As my inaugural season as an employee in auto racing comes to a close, it's time to look back and reflect. When I first arrived at NHMS, I had a strong understanding of the basics of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. I knew the drivers, I knew how the points worked and I knew that restrictor plates regulated car speeds.
However, in my year of experience, I've learned a lot more about the sport. The most significant thing I've learned: NASCAR fans are the best in sports.
I'm not saying this to pump fans' tires. I'm not saying it because I'm biased toward the sport. I'm merely stating it as a matter of fact.
Driving to work on Monday after the race, the continuous stream of campers on the expanded two-lane road of southbound Route 106 says all you need to know. Basketball fans show up for a few hours. Football fans show up for the day. NASCAR fans? You show up for the week!
Fans of Duke basketball think they're hearty by setting up a tent and camping the night before a game to make sure they get in. Perhaps, sometime, they should try showing up Friday morning, nine days before the big race, and spending the night in the camper so they can get up at 6 a.m. to get a prime spot for the week Then, after the camper is settled, they drive all the way back to Connecticut or New York or Canada to go back to work for a few days before turning around and heading all the way back for four days of on-track action.
Sorry Blue Devil fans, there's no questioning your commitment, but that's more effort than finishing your physics lab by flashlight and sending someone on a donut run in the morning, so you can watch Duke and North Carolina in a two-hour basketball game.
I've been a lifelong fan of the Boston sports teams. I think the sellout streak the Red Sox have put together is phenomenal and that New Englanders support all their teams with an admirable vigor. That said, NASCAR fans are in a league of their own.
Some fans spend weekend after weekend travelling all across the country to watch NASCAR. Those that only come to New Hampshire Motor Speedway still hail from parts throughout the northeast and eastern Canada. I used to think that it was a long drive to go from my hometown to Boston (about a two hour drive). What about the people from New Brunswick or Pennsylvania!? That's not a day trip!
Another thing that makes NASCAR fans great is the enjoyment they get from people trying to learn more about their sport. My parents are both green to auto racing. They attended the Nationwide Series race in July, INDYCAR in August and Sunday was their first Sprint Cup Series race.
Since I couldn't sit with them in the stands, they tended to get confused by some of the rules, but were impressed that people sitting next to them were always ready to explain the rules and help them gain a better understanding of what was going on. The lucky dog, the green-white-checkered finish, all things that we take for granted but that aren't obvious to the new viewer.
I'll tell you this as an avid hockey fan: if someone goes offside and the person behind me asks why the ref blew the whistle, I'll usually turn around and give them a dirty look that suggests they learn the rules before they come out to a game. NASCAR fans aren't like that. You wouldn't get a dirty look for asking why most of the field just blew by the pace car (on a wave around).
NASCAR fans love their sport and want to share that love with everyone that gives it a chance. They understand that the more people that follow it, the better it is for the sport.
It's been a pleasure working with and for all these wonderful fans and meeting several of them. I look forward to getting even further involved as we head into 2012. Keep in mind that just because we aren't hosting anymore major races in 2011 doesn't mean we'll shut down for the year. We'll continue to be available in the office and on social media and will continue to provide the best experience to the best fans in sports!