No Right Turn
February 15, 2007 6:51 AM   Subscribe

NASCAR as an example of a meritocracy with equal opportunity for all. While frequently maligned for it's relatively primitive technology (excluding safety ), the total lack of mechanical resemblance (other than appearance) of the "stock" cars to the brand they represent, soap-opera-slash-professional wrestling story lines, and being ripe political target for both the right and the left as well as marketers, it is a strong cultural force. The entrance of Toyota (likely to surpass GM as #2 US automaker in the near-future) into NASCAR (with the hopes of "winning on Sunday and selling on Monday" in the heartland) and the cheating scandal currently unravelling highlight an important concept woven into NASCAR's culture. [more]
posted by rzklkng (80 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
While its historical lineage started with law-breaking (moonshine-running in the south) and followed up with multiple instances of cheating, as an organizational culture NASCAR actually emphasizes fairness and competitiveness - all cars must be identical and the entire field operates under the same weather and track conditions. The only variables are the skill and cunning of the drivers (rubbing, drafting, bumping, and passing) and the car's setup (tires, suspension, spoilers, etc., example with AUDIO) by the crew-chief and the track performance of the pit crew (although the resources from sponsorship and advertising revenue are also factors).
posted by rzklkng at 6:51 AM on February 15, 2007


So you are saying they are not only fake but also cheating. When does the meritocracy part kick in?
posted by DU at 7:00 AM on February 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


The article about Toyota says they are already #2 worldwide and are likely to soon be #1.
posted by notmtwain at 7:08 AM on February 15, 2007


DU, the merited cheaters don't get caught.
posted by substrate at 7:21 AM on February 15, 2007


Toyota isn't trying to be the #1 US automaker. They're preparing to be the #1 automaker in the world. The point is that the other two giants are in the US.

It's not bad considering Toyota own Toyota, Diahatsu and Lexus while Ford and GM between them own Ford, GM, Vauxhall, Opel, Holden, Saab, Volvo, Aston, Land Rover, Range Rover, Hummer, Jaguar, Mazda and the myriad badge engineered US car companies.

By the way, how the hell does anyone find Nascar exciting? Cars driving around a fast but technically dull track, flat out for several hours? Throw in some right hand corners and the need to brake occasionally and you'd have a much more involving event.
posted by twine42 at 7:28 AM on February 15, 2007


And your point is? Meritocracy? Like WalMart is an equal opportunity employer... The Bull in the china shop called the France family has 'steered' NASCAR to what it is today, and some people feel that they are cruising for a bruising unless they loosen their grip on the wheel.
posted by Gungho at 7:28 AM on February 15, 2007


Oval track racing, whether it be NASCAR or Formula 1, has got to be the most boring "sport" on the planet. If the drivers can't be bothered to make a circuit, then I can't be bothered to watch.

Cheating in some sports is still considered to be "okay" as long as you don't get caught.

In football for instance, upon slow motion review, virtually every play from scrimmage could result in a holding call. But, only a few are actually called. It is absolutely crucial that the linemen hold, but not do it flagrantly, as not to get flagged. There are a few penalties assessed, and that is just considered the cost of doing business.

Same with NASCAR. They all bend the rules. The key is to pass inspection, that's all. If you can pass inspection, but are doing something illegal, it is viewed by most racers and fans as a GOOD thing. Something to be admired.

There is no honor, only thievery and deceit. Institutionalized.

I strongly favor a "race what you brought" type of racing. Have basic guidelines, such as a minimum/maximum weight range, some safety requirements, and a horsepower limit. That's it. If Toyota can build a turbocharged 4 cylinder that outperforms the GM V-8, but meets the horsepower and weight restrictions, then why not?

Regarding the continuing rise of the japanese manufacturers, the truck and SUV boom/fad of the 90's and 2000's is all that saved the American automobile manufacturers.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:29 AM on February 15, 2007


Git 'r dun.
posted by billysumday at 7:29 AM on February 15, 2007


If you have never been to a NASCAR race, you should go. It is a primal, visceral amazing thing. The noise of 42 modern gladiators with its distinctive straight pipe Basso profundo tearing hell bent for leather around a track is not something that can be easily described or even closely replicated on a television. Ditto for a Space Shuttle launch.
posted by MapGuy at 7:30 AM on February 15, 2007


Oval track racing, whether it be NASCAR or Formula 1, has got to be the most boring "sport" on the planet.

Totally agree, but F1 doesn't have ovals — do you mean Champ Car or IRL?
posted by matthewr at 7:44 AM on February 15, 2007


This is an interesting post, rzklkng, NASCAR-haters be damned. I'm not much of a fan of the series myself, but have a profound respect for the combination of engineering and guts it takes to field a successful team.

