There are myriad reasons I love NASCAR and I've been showcasing them for years. From drivers to tracks, sponsors to fans I have been waxing poetic about what touches me as a NASCAR fan and columnist.
Over the weekend during the NASCAR Nationwide Race from Daytona, the season opener, an accident occurred when coming to the checkered flag that resulted in a serious series of wrecks. Fortunately there were no drivers injured, a strong testament to the safety measures implemented by NASCAR and the tracks since the death of Dale Earnhardt in 2001.
Unfortunately, Kyle Larson’s No. 32 car was hit with such force and in such a way that the front end came off. The engine winged itself into the catch fence and a tire flew over it hurting several race fans in the audience. Fortunately Larson walked away from his battered car unscathed.
Daytona employees, rescue workers, and other first responders were quickly sent into action and did what they could to quell the situation and keep others safe in the grandstands.
Tony Stewart, the race winner, did not do a traditional celebratory burnout, donuts, or jumping on the roof. He was staid and thoughtful, his face showing concern and worry. During the interview Stewart spoke words that proved he is not only a champion on the racetrack but in the human race as well.
Stewart immediately addressed his concern for the fans and his fellow racers. He was clearly affected by the events at the end of the race – and no one was there to coach him on the “correct” emotions to have.
Every driver interviewed after Stewart exhibited the same level of compassion for the race fans. There is a vast awareness among the drivers that the fans are the ones who provide the occupation they have and the lifestyle they get to enjoy. But beyond that the drivers all seem to intrinsically care about people deeply.
The level of compassion – some would call it spirituality – is evident far and wide in the NASCAR Nation. Upon seeing the accident I scoured Facebook and Twitter for news of the aftermath of the accident. Every status and tweet I encountered from NASCAR fans, journalists, track employees, NASCAR personnel, and drivers always started with, “My thoughts and prayers are with those injured in Daytona today.”
To some it may seem trivial, but I disagree with that assessment. These are powerful sentiments that collectively make NASCAR the best sport on Earth.
NASCAR is a hotbed of spiritual, religious, and good people. Throughout the garage area and pits you’ll see teammates in prayer. Drivers are all involved heavily in charitable acts, not because they have to for appearances' sake, but because they truly care about the groups they support. Fans are always starting prayer chains and support one another in good times and bad.
There are indeed myriad reasons that I love NASCAR, but this past weekend I was reminded about perhaps the most important reason, compassion. Compassion – spirituality – is yet another prime reason why I love NASCAR.