New York Times: The Culture Wars Of Car Racing

LewTheShoe

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The New York Times has published a long form article ostensibly about the cultural divide between NASCAR and dirt track racing. Yes, there is some of that... but the real message of the piece seems to be about the cultural chasm between those who are afflicted by the racing bug and those who are not. There are cringe-worthy moments and occasional hilarity due to the writer's ignorance of the subject, but it is interesting nonetheless to see what "they" have to say about "us." Tony Stewart is featured prominently in the article, which was written by Rachel Corbett.

The Culture Wars of Car Racing
Grimy, daring and deadly, dirt-track racing has become a
magnet for fans — and a threat to the Nascar status quo.

Nascar’s transformation from a Southern pastime to a regulated global business has unleashed a familiar-feeling culture war within its ranks — between the Southerners and the coastal elites, those who came up on dirt tracks and those who came up on pavement. Racing forums today are filled with complaints about how boring it is to watch millionaires turn left and be polite to one another. Many of these disaffected fans have been flocking to dirt tracks like the one in Charlotte and the one Stewart owns in Ohio, Eldora Speedway. Stewart has become a serious investor in dirt racing. In recent years, he bought two dirt-racing teams, a regional series, a dirt-car manufacturer and a stake in two other dirt speedways in Kentucky and Illinois. He drives in about 70 dirt races a year. Where Nascar has lost its emotional resonance with fans, Stewart has handily harnessed it....

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/18/magazine/dirt-track-racing-nascar-tony-stewart.html
 

tclarson

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Well everything the times puts out is only good for kindling anyways. I don’t think the divide is that bad as everyone thinks. I grew up only around dirt tracks but I love all forms of racing.
 

gnomesayin

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Cringeworthy indeed at times due to the lack of basic knowledge and questionable research, but still an interesting read. My perspective is that I've always been a dirt racing fan first and foremost, above all else. Dirt tracks exist in just about every corner and crevice of the country (and in Canada, UK, Australia, etc.) The culture of such racing is varied not just in different geographic regions, but based on how close a given track is to a major city and other factors. There are sprint car fans and demo derby fans. So I don't really see it as NASCAR culture vs. dirt culture. I guess this article is trying to get at the difference between 'grass roots' racing and the sort of broad mainstream sports appeal NASCAR sought and briefly attained in the '00s. I don't see that as an especially useful distinction, because they are serving fundamentally different interests.
 

DSquad48

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Read this this morning.

At least half of the people I see at my local dirt tracks are sporting NASCAR gear (myself included)

I'm more surprised that the Times published something like this.
 

Snappy D

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The New York Times has published a long form article ostensibly about the cultural divide between NASCAR and dirt track racing. Yes, there is some of that... but the real message of the piece seems to be about the cultural chasm between those who are afflicted by the racing bug and those who are not. There are cringe-worthy moments and occasional hilarity due to the writer's ignorance of the subject, but it is interesting nonetheless to see what "they" have to say about "us." Tony Stewart is featured prominently in the article, which was written by Rachel Corbett.

The Culture Wars of Car Racing
Grimy, daring and deadly, dirt-track racing has become a
magnet for fans — and a threat to the Nascar status quo.

Nascar’s transformation from a Southern pastime to a regulated global business has unleashed a familiar-feeling culture war within its ranks — between the Southerners and the coastal elites, those who came up on dirt tracks and those who came up on pavement. Racing forums today are filled with complaints about how boring it is to watch millionaires turn left and be polite to one another. Many of these disaffected fans have been flocking to dirt tracks like the one in Charlotte and the one Stewart owns in Ohio, Eldora Speedway. Stewart has become a serious investor in dirt racing. In recent years, he bought two dirt-racing teams, a regional series, a dirt-car manufacturer and a stake in two other dirt speedways in Kentucky and Illinois. He drives in about 70 dirt races a year. Where Nascar has lost its emotional resonance with fans, Stewart has handily harnessed it....

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/18/magazine/dirt-track-racing-nascar-tony-stewart.html
Tony Stewart is the man, awesome article.
 

superchuck500

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Rachel Corbett wrote the piece - she's a freelance writer who gets published in different places. This piece will run in the NYT weekend magazine edition. Apparently she grew up in Iowa and appears to have spent some time around dirt-track racing as a kid.


 

MRM

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The "culture war" betweem dirt racing and NASCAR fans has gone on for years. This is nothing new. The only thing different is NASCAR is losing fans and dirt racing is holding on to their fans if not slightly growing. That's more of the entertainment factor than it is any "war."
 

Zerkfitting

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It is two different forms of racing. I think a lot of race fans like more than one form of racing. NASCAR has large events compared to the local dirt tracks. Plus local tracks are local, you don't have the expense to travel to a NASCAR race. I enjoyed reading the story because it was from a different perspective but I don't see a culture war, the two forms of racing are alternatives for racing fans. Go to the local track on Sat. and watch a race on TV Sun.
 

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An interesting read and a very good synopsis by Lew. I am surprised the Times had interest in this kind of story so I learn something new each day.

My friends and I are fans of all sorts of racing and don’t look up or down on any of them. Within the racing community the only cultural thing I have noticed is some snobbery from IndyCar fans.