Toyota's entrance into the main event has really shaken up NASCAR in some interesting ways, far more than their admission into the truck series several years ago. Lots of jingoism and outright terror at the prospect of the Japanese using their mythical engineering and business acumen to somehow erode this most American of passtimes.

In a way, this really propels Toyota to the pinnacle of racing, as they are the only manufacturer currently involved in both of racing's largest venues, NASCAR and Formula 1 (this despite the fact that they don't have a single sports car in their current model lineup).

And to all of you who have already appeared to deride NASCAR as boring, as well as to all of you who have yet to post your "ovaltrack=lame" comments, heed the words of MapGuy. I agree that stock car races are boring as hell to watch on TV, but seeing them live is a fucking blast.
posted by saladin at 7:47 AM on February 15, 2007


Sweet 8 pounds 6 ounces baby Jesus, new born, not even spoken a word yet, but I do love me some NASCAR.
posted by breezeway at 7:51 AM on February 15, 2007 [3 favorites]


Any form of fishing, with the possibly exception of fly fishing, is more boring than oval-track racing. I havn't watched an F1 racerecently, but I hear that the current rules and teams are highly risk averse. No one wants to wreck the expensive rolling advertisements, so very little passing occurs, making F1 boring as well, despite the tracks with both left and right hand turns.

Toyota doesn't have any pure sports cars in their US lineup. The Supra, Celica, and MR2 have all been out of production for over a year. Do NASCAR fans just buy sedans, pickup trucks and minivans?
posted by b1tr0t at 7:54 AM on February 15, 2007


Regarding the first link, I don't get it ... Is NASCAR planning to abandon Ford/Chevy/Tayota for their own "universal" generic "Car of Tomorrow"? I can't imagine that is really the case, surely they wouldn't want to lose the sponsorship revenue from car manufacturers -- I suspect a lack of context or reading comprehension on my part?

I grew up in Indianapolis and am surprised how NASCAR has replaced open-wheel racing among the fans there. It makes sense: NASCAR happens every weekend, fewer Euros, and it's easier to imagine yourself in those cars. Also there was a big schism in open-wheel racing leagues which diminished the Star Power. (Has that been repaired? Have to ask Dad..)

It's sad, to me, though, because the Indianapolis 500 was something the city really had going for itself, and now I'd be surprised if it even sold out.

I'm not a fan of either form of racing, really, although I'd occaisionally put it on TV. The wife can't stand the whine of the engines or the twang of the commentators, though, so that doesn't happen anymore.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 7:55 AM on February 15, 2007


Ynoxas writes "a horsepower limit."

There is the rub though, in this moder/n world of electronic engine controls (up to and including individual valve control), how do you limit horsepower There is way too much money on the line to trust the manufacturers. Look at Toyota in WRC for an example of the lengths they'll go to to cheat.
posted by Mitheral at 7:58 AM on February 15, 2007


Oval track can be fun. While there's a lot less driving, there's vastly more racing. My bitch with NASCAR is that their races are just way the fuck too long -- the first 2 hours are just driving around and seeing whose car breaks, not actual racing.

Toyota, maybe you should think about winning a race in F1 before you start with NASCAR too.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:59 AM on February 15, 2007


How to limit horsepower: Weigh the vehicle and then monitor how it accelerates throughout the race. Getting to horsepower from there is left as an exercise for the reader.
posted by DU at 8:01 AM on February 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


I was actually looking forward to when Toyota would be caught cheating in Nascar's Nextel cup series. They have a history of doing this in motorsports. Last year, they were accused of stealing software and engineering plans from Ferrari.

From a Mike Lawrence essay posted at pitpass.com (an F1 site):


"I cannot fathom why Toyota cheats, yet cheating is endemic in its corporate culture. Toyota doesn't cheat where it matters, in the market place, it offers a fine product at a competitive price. Toyota deserves to succeed. As soon as it gets into motor sport, Toyota throws all the values out of the window."


Dirty tricks and rules bending have always been part of Nascar's history, as probably with other forms of motorsports. But with its massive war chest, I'm sure Toyota will take cheating to a whole new level.
posted by jaimev at 8:03 AM on February 15, 2007


Also there was a big schism in open-wheel racing leagues which diminished the Star Power. (Has that been repaired? Have to ask Dad..)

Nope. There's been a few initial talks towards an IRL-CART merger (reunification?), but nothing concrete.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:03 AM on February 15, 2007


It is a primal, visceral amazing thing. The noise of 42 modern gladiators with its distinctive straight pipe Basso profundo tearing hell bent for leather around a track is not something that can be easily described or even closely replicated on a television.

