Editor’s note: With the NASCAR Cup season soon to start we here at PTR would like share some memories! Vivan Simons memories below has previously been published at Race Fans Forever
Author’s note: My articles are based solely on my observations. No statistics are offered…enjoy.
I have been an auto racing fan more than fifty years. Like a lot of teenagers, I hung out with the kids who found the deserted roads and had secret drag racing at night when we were supposed to be at the movies, dances at the teen center or spending the night with a girlfriend. I never got caught when I attended any of these forbidden events. I am sure all of our parents knew what we were doing, but most of them never confronted us. So we lived our “secret lives” in oblivion, thinking all was right with the world.
An absolutely most fantastic and important thing happened in February 1959. Daytona International Speedway held the first Daytona 500. I lived about 60 miles from Daytona so day trips were easy to make. Bright and early a group of us stuffed ourselves into three cars and took off to witness this race. Because we did not have a lot of money, we opted for parking in the infield and watching the race. We had coolers full of Pepsi and lots of sandwiches and chips. We were set.
As we walked around checking things out, we discovered a whole new world. We thought racing at Daytona was a Florida thing. However, it seemed the more people we met, the more we discovered it was an American thing. There were fans from many states there to watch this big racing event. Although I really put no thought into it at the time, I found out there were many types of fans.
Some people we talked with were there simply to party. It was a time for them to just have fun and then say they had been at the first Daytona 500. At the end of the day, when everyone was saying good bye, they said they may or may not come back for the next race.
I remember seeing a group of fans all set up with chairs and a grill near one of the fences. Upon investigation, we found out they belonged to a Ford club in Orlando. They had their attention glued to the track and what was happening. Without asking, one knew they would probably be at every race held there in the future. These are some I will call hard core fans.
Like the group I was with, a lot of people were there out of curiosity and because we were already addicted to speed. We wanted to see these fast cars in action. Those were the people that were fun to be around.
Many years have passed since that initial visit to Daytona. Through those years I have observed fan reaction, both when viewing on television and listening to those who visit different tracks. I have discovered there are different types of race fans in NASCAR, as well as other series also.
Some fans are what I call fair weather fans. They cheer a driver on – as long as that driver is winning. Once the driver goes off the winning streak, their attention goes to the driver who is currently winning or doing very well.
Another type of fan would be the ones who are very loyal to the make of car a driver uses. They then only cheer for the drivers who race that make.
There are a few fans who cheer for a driver simply because of who the owner of the team is. This is also true if they have a favorite crew chief. I have also connected with fans who are only fans of certain tracks and don’t necessarily care who the drivers are just as long as there is racing at their favorite track (s).
I knew someone once who was always a fan of the underdog driver. That fan would curse constant winners and always wish a less funded team would win. He said it was because everyone should have a chance to win.
Some fans will only cheer for drivers from the South, since that is where NASCAR racing started. They do not want Midwest or West Coast drivers to do well. They consider them outsiders.
Did you know that a lot of fans don’t cheer for anyone at all? They go to races to see and to be seen because they think it is a cool thing to do. These are the ones I refer to as Brian’s “Casual Fans”. Those are the ones who don’t know anything about racing, the history of NASCAR or even care what is going on as far as the cars on the track are concerned. They just want to be able to tell others they were there and experienced a race. As far as I am concerned, these are not fans at all.
If one has observed closely through the years, one will see some fans sit through all kinds of weather, long delays and many 0ther inconveniences just to watch auto racing. They are the ones who watch for many reasons including love of speed, competition, beautiful cars, real racers, drivers and just for the sheer joy of satisfaction at what is happening. This is also a hard core fan like the ones I mentioned above.
The worst type of fan in my mind are the ones who go to watch because they want to see spectacular crashing, rivalries that turn into angry words, or even pushing and fighting. To me these people are not fans at all.
