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The Thing About Cars and Racing...

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As fall turns to winter and the colored leaves turn to brown and drop from their branches it is a rare home that does not have a football game on television (on Saturday, if you live in the south, on Sunday for the rest of the world). Whether you root for the SEC teams or love everything NFL there will be a group at someone's home drinking beer, eating chips, maybe grilling and quarterbacking from their chair. This is completely normal, and even encouraged, in most circles.

Portable+Scoreboard+.jpgarena-empty.jpgIn steps me. Football - fun. Baseball - I like it. Basketball - yawn. Hockey - they still play that sport? Auto racing - where and when! My love of cars naturally falls into a love of racing. While this isn't true for all car lovers, for most it is the case. When I tell people that I love to watch auto racing I get one of two responses. Why? It is soooo boring. Or, you mean NASCAR?

football_hike.jpgWhy is it that to watch grown men reach under each others' butts for an oblong shaped ball to be thrown around a field and make millions to do so a normal and acceptable thing? But to watch grown men, and women by the way, drive real cars at speeds that cover the length of a football field in less than a second considered boring?

large_Talladega.jpgSo why is auto racing boring to many in the world? I believe it is the result of a few things.

First, I believe it is a lack of understanding the sport. I enjoy football but this year I have made it a point to learn more about how football works (and it ain't easy). Now that I understand how plays work, the rules, why one player is actually better than another, I enjoy it much more. The same for watching an auto race. When watching racing people don't understand the skill it takes to stop a car from 150 MPH to 40 MPH in about 300 feet to make a 30 MPH corner. Instead we think step on the gas and then hit the brake and that is about it. It is so much more than that, I think James Garner sums racing up best.
''Going 180 MPH down a straightaway is not that thrilling to me...what is more thrilling is taking a 30 MPH corner at 29.9 MPH...'
corner_harpin_early_late_apex.gifFootball+play.jpgWhen you understand the nuances of racing you notice the different skills levels on the track. For example, one driver will brake at 400 feet from the corner and take the corner tight while another begins slowing down at the 200 foot mark and takes the corner wide. Each one sees the corner and is thinking about how he or she will get through that corner the fastest and more importantly how well will the car be set up to go down the straightaway at full speed. Think of it as a running versus a passing game in football. You may produce the same results but how you get there is very different.

Another view of racing deals with the drivers themselves. A debate continues asking if race car drivers are real athletest? You probably know my take but read the following and make your own decision:

gymnast+rings.jpgA NASCAR driver will lose 5-10 lbs during an average race.Any enclosed race car will have temperatures well above 100 degrees in the cockpit and 170 to 180 degrees down at their feet.A Formula 1 driver will experience up to 5gs of g-force in a typical race and do that for 2 full hours. So what you say? An astronaut experiences 3gs at liftoff.A typical race car driver's heartbeat will average around 150 beats per minute for 2-3 hours. About the same as a marathon runner.Race car drivers have high 'anticipatory rates' equal to that of a hockey player, which means they know everything that is going on around them at any given moment - again, for 2-3 hours and sometimes more.

You decide if they are athletes. In my book not only are they real athletes, they reach the tier of elite athletes.

Another falsehood is that many people think that every race is the same. There are no really big events in the sport. Au contraire my friends. In other sports, like football, you have the Superbowl. In baseball the World Series. Basketball the NBA finals and hockey the Stanley Cup. For each of these sports there
wrc-world-rally-car-racing.jpgis only one big event each year. When you follow racing there are so many more 'Superbowls'. We have the 24 Hours of LeMans, the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500, the Monaco Grand Prix and the Bathurst 1000 to name just a few. We also have a myriad of mini championships in all of the different leagues. On any given weekend from February through November I have the opportunity to watch a major event.

DSC_4782-600x397.jpgFinally, many can't relate to what racing a car is like. Did you know that you too can be a race car driver with little money involved and the use of your family sedan? On any given weekend there are autocrosses, race course events, rally cross races and a host of other very fun, often very inexpensive, activities that you can be involved in. For as little as $35 for an entire day you will get to race a car, hang out with a group of people who are down to earth and fun to be with, and hone your skills as a driver, on the road or in a race. What other sport can you do that in?

Racing+Calendar.jpgSo, if you see me over the next few months downtrodden and seemingly in complete despair, as they say in the game of dating, it isn't you, it is me. The despondency in my voice, the slouching stature, the utter sadness in my eyes is simply because the sport I love is on hiatus for the winter months. There is nothing to watch on television that has any real value to me, nearly nothing to be excited about. Not until next February will life have meaning again...but...wait...the internet, yes, the internet - there has to be races that I haven't seen ready to be streamed to my desktop!

That's the thing about cars and racing, it needs to be year round...

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