If you want gladiators, there is a ~2 hour long segment somewhere in google video or youtube of oldskool Group B rally cars doing their thing on the track. Despite the poor audio of what must be a 20th generation copy, there is something terrible about watching those cars run down the track one at a time. Maybe it is the absurd proportions of 500+ HP stuffed into those economy hatchbacks. Or perhaps it is the wild oversteer that even the AWD drievrs use. It isn't just the sound of the Lancia as it switches from supercharger to turbor charger. Maybe it is the way spectators literally line the track and occasionally slow an off-track car with their lives.

I strongly suspect that if Americans really disovered rally racing, we'd destroy the planet in one or two seasons. Nothing but molten magma and a few billion years before the next life form emerges from the primordial soup.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:05 AM on February 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


The appeal of oval track racing is all about the speed. You can go faster on a banked oval track, and that's what's awesome to its fans - the drivers rocketing around the track as fast as possible, as close together as possible, and occasionally nudging their neighbors to get by. It's not so much about appreciating the driving skill as it is reveling in the power and danger. This is a very American appeal. Imagine if Daytona were a 500 mile-long straight track instead of an oval - it's only an oval because doing a straight track is impractical.

It's much like the different things to appreciate between American football and soccer/football. Yes, there is much more finesse to be found in each player's game on the soccer pitch, and the chess match of the coaches with their limited substitutions is sometimes intriguing, but we Americans like the power and spectacle of our football players smashing into each other, with the odd bit of finesse in the passing game.
posted by dammitjim at 8:05 AM on February 15, 2007


but seeing them live is a fucking blast.

Yeah, but how much of that is the alcohol factor?

I'm not a NASCAR fan but don't hate on it, whatever people are into isn't my business to criticize. But, what I don't understand is how NASCAR has become such a powerful cultural force. Maybe watching it live is a "fucking blast," but I don't quite get how people so identify with it, identify with the drivers. It's almost a celebrity culture thing.
posted by kgasmart at 8:14 AM on February 15, 2007


These Premises Are Alarmed: The Car of Tomorrow will be dressed up to resemble Ford, Chevy, Dodge, and now Toyota cars, just as the current Nascar body template is. You don't even have to look closely to see how little the cars look like the sedans they're supposed to resemble.

By the way, there are two (!) circuit races on the Nascar schedule, one at Infineon Raceway and one at Watkins Glen. When I first saw one such race on TV the ponderous stock cars looked ridiculous going around the corners and up and down hills.
posted by zsazsa at 8:17 AM on February 15, 2007


NASCAR is not a sport.

NASCAR is very boring.

That is all.
posted by tadellin at 8:19 AM on February 15, 2007 [2 favorites]


Everyone "cheats" in NASCAR. Especially since the rules are this vague amorphous blob of guidelines. Half the time the only rule they can cite against the cheaters is "actions detrimental to stock car racing". Umm, okay.
posted by smackfu at 8:20 AM on February 15, 2007


These Premises Are Alarmed

Nascar already uses a highly standardized template for their cars, the primary difference being whether they slap a Ford or Chevy sticker on them, oh and where to put the headlight stickers too. So the difference to the manufactures would be minimal.

And I too would have far more interest in seeing a race prepared Camry battle a race prepared Fusion, rather than the cookie cutters they now run.

I remember a few years ago the laughingstock I considered Ford for entering a V8 coupe Taurus, the implication being that the Taurus is neither a V8 nor a coupe. Did have nice looking headlight stickers though.
posted by Keith Talent at 8:26 AM on February 15, 2007


None, really. I've never had so much as a drop of alcohol at a stock car race, if you can believe that.

The appeal for me is manifold (extra pun intended), the noise (which you can feel in your internal organs), the smell of rubber and high-test and stale beer, the repetitive build and release of watching the cars approaching and then the suction-like feeling of their passing you at 200+ mph. It's just a really fun time, and one that I encourage everybody to try at least once.

I can't speak to the appeal of the sport away from the track, though; like I said above, I'm not much of a fan in general. I imagine that it's not much different from any other professional sport in the U.S. The reason that people identify with the drivers is because, unlike the other most popular sporting events in the U.S., NASCAR (at least the way it's presented on TV) is almost totally centered on the personality and individual achievement of one person, the driver. If tennis was as popular as baseball is in this country, you'd see pro-Nadal rednecks fighting pro-Federer rednecks at bars across the country all the time.