What then, makes the perfect fan? We all have our thoughts on that. Am I a perfect fan? Possibly and possibly not. I love all kinds of motorsports racing – cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, ATV’s and all other motorized forms. What series it is really doesn’t play a part. If it has speed and a motor, I am a fan. Do I have a favorite driver? Yes, Tony Stewart, since he raced midgets and in USAC open wheel series. Do I have a favorite car make? Yes, Chevrolet. What about favorite car owner? Tony Stewart, of course. What about favorite track? I prefer road courses and short tracks, but I will watch all tracks and feel good about having the privilege to choose to watch or not. Do I have a favorite TV broadcast station? Yes, at this time it is the NBC family. What about the broadcast crew? Unfortunately, we have lost some of the best ones for various reasons. Without naming anyone at this time, I just say I prefer the ones on the NBC networks. Do I always watch or attend races? I no longer attend in person due to several reasons. I do watch live TV broadcasts normally, but sometimes have to record and watch at a later time. Am I sponsor loyal? Yes, definitely. I also will not support sponsors of some drivers. When NASCAR takes their winter break, I miss them but find other types or recordings of old ones to watch. Do I count the days until the next race? Almost always and right now I am thinking of the first road course race of the season. Why do I do this or feel this way? Because I am a loyal fan of speed and motor racing.
Thank you for reading. Please feel free to add your comments and thoughts.
Photo Credit; ISC Archives via Getty Images
Cultivating new, passionate race fans requires getting them to see the action live. Seeing/feeling an event live allows a fan to link the at-track experience back to the TV images. There will be no new fan base without an at-track experience at least once. If today’s potential new fans need an Ice Cube chant, the rhythmic yelling of pit pull, or yet another lonely cowboy song to get them to a track, ok…I can deal with it. What was lost on TV was the energy of the party in LA (and the absence of coverage of PitBull opting instead to provide the viewer with pre-recorded slapstick bits centering around Clint Bowyer who is quickly gone from respected driver to a countrified Rutledge Wood). Something else that was not evident on TV is that the new fans attending live loved watching the crashes. At every contact a loud and happy cheer went up followed by high 5’s to buddies sitting next to them. I am older…perhaps out of touch…but I want TV to cover the sporting event like a sporting event. I am a race fan and I will watch regardless, but PLEASE NASCAR stop telling me what I want and that you are doing this crap for me. I’m not asking for this, I’m asking for a couple more 1/2 mile tracks and a couple less of the 1.5 mile races.
Thanks for reading and commenting, John.
NASCAR has left a lot of us behind and we are not important any more. They do know we are here, but it seems they are doing more and more gimmick like stuff to pull new fans in. What they forget is that we made them and when we are gone, true history will go with us.
I am an old fan, too. I followed on radio and magazines and the occasional race of Wide World of Sports. I watched the 1979 Daytona 500. Became a more interested fan after the Dale and Dale Show. I have had a favorite driver for years. Right now its Kyle Busch. I like other drivers. Some I don’t. I miss some of the old tracks. I don’t like some of the new ones. I’m glad I’m not in the shoes of NASCAR leadership trying to keep the fan base expanding. Seems like I read that the average fan is 58. The need newer fans but face it, young folks are not car people like we were. It’s hard for them to identify with what makes a car go that fast. So, I certainly sympathize with NASCAR and try not to be too critical. Ready for the new season! Thanks.
You said all of that very well. It hit home and I agree with what you said about the young people of today. We have to pass it on and preserve the memories!
Thank you, Marvin.
I attended my first race in 1948, at 3 years old to watch my Dad race his Midget. I’ve been hooked every since. I’ve raced stock cars, midgets, (still my favorite) & drag cars.
Count me as a fan of the under funded teams. Because that’s the way I always had to race.
Kyle Larson put on a clinic, not only in Cup, but in midgets, sprints, & late models, on dirt last year. As competitive as Cup is, he’s one of the best, if not currently the best driver in the series. Driving for the top team with every advantage laid out for him. Still what he did was an amazing feat, that he can’t equal this season. Due to having an off year at the Chili Bowl.
That having been said, & as much as I admire Kyle for his love of open wheel dirt racing & the attention he brings to it.
The highlight of last season for me was watching Michael McDowell, & Front Row win Daytona.
