Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Rookie Stripe: How to Choose a Favorite NASCAR Driver

Kevin Harvick
Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs  
We all have our favorites in sports, and NASCAR is no different. For fans hooked on racing, our hearts jumpstart at pulsating speeds when we’re at the track or watching a race. We glorify our drivers, and see them as heroes who compete in precarious situations that put them in a place of endearing vulnerability. We openly wear our passion for drivers, too. When you go to a NASCAR race for the first time, you’ll see fans displaying driver loyalty everywhere… sometimes places you don’t want to see!
As you spend some time in the sport, you’ll quickly realize how many of our fans are female. I personally take great pride in our ability to spout racing scores and stats with the same or better agility than our male counterparts. Among NASCAR’s devoted following, you’ll also find lifelong fans are more the norm than bandwagon-hoppers. 

Carl Edwards
Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
One of the first things to know about NASCAR allegiances is that many of us support one main favorite driver, and this faithfulness is part of what sets NASCAR fans apart from other professional sports. That’s not a written rule of course, but race fans may follow favorite individual drivers through ups and downs and different teams over the years.

In addition, loyalty is usually for the driver, not the team’s place of origin. That's because teams also aren’t spread out across the country like NBA, NFL, MLB or other pro sports teams. In fact, the heaviest concentration of race shops is based in the Charlotte, North Carolina area.

So as a new fan, how do you choose your driver?

I’m still a rookie, but I picked my favorite driver as soon as I started following NASCAR. I’m going to keep it a secret, mainly because I want you to choose your own, but my biggest piece of advice would be to go with your gut.

You can choose based on a driver's achievements or because you’re influenced by your friends. Or it might feel like when you’ve met someone you want to date -- you just know.

Joey Logano
Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
Here are some other ways to help you decide:

· Racing style. Do you prefer someone who tries to dominate or provoke other drivers on the track, or someone  with a more laidback style?

· Personality. Does the driver seem like someone you’d want to hang out with in real life? Do you like a more stable personality or more of a hothead?

· Family history. There are celebrated and storied families throughout NASCAR history and some of their relatives still drive today.

· Winner or not. Do you prefer the perennial winner or the underdog? Some drivers overshadow others, and while the up-and-comers may win less often, the rush is exhilarating when they do.

· Age. Does age matter to you? While a few are in their late teens, most drivers range from early 20s into their mid-40s.

It’s not the most scientific method, but I asked some race fans on Twitter how they chose their favorite drivers. If you’re still under caution on your decision, these explanations might help.

Tony Stewart
Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
@racecardogs: I root 4 Clint. Won first race I attended in person when I got into NASCAR. Plus he's a goof.. Gr8 personally.

@brandymills_: Earnhardt -- my dad was a fan of Sr. Honestly - I think he's the last true good ol' Southern boy in the sport.

@picchicwendy14: I became a fan of Tony Stewart after I saw his first interview after a loss. I loved how he called things as they were even if it meant he was in the wrong. His intensity is why I cheer for him every week.

@pitkin_ryan: Jimmie Johnson spoke to my 9th grade class. He was a Busch Series driver who said he hoped to move to NASCAR and win a few races.

@shellydorey65: Rusty fan because he spoke his mind, didn't sugar coat things. I picked Smoke for the same reasons. #badassery

@louisegroomer: Harvick. I admired how a young guy could step in for a giant of a man so early in his career. Now he controls it.

@CEFan4ever19: Carl Edwards is my favorite driver because he is a very positive person who doesn't give up no matter what. He's kind to everyone, especially to his fans, and makes sure he takes time out of his busy schedule to make their day. Finally, he's a very talented driver who will win a championship someday!

@surfrgrl5862: Joey Logano. He's always smiling and helping charities off the track.

@paigecoop: I've always been a fan of Dale Jr. because I was a fan of his daddy. They're good people who always felt like they could be family members.

@springwolf: I've been a race fan since I was 12. I'm old. My first favorite driver was Darrell Waltrip in his rookie year. He was from Franklin Tennessee, I'm from Tennessee. It was a connection. Then I started liking Davey Allison. When he passed, I stopped watching racing for a long time. Started watching again when Joe Gibbs got into racing. I grew up outside of DC, grew up a Redskins fan. It was a connection. One night in 1999, watching the Richmond race, everyone was talking about a rookie winning his 1st cup race. Ok kewl. And he drove for Gibbs, even better, come on kid. He won, and they interviewed him. His over-confident attitude (yes, some call it arrogant) in his post race interview won me over right then there. Been a Tony Stewart fan ever since.

You don’t have to know who your driver is the first time you go to a race, but when it’s time to  make a decision, choose carefully, be passionate and above all else, root hard.


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