And b1tr0t, I totally agree, rally racing is god. It's nuts to me that it still hasn't caught on in this country, given that the U.S. has one of the premiere rally sites in the world at Pike's Peak.
posted by saladin at 8:27 AM on February 15, 2007


Ynoxas: I strongly favor a "race what you brought" type of racing.

...aka "He With the Most Money, Wins" racing -- like Formula 1, but with no restrictions. You build a $100k car, I build a $1 million car = I win.

DU: How to limit horsepower: Weigh the vehicle and then monitor how it accelerates throughout the race.

No offense, but have you ever heard of "aerodynamics"? Indeed, the oval track racers these days care little about suspension setup anymore. It's all about the aero.

I've read about classes, though, that do limit horsepower, enforced by dynomometer measurement.

dammitjim: The appeal of oval track racing is all about the speed. ... Imagine if Daytona were a 500 mile-long straight track instead of an oval - it's only an oval because doing a straight track is impractical.

I think this is a fairly minor point. If this were strictly true, top fuel & funny car drag racing should be far more popular than NASCAR because, well, they go a whole lot faster.

Have you ever been to a road-course type of race in person? It's pretty boring -- not because the cars aren't going fast enough, but because you can only see a small section of the track at a time. It's like "hey, there's my guy!"... wait 3 minutes... "there he is again!" ... 3 more minutes ... "oh, he must have passed somebody!" ... 6 minutes go by ... "uh oh, where is he??"

By contrast, oval tracks are setup arena-style, so that spectators can see most, if not all, of the track. The action is much more engaging and easy to follow.

.
.
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As for cheating, there's a fine line between "cheating" and "creative rules interpretation". If the rules specify a max fuel tank size but don't mention fuel line length or diameter, is it 'cheating" if I route an extra 50 feet of oversize fuel line through my roll cage?

Having been involved in racing and building race cars for a number of years, I can tell you it's a different mentality. Okay, my car must weigh 3000lbs, but you don't specify where that weight must be. (lower is always better, balanced front-rear is generally better, more inboard is generally better...) You're always looking for that creative advantage, but sometimes it's difficult to say when the line has been crossed.

(Forgive me, I got my SCCA competition license this past weekend, and I'm still kinda jacked up! Just gimme a few days to come up with a non-GYOB FPP about amateur road racing...)
posted by LordSludge at 8:27 AM on February 15, 2007


Oops, that comment was in reply to kgasmart.
posted by saladin at 8:28 AM on February 15, 2007


Some time ago, Car and Driver magazine had a story of first-hand experience with a NASCAR racer which I found entertaining but which entirely failed to pique any further personal interest in NASCAR.
posted by Western Infidels at 8:36 AM on February 15, 2007


I don't hate NASCAR as much as some, but not only would it be more interesting on a non-oval track, but if they drove in the rain or snow. After all, the moonshiners the sport is supposedly based upon didn't let a little inclement wether stop them.
posted by TedW at 8:46 AM on February 15, 2007


LordSludge wrote: there's a fine line between "cheating" and "creative rules interpretation"

The New Yorker used that as a caption below a cartoon of lawyers playing golf. Clearly these two pastimes have much in common.
posted by ryanrs at 8:47 AM on February 15, 2007


I've never had so much as a drop of alcohol at a stock car race, if you can believe that.

I can't, but I'll take your word for it.

I'd take my son to the track sometime - we're relatively near Dover - and as I understand it, the races are as much a "happening" as anything else, almost as incidental to the good times as the Grateful Dead's music was to the overall experience of the Dead show. Though I supposee the thing that really strikes me about NASCAR is the advertising aspect of it. I once had a NASCAR fan explain it to me as, of course they buy the products advertised on the cars - as those advertisers support a sport they love, so they feel compelled to support those advertisers that the sport might continue to thrive. And I'm like: Yeah, but is the product any good?

It makes some sense, I suppose, but the rationale kind of creeps me out - same reason you might support the war in Iraq because hey, it's our country, and it's been good to me, and so I'll support this war. Yeah, but is the war any good?
posted by kgasmart at 8:47 AM on February 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


I am pretty sure this mystery substance is vaseline. I know a NASCAR crew chief and he told me that a little vaseline on the intake manifold can buy you a few extra hp. Yes, cheating is rampant, but not so much blatant cheating. As someone stated above, many of these rules are a bit unclear and much of the cheating is just interpreting them in your favor. It might also be little things like pumping your shocks up just a little bit too high, could be a mistake, could be deliberate. Putting vaseline in the intake is most assuredly deliberate. My guess is crew chiefs all over NASCAR are out there right now scrubbing down their intakes.
posted by caddis at 8:48 AM on February 15, 2007


NASCAR? A meritocracy? Puh-leez. Only if "meritocracy" means "Do as I say or I'll slap you clear into next month."
NASCAR has always, always been a dictatorship. The only "merits" being given to those who stfu and toe the company line.
And their show is boring as hell, at that. Been to their races. The cars are slow and the "action" barely above the grace of a demo derby. Fell asleep.

