February 28, 2012
Editor’s Note: Carole Townsend, a correspondent for the Daily Post, is writing a blog called “Food for Thought.” It is available online at http://www.gwinnettdailypost.com/townsend.
Many years ago, way back when web sites were created from rudimentary coding efforts and not all these cool programs and packages, I used to pick up consulting work here and there to design sites for people. One of my very first clients was a company that sold NASCAR memorabilia. I remember thinking to myself, “Well OK mister, it’s your money.” I couldn’t imagine who this guy thought he was going to sell that stuff to – race car driver bobble heads, ashtrays with car numbers on them, signed photos of drivers I’d never heard of (I’d never heard of any of them), trading cards and other collector’s items.
Once the web site was built and live, the amount of traffic on it was unbelievable. This guy took in more money in a week than I did in six months, all from selling NASCAR trinkets. It was then that I started doing a little research into the sport (is it a sport? I suppose it is), and what I found was amazing to me.
NASCAR started 61 years ago and was spawned by moonshine runners. Did you know that? Its fans were characterized as undereducated white males who earned modest incomes. As the sport has evolved over the decades, the powers-that-be understood that in order to keep existing fans and bring in new ones, some things had to change. Those guys seem to know what they were doing, as USA Today reported these statistics not too long ago:
“According to data derived from an ESPN Sports Poll (independent consumer research conducted by TNS), 60 percent (of NASCAR fans) live outside the South, and 41 percent are female. Since the year 2000, the number of fans earning $100,000 or more has doubled from 7 percent to 16 percent of its fan base, and those with incomes of $50,000 or more has jumped from 35 percent to 48 percent. The number of college graduates in the fan base has ballooned to nearly one in four, up 33 percent since 2000.” (paraphrased, but making sure the right folks get credit for the facts)
Races have been added in the Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago and Miami markets in the past 12 years.
The times they are a-changin’.
I personally am still not a fan. I just don’t get it; the sound of the cars racing, engines whining endlessly around the track gives me a headache. There has to be more to it than that. As with many sports, doesn’t it just make sense to tune in to the last 2-3 minutes of a race to see who wins, or better yet, watch the news the night of the race to hear the outcome?
I will say that the female drivers seem very cool to me. I love to see women break into territory formerly seen as male turf. That takes bravery and a pioneering spirit.
I have decided that I will watch an entire race this season, and soon. I just can’t shake the feeling that I’ve been missing something. I’m also going to invite a true fan, a local school teacher, to the house to watch it with me. Maybe she can show me what I can’t seem to grasp about racing. Millions of people can’t be wrong, can they?
Are you a NASCAR fan?
Carole Townsend is also a Gwinnett Daily Post staff correspondent and author of the recently-released book, “Southern Fried White Trash.” The book takes a humorous look at families and how we behave when thrown together for weddings, funerals and holidays. She has been quoted on msnbc.com, in the LA Times, USA Today and the Christian Science Monitor, been featured on FOX 5 News and CNN, and is often a guest on television and radio shows nationwide.