The Eighth Page

Nascar It’s Not a Palindrome…You’re Thinking of ‘Racecar’

There are very few things to do on Saturday afternoons. It is a vague window of time between the morning you slept through and the evening that awaits. What are you going to do? Eat some Linner, or maybe grab a bite of Dunch? And surely you are not going to start studying when you can save it all for Sunday night. It is lazy, undirected, purposeless and something that I believe is good for us busy bees here at Andover. But there is a land far away from the hustle and bustle from Phillips Academy. It is a land of bayou and desert, rain and heat, Mexicans and Republicans. A place where the tractors move slowly and the people think even slower. A place where the spoken grammar and speech make Mike Tyson sound like an Oxford English professor. It is the American South and the pace of life is slow. That is, until Saturday afternoons. In the South, this time is for one thing and one thing only: speed. From miles around, race fans flock to watch cars drive in circles on NASCAR’s pristine speedways. But if there’s one thing that true racing enthusiasts know, it is that you can not sit on your behind drinking beer for three hours on an empty stomach. And so, the tailgating begins. In Louisiana, they grill up some gator, and in Texas, steak. In Florida they throw on some panther. And you know what goes great with gator meat, steak, and panther tenderloin? A bud. Sorry you New-York-City-Gun-Hatin’-Pansy-Boy, but you’ll have to go back up North for your Appletini. Good and drunk and full of meat, race patrons enter the speedway, finding their place in the rows of steel bleachers. It is much like the theater in this respect. First you sidestep your way over knees and purses to your seat in the middle of the row. This proves to be a little more difficult here than on Broadway, seeing as most other patrons are unable to stand up without the assistance of a crane, and any purses that you may see are most likely filled with personal tanks of oxygen. Just as you can at the race track, you may find someone in the seat that you bought, though at the theater it is usually an easily resolvable misunderstanding. You can show a NASCAR fan your ticket stub all day long, but it is not going to stop him from yelling “Jeff Gordon Rules!” and punching you in the gut. Oh, and the guy blocking your view in the next row down is not going to be 6’8”… he probably just enjoys the opportunity to break out his beer-dispensing hat. The crowd has been seated, plastic trays of nachos settled into their laps. The cars roll to the starting line, engines revving as if to make sure the throttle still works. Then a home-town celebrity will call out the magic words. They are not “please” or “thank you,” but “Gentlemen, start your engines!” It could be Britney Spears, or Colonel Sanders, it could be one of the Dixie Chicks, or it could be all of the Dixie Chicks in three-part harmony. Whoever it is, their voices will soon be drowned out by further revving and cheering. I couldn’t tell you whether Southerners always cheer like that when a car turns on, I am not one of them and I do not know their ways, but boy do they cheer for this pack of automobiles. The Jim Beam car comes right around the bend with the Cheerios car right on his tail. The two are followed by the Crown Royal, Kellogs, Post, and Budweiser cars. The advertising becomes muddled with the smell of burnt rubber and exhaust. Do I put liquor in my cereal? Is beer for breakfast? Should I drink and drive? These are the questions that a race fan must ask himself every week, just to keep his head on straight. For most, the ride home is long. Who won or lost doesn’t tend to matter, but how many men ran aflame across the track, or speculations of how many pieces the Office Depot car must be. These are the values, the experiences, the forces that keep the wheels turning south of the Mason Dixon Line. And to think you spent the afternoon watching Nanny 911 in the common room.