Gimme WRC anytime!
posted by Thorzdad at 8:49 AM on February 15, 2007


Man, what a boring fucking sport. I can't possibly imagine how somebody can be amused by watching a bunch of cars go around and around and around. You can't even really tell who's winning half the time.

Maybe it's one of those things where people go because it's like a big drunken party.

Can someone please explain the appeal?
posted by Afroblanco at 8:50 AM on February 15, 2007


Totally agree, but F1 doesn't have ovals — do you mean Champ Car or IRL?
posted by matthewr at 10:44 AM EST on February 15


Fortunately, this year, what passes for Champ Car these days won't be racing on ovals either. The IRL still will however.
posted by juiceCake at 8:52 AM on February 15, 2007


NASCAR is really all about personalities and wrecks, not as much about the driving. It's a rolling soap opera. Do you love Jeff Gordon or hate him? What about Dale Jr and his famous father?

That said, there's one thing that NASCAR does that F1 and others don't do -- race on really tiny tracks. These half-mile ovals are why they call it SMASHCAR.
posted by dw at 8:52 AM on February 15, 2007


"I grew up in Indianapolis and am surprised how NASCAR has replaced open-wheel racing among the fans there."

I live in Indianapolis and would speculate that the problem is, regardless of the fact that Tony George packs the track with a quarter million people, the race is always blacked out in the Indianapolis television market.
posted by wabashbdw at 8:57 AM on February 15, 2007


NASCAR as an example of a meritocracy with equal opportunity for all.

Is utter and complete bullshit of the first magnitude.

Sure, the France family will take your money and you can race, but if you think every competitor is treated equally, or if you think everyone has got an equal chance of winning, you've never been in tech inspection when a 322 human grease ball says, "Well what we got HERE boy?"

They have a reputation decades long of being, how shall I put this, selective, in the way the rules are applied and to whom.

Shit, up until a few years ago, you couldn't even get a copy of a NASCAR rule book. If you wanted to see how a rule was written, you could go down to the office and they'd let you look, but you couldn't take it with you.

NASCAR is an example of a money machine that is set up to benefit one family, the France family, not a meritocracy.
posted by Relay at 8:58 AM on February 15, 2007


Good point on the TV blackout. Although I have fond memories of listening to the race on WIBC with my father.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 8:59 AM on February 15, 2007


From a Mike Lawrence essay posted at pitpass.com (an F1 site):

"I cannot fathom why Toyota cheats, yet cheating is endemic in its corporate culture. Toyota doesn't cheat where it matters, in the market place, it offers a fine product at a competitive price. Toyota deserves to succeed. As soon as it gets into motor sport, Toyota throws all the values out of the window."


I wonder what he had to say about Honda, who cheated in F1 and were banned for three races. I couldn't fathom why Honda or Toyota or any team cheats, and the current nonsense from Honda and Red Bull about using the same chassis for their B Teams is just horrible.

Nice to see so many cheaters caught during this Nascar event. Hilarious to see this:

"Some rival team members said they thought NASCAR should have taken away more points from Waltrip's team, because in a sport where cheating is common, tampering with the fuel is a rarity."

A sort of you're cheating is way worse than ours type mentality. Baffling.
posted by juiceCake at 9:00 AM on February 15, 2007


twine42, if you cant understand why Nascar is exciting, get yerself a copy of Papyrus's Nascar Racing 2003 and a decent racing wheel and try it out. Not only will you realize the difficulty in controlling a monstrous 800HP race car around Daytona at +180MPH, but the realization that these drivers do so for upwards of three hours (sometimes with heat approaching 140 degrees) without a break while 42 other drivers are literally inches away from them will give you a respect for the sport.

Hell, just trying to accomplish an online game of 20 laps (vs. 160) without wrecking out is a feat in itself.

And yes, when you realize the sheer physical effort the drivers go thru you can call it a sport.
posted by daHIFI at 9:06 AM on February 15, 2007


You can't even really tell who's winning half the time.

"You, afroblanco, cannot tell who's winning half the time" does not imply "the fans can't tell who's winning half the time."

But overall I agree with you about NASCAR being boring, what with the cars being ~40 MPH slower than the cars in open-wheel series.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:07 AM on February 15, 2007


kgasmart wrote: they feel compelled to support those advertisers that the sport might continue to thrive. And I'm like: Yeah, but is the product any good?

