2011 has been a great year for NASCAR. Great racing, first time winners and non-stop action has made this year so entertaining for me as a race fan. And while NASCAR ratings haven?t improved greatly, this doesn?t mean that there is something wrong. A lot of people lost their favourite drivers in the last five years. Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett, Sterling Marlin, Bill Elliott, Terry Labonte and Ken Schrader have become extinct or irrelevant in the NASCAR world and a lot of the fans went with them. So that got me thinking, how many of NASCAR fans today were fans 5 or 10 years ago? How about 20 years ago? I?d like to hear some stories of the first time you watched NASCAR and what attracted you to the sport. I?ll start with mine first?
I can officially say that I was not born into a racing family. It was always hockey 24/7, and everything else came second. But as a kid I can remember waking up at 7 in the morning on the weekends and turning the television on. Not knowing how to use the television at the age of 4, I was stuck watching whatever was on the television. Luckily for me, my father always worked the late shift and he would come home and watch the sports channel every night. That same sports channel covered Formula One every weekend. So ever since I was kid I remember watching F1 more than I can remember watching cartoons. My interest in F1 would continue for about six years until the novelty of watching the same driver win over and over again finally ended my obsession with racing. That?s when I made the decision to attempt to watch a NASCAR race. I remember a fellow classmate that watched NASCAR, and I?d always bug him that ?they just go circles, it can?t be that exciting?, so I?d like to thank him for getting me to watch one race.
That race was the 2001 Budweiser Shootout. The day before the shootout, I looked for a favourite driver that I could cheer for. So I picked my favourite looking car and the best name in NASCAR?The #40 Coors Light Dodge of Sterling Marlin. The 2001 Bud shootout was absolutely amazing. Being a former F1 fan I thought that passing could only happen once every couple of laps, but I was wrong. There was passing every lap, they were three wide, they were fender to fender at 190MPH. Dale Sr. made a great move on Tony Stewart to take the lead, only to have Tony retake the lead on the final lap. I was so pumped about what I was watching, that I had to tune in the next week, for the Daytona 500. I was on the edge of my seat all day long. That was when my new favourite driver, cut a tire down and fell all the way back to like 30th. Now I don?t remember if I turned the television off after that, or if my memory just blocks out the final 30 laps, but I don?t remember watching the massive accident on the backstretch or the finish of the race. Sterling ended up having a chance to win the race, even when I thought it was over so it was cool to see that even with some bad luck your driver could still win which was rare in F1.
The following week NASCAR was on the news every day, and seeing how much people cared about the sport and about their drivers made me a fan for life. The whole start to 2001 was epic when you look back at it. The 500, the Steve Park win, the #29 in victory lane, the #21 wood brothers win. So it?s not surprising that I was attracted to the sport. It didn?t hurt that my driver was one of the best in ?01 and ?02. So every weekend from 2001-2006 it was NASCAR all day all the time, but for a couple of years I thought I had lost the sport that defined my childhood. Luckily in ?05 I was prepared for Sterling being on his way out, so I selected a ?New? favourite driver that I could follow. Luckily for me, he made it to the Cup Series and I?m having the same amount of fun that I did when I began watching NASCAR.
I couldn?t picture what I would be doing on Sunday afternoons if I didn?t have NASCAR, so it?s a big relief to always remember the day in February when I first glued me eyes to the television screen, and got introduced to NASCAR.
I?d like to hear your story now.
2001 was such an entertaining year. The Winston was as well. Ryan Newman, a rookie driver put his name on the map with a fantastic run in the Winston Open. But with just two laps to go, the engine expired which allowed Johnny Benson to transfer to the Winston. The No Bull Sprint would go to Todd Bodine who took the final spot in the 21 car field. That?s when disaster struck. A freak rain storm that started right when the green flag dropped, created a calamity corner that took out at least five race cars. In a move that would only be allowed in an All-Star race, NASCAR allowed the wrecked teams to unload their backups and race. Jeff Gordon would go on to win the Winston who was one of the drivers that crashed out on lap 1. Enjoy.
The Winston Open: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfee-Zwizhs
The Winston Open Results: http://racing-reference.info/race?id=2001-01&series=S
The No Bull Sprint: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8-INpQMePk&feature=related
The No Bull Sprint Results: http://racing-reference.info/race?id=2001-03&series=S
The Winston: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oUBPFCRrcY&feature=related
The Winston Results: http://racing-reference.info/race?id=2001-02&series=S
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