NASCAR: Will Blue America Ever Learn to Love Stock Car Racing?

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Millions of Americans love the sport, while millions of Americans can't stand it. Is there a way to bridge the divide?

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Reuters


Every week, our panel of sports fans discusses a topic of the moment. For today's conversation, Hampton Stevens (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), Emma Carmichael (writer, Deadspin), Patrick Hruby (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), and Jake Simpson (writer, The Atlantic), talk about stock car racing in advance of the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 this weekend.


Emma, my question this week is simple. Who's your pick to win the LENOX Industrial Tools 301?

That's a car race, by the way.

Okay, I lied. Here's my real question: What gives? So far we've discussed tennis and women's soccer. Which is cool. Both were timely topics. But neither is exactly a mainstream American spectator sport. Not like NASCAR, anyway. Tens of millions will watch the green flag drop Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway—joining the roughly 100,000 (you read that right) in the stands.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe you'll all watch the NASCAR event, then tune in again when the IndyCars run at NHMS on August 14. My guess, though, is that you, along with a large percentage of our readers, would rather have a root canal performed during an IRS audit than watch motorsports.

I don't get it. What's not to love about NASCAR? Do you have something against fierce competition? Are you opposed to pageantry and grand spectacle?

Please, no one throw out the "drivers aren't athletes" line. My interest here isn't in flogging the "Is it a sport?" dead horse, but in genuinely understanding why someone would have an aversion to NASCAR. Is it the conservative, red-state culture around the sport? Is it because, on a primal level, you believe that sports should simply be on grass, not pavement? Or maybe it's because racing glorifies fossil fuels? Those cars could run on corn-squeezings for all the drivers and fans care, just so long as they go fast and sound good doing it.

Tell me I'm wrong, Emma. You're ready for some racing, aren't you?

–Hampton

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Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

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