I believe the sponsoring manufacturers try to discourage that sort of attitude. And if Avis's rental fleet is representative of GM's retail vehicles, it's a smart move.

It's a real shame that health care and pensions are killing GM. In a perfect world, they would fail because of poor sales.
posted by ryanrs at 9:19 AM on February 15, 2007


This thread and its associated comments have given me a far better understanding of NASCAR than I previously possessed, but somehow I still don't see myself tuning in any time soon. My allegiance to the other violent spectacles called sport here in America is primarily due to the allure of man-on-man combat. Putting the character inside of a giant metallic shell and sending him into a furious orbit seems interesting on paper, but it lacks the humanity that I associate with in other sports.
posted by smackwich at 9:20 AM on February 15, 2007


A sort of you're cheating is way worse than ours type mentality. Baffling.

Sailboat racing is a sport where something like cheating is a very important part of the game. In "one design" classes, you have very strict rules that govern the race. Sometimes the rules can and are exploited. Often that results in the exception being closed. In more open classes, creative abuse of the rules is fundamental to the game. America's Cup is famous for being about 75% lawyering, 25% sailing.

Adding winged keels was extremely controversial at the beginning, but now every America's Cup boat has them. If someone tried to race with a diesel engine, they would be promptly keelhauled.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:38 AM on February 15, 2007


In a way, this really propels Toyota to the pinnacle of racing, as they are the only manufacturer currently involved in both of racing's largest venues, NASCAR and Formula 1

There's also Daimler-Chrysler.

I grew up in Indianapolis and am surprised how NASCAR has replaced open-wheel racing among the fans there.

A lot of that also has to do with the fact that Tony George is an idiot.
posted by gyc at 9:41 AM on February 15, 2007


A lot of that also has to do with the fact that Tony George is an idiot.

Stop insulting perfectly decent idiots.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:10 AM on February 15, 2007


I have fond memories of the old stock cars that looked like real cars, from my childhood. Now, not so much.
posted by drezdn at 10:12 AM on February 15, 2007


Totally agree, but F1 doesn't have ovals — do you mean Champ Car or IRL?
posted by matthewr at 9:44 AM CST on February 15


I meant "Indy Cars" which is the IRL you mention. My apologies. I should have just said "open wheel", although sprint/midget cars are fun to watch sometimes, and I think they are sometimes considered to be open wheel.

I got a lot of people very angry at me once in a thread about NASCAR because I said that I thought most of the appeal of NASCAR was fans waiting for crashes. I still feel that way, but I'm not going to trumpet it.

I think Rally Car racing is a fucking hoot. See these guys driving these tiny overpowered hatchbacks sideways in the snow at 120mph. Now THAT'S racing.

Also, whatever kind of racing you call things like the Baja 1000 and Dakar Rally, (endurance racing?) that stuff is incredibly intriguing. Dakar if for no other reason than a handful end up being killed almost every year, and they continue to have it. If I were independantly wealthy, I would love to dedicate about 5 years of my life to training for and competing in Dakar on a motorcycle.

I've also caught some of the Isle of Man and Pikes Peak runs (televised). Those things are intense.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:12 AM on February 15, 2007


Oval track racing, whether it be NASCAR or Formula 1, has got to be the most boring "sport" on the planet. If the drivers can't be bothered to make a circuit, then I can't be bothered to watch.

To you, perhaps. I feel the same way about watching football, baseball and basketball, not to mention soccer. Everyone has different tastes, you know.
posted by davejay at 10:15 AM on February 15, 2007


Can someone please explain the appeal?

Speed. Noise. Oil. Engines. Acceleration. Horsepower. Crowds. Contenders. Heroes. Teams. Cheering. Prizes. Records. Winning.

Anything can be exciting if it's dressed up properly.

(Although, to me, a "real" sport is one that I could be playing; soccer and tennis are much more interesting to me than, say, Formula 1 and ski jumping, because I can actually play the same game as the heroes on the screen.)
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 10:35 AM on February 15, 2007


Thanks to the commenters that picked up where I was going with this. I'm not a fan of NASCAR, and definitely prefer the open-wheel or road course racing (on TV) and think that the races are the equivalent of automotive snuff films, but maybe I'd feel different if I experienced one in the flesh.

That said, I think that there's a lot about our (American) social, corporate, and political culture that is reflective in NASCAR (and it's appeal to some), like ambiguous rules, selective enforcement, reinforcing evasion versus compliance, and how cheating is OK, because everyone else does it.
posted by rzklkng at 10:39 AM on February 15, 2007


NASCAR is not a sport.

