Sunday, May 1, 2011

Spectacle of the Crash

I'll admit to not being a huge fan of Nascar. It's not that I don't respect the twitch skills of the drivers or the tireless dedication of the crew, but I just don't find multiple hours of cars circling an oval track to be terribly exciting. Living half an hour away from the Homestead-Miami Speedway, while being the son and grandson of two of the biggest gear heads, I went to my fair share of races as a kid. Most of these races ended up with me passing out of childhood boredom and being carried back to the car. But every once and a while, there would be a massive crash; nothing wakes you up and excites quite like the screeching and crunching of metal from advanced racing machines.

Crashes are a big selling point for the NASCAR franchise, if not THE major selling point. The only things ever shown on an ESPN recap of a race are the crashes and finishes. There is obviously some kind of primal want in all of us that is obsessed with explosions and crashes so we need some type of entertainment to satiate it, but what makes racing accidents so poignant is their absolute realism. There is no CGI or movie magic, just drivers risking their lives in flying metal death traps. After the tragic death Dale Earnhardt, NASCAR has been taking steps in the right direction safety-wise by creating the car of tomorrow, improving seatbelt technology, and updating the material of walls.

If you need to calm your primal urges, here is an aptly named video



  1. I would agree as well. There's something incredibly telling about how the only things about NASCAR to the casual fan are the bevy of crashes and pit fights post-race. Sometimes even the conclusion of the race seems a little irrelevant. Funny how the quality of driving is lauded in F1 while catastrophe (or rather near-catastrophe) is exalted in stock racing

  2. This might also have to do with fragility and technological superiority of F1 vehicles compared to the relative robustness of stock cars. While both sports are vicious in their own way, bumping and contact is prevalent, and allowed to a degree, in NASCAR, while any contact in the open-wheeled, open-cockpit F1 will likely lead to disaster to both parties.

  3. Not only are there car accidents but each accident usually involves a multi-car pile up, leaving a streaking path of steel wreckage. The fact that NASCAR promotes this aggressive driving behavior that leads up to these accidents is ridiculous. Fans are also exposed to an extraordinary amount of risk because airborne projectiles can easily harm them. I believe NASCAR needs to reevaluate itself but maybe the largest U.S. fan base would argue differently.

  4. I also do not get the appeal of NASCAR. Even the crashes get boring. I watched the crash video and stopped it half way through because it was just the same thing over and over again. I do think that the drivers are very skilled since they have to be alert and ready for anything for hours while they barrel down the course at 150 miles per hour. However, its a dangerous sport that costs a ton of money in cars and gasoline and I really feel like NASCAR fans should spend their time watching something better, like wrestling.

  5. I have never quite understood the draw of NASCAR, but I think its history in draws many to the spectacle. As a Southerner, I can honestly say that NASCAR is a bid deal and people are religious about the "sport." Steeped in a deep history of bootlegging during the Prohibition era, there is a high level of skill and maneuvering necessary to perform at the top of the division. Many of the current drivers got their starts as kart racers and worked their way up through the ranks. Aside from being a great place to spend a day with 100k other fans, the even offers adults the opportunity to enjoy the finer things in life: copious amounts of beer and whiskey. This attention to the crashes are not what draws the true fan to the spectacle; it's the opportunity to see their favorite driver break from the ranks and finish first among a competitive field of equally skilled drivers. Before you knock NASCAR, I would challenge people to see just one race at Daytona International Speedway and not get excited.


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