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My Old Kentucky Home

Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Animal Kingdom raced away from a strong field of contenders late in the Kentucky Derby. Photo: Getty Images

This is a real stretch for a title.

For those of you that read my original blog post when we first started the Granite Stripe blog, you know that New Hampshire is my original home.

I've also never even been to Kentucky, save the Cincinnati airport, which lies just across the border from Ohio.

However, when it comes to my interest in racing.  It all started with horse racing, and you can't discuss that without referencing the Kentucky Derby.

To the average attentionally inept American, horse racing is much easier to follow than auto racing.  It's about two minutes of action as opposed to two-plus hours, and there's more money exchanging hands on perfectas and trifectas and whatever-fectas to make a Friday night at the MGM Grand look slow.

Meanwhile, it carries an elegance that juxtaposes the come-as-you-are mentality of the NASCAR fan base.

At the Kentucky Derby, women wear large hats and lengthy dresses that remind television viewers of another era.

In NASCAR, women wear race caps and sleeveless t-shirts that remind television viewers its probably about 100 degrees at that track.

At the Kentucky Derby, the infield is lined with grass and roses.

In NASCAR, the infield is lined with campers and car parts.

At the Kentucky Derby, horses are trained for over a year with the expectation of running just over a mile.

In NASCAR, a pit crew changes four tires in less than 15 seconds with the expectation of running well over a hundred miles.

Horse racing is easier for people to understand.  There are no tire changes or gas strategy or obligatory chassis adjustments.  It's the simplicity of a man riding a horse, an occurrence that dates back to long before anyone had dreamed up an automobile.

However, for all their differences in culture and style, horse racing and auto racing have the most important thing in common: racing.

I tended to watch the Kentucky Derby growing up.  Yet, similar to auto racing, my real interest for horse racing began when I attended an event in southern California.  In this case, it was a race day at Santa Anita Park.

The event lasted the entire day with a total of ten races, and I entertained myself by placing minimum $2 bets on races.

Note that this is the part where I disclaim that I don't support gambling.

Note number two, this the part where I disclaim that if you don't have a vested interest you're going to find yourself in a noticeable minority when it comes to your lack of excitement.  (You'll be the only person not yelling something like "Come on Three!  Come on Three!  Come on!" like a character in Sesame Street.)

My interest for racing was born!

That interest eventually led to my focus in motorsports.  The concept was still the same.

The beauty of racing is that every result is determined in finite rank order.  Unlike other sports, where anyone but the champion and runner-up tend to be loosely stratified into groups, in racing, you know who finished first, second, fifth, tenth and last.

Furthermore, the concept is straight forward and appealing: whomever goes the fastest wins!  That's it.

Saturday's events proved that both types of racing hold a great amount of excitement.

As is standard during the Derby, fans stood around televisions and yelled at the horses on the screen as Animal Kingdom, a 20-1 long shot, raced through an impressive group of contenders in the final few furlongs to win the race.

Later that evening, it was a similar long shot, Regan Smith, who held off Carl Edwards and the rest of the field during a green-white-checkered finish to claim his first Cup win.

So, whether you enjoy the roses of the Churchill Downs infield or the aluminum of the NASCAR bleachers, just remember: you're a racing fan!