NASCAR is very boring.

That is all.


I feel like I might be the sole supporter of NASCAR in this thread; nevertheless, I must point out that, to me:

Baseball is very boring.
Basketball is very boring.
Football is very boring.
Soccer is very boring.
Volleyball is very boring.
[insert your favorite non-automotive sport here] is very boring.

Your tastes do not automatically equate to other people's tastes, and it's arrogant of you to think they do.
posted by davejay at 10:39 AM on February 15, 2007


America's Cup is famous for being about 75% lawyering, 25% sailing.

Remember the 12 Meter rule that they used to use for the AC races? And how Dennis Conner figured out that he could build a catamaran, get this huge fucking sail, and stay under the rule, which meant that particular defense was pretty much a joke.

There's a real problem with rules lawyering, for certain, but there's also a real problem with poorly written rules.
posted by eriko at 11:05 AM on February 15, 2007


davejay: You are exactly right. All sports *are* very boring. I never understand why people watch them. More than once each, anyway.
posted by DU at 11:10 AM on February 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


Baseball is very boring.
Basketball is very boring.
Football is very boring.
Soccer is very boring.
Volleyball is very boring.
[insert your favorite non-automotive sport here] is very boring.


You could suck say "Your favorite sport sucks" and save all that typing.
posted by dw at 11:29 AM on February 15, 2007


Thorzdad writes "The cars are slow and the 'action' barely above the grace of a demo derby. Fell asleep.
"Gimme WRC anytime!"


NASCAR averages somewhere around twice the speed of WRC. It only looks slow because they are all doing close to the same speed. I've been passed by someone doing 160 when I was doing 80mph. It's quite the experience and gives you a real feel for how fast 160 mph is that just seeing it on TV doesn't.

ryanrs writes "And if Avis's rental fleet is representative of GM's retail vehicles, it's a smart move."

It's not, rental fleets are the dumping ground for the LCD, boring as paint cars. Which are then pounded on by clueless or often abusive drivers. Really it's amazing the cars work at all.

Personally I'd love NASCAR if they went back to a showroom stock formula. It'd be awesome to see homologated works cars from Toyota, Ford, Chrysler and GM compete within a rules frame work designed to keep speeds below 200mph. Mostly because I'd love to be able to buy homologation specials. Having to design cars to fit in a NASCAR designated "template" or having FWD V6s represented by RWD V8s is bogus. Too bad the France family will never let it happen.
posted by Mitheral at 11:40 AM on February 15, 2007


total lack of mechanical resemblance (other than appearance) of the "stock" cars to the brand they represent
I used to say this same thing, wishing that a series like British Touring Cars would come to the US, until I found out that my local clay track (a.k.a. "dirt" track) was NASCAR-sanctioned.

Nextel Cup != NASCAR

There's a whole system of "support" tracks and championships that are supposed to "feed" the best drivers up the ranks to the top series. Whether this is true anymore due to more money at the top doesn't remove the participatory nature of stock car racing.

The cars are based on old technology because old muscle cars are 1) smog-exempt 2) cheap (and fixable with cheap, plentiful parts) 3) easy to modify for performance and 4) big enough to modify easily for safety. Anyone can buy an old clunker and fix it up on the weekends and maybe one day take it down the road and pay $45 to race it.
posted by morganw at 11:50 AM on February 15, 2007


Remember the 12 Meter rule that they used to use for the AC races? And how Dennis Conner figured out that he could build a catamaran, get this huge fucking sail, and stay under the rule, which meant that particular defense was pretty much a joke.

It was even better than that. Before the San Diego yacht club could issue terms for the next race, the massive New Zealand KZ1 challenged for the cup, under the original rules. The expectation was that SD wouldn't be able to top KZ1, and it would be an easy win. Dennis Conner replied with a much smaller catamaran, and won. Fay and Conner proceeded to sue the hell out of each other for the next few years. The end result was the IAC class, with more precise rules.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:53 AM on February 15, 2007


One thing I like about NASCAR is that running into another car doesn't usually end your race. F1 cars seem so fragile, because they have to explode on impact if the driver has any chance of survival in a wreck.
posted by smackfu at 11:56 AM on February 15, 2007


NASCAR averages somewhere around twice the speed of WRC. It only looks slow because they are all doing close to the same speed. I've been passed by someone doing 160 when I was doing 80mph. It's quite the experience and gives you a real feel for how fast 160 mph is that just seeing it on TV doesn't.
No, NASCAR looks slow because I'm used to watching open-wheel cars doing 220+ on the same tracks. You needn't explain to me the thrill of experiencing fast cars live. I've been going to all sorts of racing events since I was a child.