It doesn’t get any better than that for me.
As a midget guy, say a prayer for the revered old ARDC this season, Dawg. You probably know that the group bit the dust a couple of years ago and began the tiniest resurrection last season. This year they have eight races scheduled and are hoping for decent enough car counts to start moving back toward viability. I hope they do it.
Kyle did put on a clinic, didn’t he? I think so many of us started cheering him on because it was such a great come back after he had been suspended for a year. I do admire that young man and what he is doing for not only NASCAR, but for auto racing, period.
Loved your comments. Thanks
What kind of a fan am I? I am the kind of fan that NASCAR does not care about. I am the old breed of stock car racing fan. I was a fan for 63 years. I started following racing when I was 5 years old, in the year 1958. My Dad took me to my first race the next year, 1959, at the old Lakewood Speedway, at the old, now gone, Southeastern Fairgrounds. I say most of the NASCAR greats race. I loved stock car racing, ate, slept and breathed it. I liked drag racing “NHRA and the old AHRA” but outside of that, I cared and care nothing about any other form/type of racing. You can keep formula cars, sportcars, indycars, etc. I had/have no use for or interest in them. I loved the cars and the racing from the 1950s through around 1980. At that point NASCAR started to change. Old Hardcore, Life-long fans started getting pushed out of the sport. The cars became less and less “stock” with each passing year. NASCAR catered to Big Corporate America and to the tv networks more and more and left or drove away more and more of their long-time fan base. The cars became hand-built race vehicles with little to nothing in common with what was on the showroom floor. When they started talking about this present race vehicle, a lot of talk went out about what it was going to be. NASCAR president steve phelps, sarcastically made the statement, “Well, we could go back to racing stock cars, but we don’t want to do that.” The thing that they put on the track this past weekend is a road-racing car, NOT a stock car. It is a cross between an Australian V8 Supercar and an indycar! What NASCAR put on in Los Angles this past weekend was a specticle, NOT a race. hip hop rap crap, celeb, basketball and football players everywhere. It was not a race! phelps and NASCAR say that this is the future of NASCAR, the future of racing. Phelps and the rest of NASCAR have accomplished what they set out to do, they have eliminated/drove away all of the life-long, Hardcore stock car racing fans! They have changed the sport into something that “Big Bill” France wouldn’t recognize and he is now rolling over in his grave! You ask what king of a race fan am I? I am the fan that NASCAR doesn’t want, doesn’t care for and that drove away from the sport! Or, maybe I should more accurately describe it. I am no longer a race fan. There is nothing for me to watch, racing wise now. Nothing left for me.
I think a lot of us have been there with you, Lee. We feel forgotten and of no use to them anymore. I find I watch a lot more Supercross and Motocross these days and sometimes select them over NASCAR. I do a lot of channel switching when they are both on at the same time.
Glad you read and commented. Thank you
Great thoughts, Vivian. Not sure where I fit in the fan pantheon, but I’m old school, I cheer hard for the underdog, and I tend to say a good race means more than who won. At this point, I’m fine if NASCAR fits my vision, but I’m also happy to go elsewhere.
Frank, you said it well about what a good race is. I always feel if there is competition, real competition, then it does not matter who wins.
I always look forward to your comments. Thanks!
Oh, Viv. How I would have loved to have been with you in those early years of Daytona. Wasn’t until 1964 that I saw my first race after following on radio and newspapers for several years. Much later before I got to Daytona. Like my pal Frank, I’ve always been a fan of the underdog. I prefer racing to gimmicks. We’re no longer the desired demo, tho. We don’t need rappers to get our attention. We’d rather watch the race.
Much as I try to still enjoy Cup racing, I feel a huge disconnect these days.
Hi Dave. Good to hear from you. Yes, the first few years had a big learning curve for fans but it was so much fun and freedom times. Wish I had known you and we could have connected during your tenure with NASCAR. I also prefer racing to gimmicks and I will always feel there is a difference between driver and racer. I like the racers: Dale was the best and I also like a few others which includes Kyle Larson.
Please keep in touch and thank you.