NASCAR is more working class. There are exceptions. Driver Ryan Newman graduated from Notre Dame. Darian Grubb, Tony Stewart's crew chief, holds an engineering degree from Virginia Tech. He's the new breed. Still, most who succeed in the sport do so because they spend their lives behind a steering wheel or under a chassis. Like Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief, Steve Latarte. He started by sweeping floors for Hendrick Motorsports at 15.
But let's be real. About half of this country has a strong cultural bias against NASCAR. The sport is loud, gaudy, aggressively patriotic, overwhelmingly white, male, and Christian with working-class, rural Southern roots , and—oh, yeah—is built around adoration of the internal combustion engine. In short, NASCAR is everything that blue states hate about red ones. A certain class of urbanite snob will even use the phrase "NASCAR fan" as an insult meaning something along the lines of "stupid redneck," in the same way they might use "Wal-Mart shoppers" as a slang for "poor, overweight, and unfashionably dressed."
That's not a racing thing. No one talks that way about fans of, say, IndyCar or MotoGP. Only NASCAR gets that kind of scorn.
Jake, my sense is that the cultural biases play a huge role in shaping how NASCAR gets covered, and so explaining Patrick's knowledge gap. Am I wrong? Or doesn't it seem like people slam the sport for reasons that have nothing to do with what happens on the track?
1. Yes, culture bias plays a huge role in the under-coverage of NASCAR by all us uppity sports media types who had the nerve to get a college degree, or even a postgraduate one (gasp!).
2. So what?
Here's the short view on NASCAR from effete, equal-rights-for-all blue Staters like myself: It's an all-white, all-male sport in which a bunch of louts get drunk and watch fast cars race around in an oval for hours. But where are we wrong? The sport is undeniably skewed towards white males—in the nearly century-old history of NASCAR, an African-American driver has won exactly one race (and even then, Wendell Scott didn't get to enjoy Victory Lane). Google "female NASCAR winners" and you get a lovely screenshot of Danica Patrick's Wikipedia page but no mention of any women race winners, because there aren't any.
But don't take my word for NASCAR's "down-home" personality—what was it you said, Hampton?
About half of this country has a strong cultural bias against NASCAR. The sport is loud, gaudy, aggressively patriotic, overwhelmingly white, male and Christian with working-class, rural Southern roots.
People from the so-called blue states—including the vast majority of online sportswriters—don't have a problem with NASCAR's qualities. They just don't see any reason to care very much about the sport (and I use that term loosely). There's no center of higher education sponsoring cars or drivers, no openly gay or Asian or Middle Eastern or Jewish or Muslim participants in NASCAR. It's insular, and insular is on the way out in the "we allow gay marriage" states.