WRC is just damned exciting stuff. Small cars with powerful engines, running flat-out over some of the narrowest, crappiest roads imaginable in all weather. And as for NASCAR being twice the speed of a WRC race...So? It's all about the total package, and WRC has a winning formula for excitement.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:10 PM on February 15, 2007


Group B rallying. Warning, possible snuff, no dialog.
posted by b1tr0t at 12:16 PM on February 15, 2007


And some F1 porn. Warning: no actual nudity, just cars.
posted by b1tr0t at 12:19 PM on February 15, 2007


WRC is just damned exciting stuff. Small cars with powerful engines, running flat-out over some of the narrowest, crappiest roads imaginable in all weather. And as for NASCAR being twice the speed of a WRC race...So? It's all about the total package, and WRC has a winning formula for excitement.

Exactly. Speed alone doesn't make it worth watching. Cars go slower when they're sideways, but it's a heck of a lot more fun to watch.
posted by juv3nal at 1:10 PM on February 15, 2007


If you have never been to a NASCAR race, you should go. It is a primal, visceral amazing thing.

Agree 100%, MapGuy. I went to my first race last fall and had the time of my life. Seriously, one of the top 10 most-fun days ever. The noise, the colors, the people: it's really cool, and everyone should try it once.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 1:15 PM on February 15, 2007


from somewhere above...

"But, what I don't understand is how NASCAR has become such a powerful cultural force. Maybe watching it live is a "fucking blast," but I don't quite get how people so identify with it, identify with the drivers. It's almost a celebrity culture thing."

Tom Wolfe talked about this in 1965
posted by billyfleetwood at 2:17 PM on February 15, 2007


One thing I like about NASCAR is that running into another car doesn't usually end your race.

That is the thing I hate most about NASCAR. I can't stand how wrecking other competitors is part of the culture. I am certainly not impressed by a driver's ability to run into other drivers. To me that's not racing.

That aside, I've been to a lot of races. I've been to F1, Indy-style, NASCAR, Silver Crown, midgets, etc... and the NASCAR races have consistently been the most god-awful boring of the bunch.

And here it is 2007 and NASCAR is just now switching to unleaded gasoline. I'm utterly perplexed by that.
posted by prosthezis at 10:33 PM on February 15, 2007


I still prefer Formula Ooouunnn. You can drive without spilling your macchiato.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:42 PM on February 15, 2007


One thing I like about NASCAR is that running into another car doesn't usually end your race.

Like prosthezis, that's something I dislike about NASCAR. Open-wheel racing demands more precision from its drivers.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:51 AM on February 16, 2007


and NASCAR probably demands more daring; to each his own
posted by caddis at 4:56 AM on February 16, 2007


and NASCAR probably demands more daring

Zanardi at Laguna Seca. Temba, his arms wide!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:09 AM on February 16, 2007


that was an awesome pass, yes, much daring
posted by caddis at 5:14 AM on February 16, 2007


There is the rub though, in this moder/n world of electronic engine controls (up to and including individual valve control), how do you limit horsepower There is way too much money on the line to trust the manufacturers. Look at Toyota in WRC for an example of the lengths they'll go to to cheat.

By banning those things?
posted by delmoi at 6:13 AM on February 16, 2007


I think when I said vaseline upthread I meant sterno, sorry. I now remember the conversation where we were standing around with a bunch of half used sterno containers when the crew chief guy says rubbing this on the intake temporarily boosts power.
posted by caddis at 10:06 AM on February 16, 2007


McSweeney's is not a sport.

McSweeney's is very boring.

That is all.
posted by jayder at 3:52 PM on February 16, 2007


Zanardi at Laguna Seca. Temba, his arms wide!

Dale Sr., when he hit the wall.
shakes head in disgust
posted by dw at 4:45 PM on February 16, 2007


He made a lot of awesome passes before he hit that wall!

Arguing over which racing is better seems pointless to me. I personally prefer the open wheel cars, mostly because they are the most awesome machines, and I do like the precision of courses with lots of turns, both left and right, some sharp, some not. I also prefer the high pitched whine of their engines, go figure. Nevertheless, NASCAR races are still a hoot. I think a lot of people who hate NASCAR just dislike some perceived version of a stereotypical NASCAR fan. Each kind of racing has its advantages and disadvantages.
posted by caddis at 7:18 PM on February 16, 2007


Zanardi, at Laguna Seca

Temba, his arms paws wide
posted by LordSludge at 4:38 PM on February 20, 2007


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