenuers delivering their prized libations. Then after the repeal of prohibition in 1933, they were still running the moonshine, making money avoiding the "Feds" and tax collectors.

When they got bored of outrunning the IRS, the good ol' boys started trying to out run each other and stock car racing was born. As the sport developed, they probably  justified their racing on Sunday because they did not want to compete with that other holy Grail in the south - college football on Saturday. 

But, NASCAR is entwined with the Baptist. If you look close, it is said  that  several drivers have Bible verses pasted on the dashboards of their cars so they can be seen by their diehard fans through the "In Car Access" cameras. Also, one driver, Morgan Sheppard, had a  decal of Jesus on the hood of his car (I am assuming not next to a Bud Light sign). 

Only, in the South - God, country, beer, and NASCAR. Of course the races are held on Sunday afternoon, well after church (and when it is safe to buy batteries from Wal-mart). Certainly the (good ol') boys attend church before "starting their engines" - don't they?

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