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Author Topic: A Civil War expert's view of NASCAR  (Read 426 times)
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« on: July 18, 2007, 05:33:41 PM »

Last Saturday, I purchased a book at a store in Cerritos, one suburb over from mine (and Robby Gordon's hometown).  It is called The Politically Incorrect Guide to The South.  The author is Clint Johnson, who has written seven books about the Civil War.  He was born and raised in Hardee County, FL, and now lives in North Carolina.

On pages 41 through 43, he briefly explains the changes in NASCAR culture.  I mention this here because it is similar to the tone that has been expressed, over and over again, throughout the forum.

The "old" NASCAR began in 1949 and ended about 2000.  Its drivers were men like Junior Johnson, Curtis Turner...Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, David Pearson...and "the King," Richard Petty...[Some drivers, like Johnson] ran a little moonshine on the side to make ends meet in the days before racing started paying bigger money.  They were men's men--rough and tumble good ol' boys who would sometimes duke it out...when someone got wrecked.  They pulled their own race cars to the track and did their own mechanical work, and still managed to find time to talk to the fans.

The "new" NASCAR came along at the beginning of the 21st century...Stock-car racing was no longer a sport as much as it was a vehicle for advertising and endorsements.  Small tracks like North Wilkesboro and Rockingham...were shut down completely and venerable tracks like Darlington...were cut back to one date.  Shifting the newer tracks in Northern states like New Hampshire and Illinois made NASCAR a national experience.

Out went the old Southern drivers who had learned to race by banging around on small dirt tracks...In came the kids from California, Wisconsin, Indiana, and other Northern states who had spent a few years racing go-karts.  Out went the slow-talking, Southern-accented drivers...with the mustaches and barbershop haircuts who wanted to talk about racin'.  In came the smooth-faced kids...with their razor-cut hairstyles, who would only talk racin' after thanking a long list of sponsors once they climbed out of the car on cue from a television producer.  Out went the old drivers who sometimes posed with Confederate flag in...victory lane.  In came the young drivers who posed with rap singers in their recording studios.

The "old" NASCAR, with their colorful drivers doing colorful things, is gone forever.  How long the "new" NASCAR will remain popular with its Southern base is debatable.  The grumbling is growing louder that the cars already look so much alike that brand loyalty no longer means anything, the racing is too boring, and the drivers look, sound, and act too much alike...NASCAR is now promoting the idea of creating cars [COT] that will look so much alike that there will be no physical difference between makes.

Two thoughts in response:
*The dividing line that Clint Johnson cites is 2000, but I feel that the changes began some years earlier, maybe around 1993 or '94.  Remember that North Wilkesboro closed in 1996, for example.
*How can one write a section about NASCAR racing and not mention Dale Earnhardt?  I found that omission from the list of drivers strange.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2007, 09:44:51 PM by Desmond » Logged

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