Essentially what they have said is NASCAR is for people that don’t understand the nuances of racing and it is just low grade entertainment. They are probably just defensive.
 

gnomesayin

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Rachel Corbett wrote the piece - she's a freelance writer who gets published in different places. This piece will run in the NYT weekend magazine edition. Apparently she grew up in Iowa and appears to have spent some time around dirt-track racing as a kid.


Well...on one hand it takes a lot of effort to produce a long form piece like this. On the other, she is plainly unfamiliar with the basic details of dirt track racing and NASCAR, and is relying on her research skills and coordinated interviews with Stewart. Growing up in Iowa likely does mean growing up with a passing knowledge that dirt sprint car racing is a thing that exists.

This article would have benefitted from an editor with some basic racing knowledge. It is rife with dubious factual claims and characterizations, which tends to undermine the attempt at analysis. Also, is Corbett aware that many, many other forms of grass roots racing that aren't dirt track oval racing exist and have passionate fanbases?

As I said, I don't want to just trash the work, because it is a serious attempt. It is vividly written. It also bites off way more than it can chew. The basic thesis that the 'insurgent culture' of dirt racing is a threat to NASCAR isn't supported. Are they different? Yes. Did NASCAR get too far away from its roots? Perhaps. I liked Steve Phelps' recent comments about regrowing NASCAR's ties to short track racing. Looking at motorsports as a big tent that needs to be grown on many levels is a smarter approach than pitting one form against another.
 

Charlie Spencer

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Nascar’s transformation from a Southern pastime to a regulated global business has unleashed a familiar-feeling culture war within its ranks
I'm sorry but the article lost me immediately. The global business that began peaking almost 20 years ago and has declined in the last 15, is just now unleashing a culture war?

I'll take y'all's words that the article is well-intentioned if under-informed. As others have said, this isn't a win-lose discussion; many of us like multiple forms of racing.
 

StandOnIt

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It is called a home run when they can get two opposite sides taking a stand. I read the article before it was posted, said blah, ain't going to happen, most fans like both. Except short track Andy. :D
 

clarkfn2284

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It is two different forms of racing. I think a lot of race fans like more than one form of racing. NASCAR has large events compared to the local dirt tracks. Plus local tracks are local, you don't have the expense to travel to a NASCAR race. I enjoyed reading the story because it was from a different perspective but I don't see a culture war, the two forms of racing are alternatives for racing fans. Go to the local track on Sat. and watch a race on TV Sun.
I agree that a lot of fans like more then one form of racing, but dirt has changed considerably. It has become more mainstream and more national in it's popularity. There are more multiple day/week long events being held in the dirt scene that have fans traveling all over the Country to see large races. Chili Bowl, Kings Royal, IMCA Super Nationals, Knoxville Nationals, Duel in the Desert etc. All week long or weekend long races that fans travel to and take on the expense of travel. Each one of them growing in popularity year over year. There is absolutely a culture war going on, I don't think it is as drastic as some make it seem, but for years it was pavement turning their nose up at dirt and now that dirt has gained traction due to the entertainment factor and the budding dirt stars in pavement cars, you are beginning to see dirt turning their noses up at pavement. I visit multiple tracks up and down the Central Valley in CA and when at the dirt tracks there are more people wearing dirt driver's apparel then pavement apparel. Dirt still has the outlaw feel to it and I think that is why the average race fan finds it more appealing and when they walk up to a driver's van or merch hauler they are purchasing their merch with an idea that they are helping that driver with their program.
 

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People like dirt because it is balls out racing from the git go, no laying back, no diddling around, no fake cautions, no pomp, Just drop the flag and race hard for 15,20,25 true laps (caution laps do not count) and in the main event maybe run 50 laps. Lots of passing and close racing all during the race and throughout the field. If you are a high horsepower fast paced race fan, what's not to like about it, I know that I like it a lot.
 

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There is definitely a cultural divide when it comes to those that like Motorsports and those that don’t. That always exists in niche sports. Hockey, golf, and tennis all have the same type of small segmented fanbases from one niche group. That is okay in my opinion. NASCAR can be plenty successful as a niche sport, and I myself don’t base my opinions of what I like off of how popular it is. If only 5 other people like nascar or auto racing, oh well. Makes the line getting to and from the track quicker. There are plenty of people that like all forms of racing
 

IanMcVittie

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I agree that a lot of fans like more then one form of racing, but dirt has changed considerably. It has become more mainstream and more national in it's popularity. There are more multiple day/week long events being held in the dirt scene that have fans traveling all over the Country to see large races. Chili Bowl, Kings Royal, IMCA Super Nationals, Knoxville Nationals, Duel in the Desert etc. All week long or weekend long races that fans travel to and take on the expense of travel. Each one of them growing in popularity year over year. There is absolutely a culture war going on, I don't think it is as drastic as some make it seem, but for years it was pavement turning their nose up at dirt and now that dirt has gained traction due to the entertainment factor and the budding dirt stars in pavement cars, you are beginning to see dirt turning their noses up at pavement. I visit multiple tracks up and down the Central Valley in CA and when at the dirt tracks there are more people wearing dirt driver's apparel then pavement apparel. Dirt still has the outlaw feel to it and I think that is why the average race fan finds it more appealing and when they walk up to a driver's van or merch hauler they are purchasing their merch with an idea that they are helping that driver with their program.
I enjoyed reading your thoughts and opinions. One thing that struck me is why can’t one guy watch what he likes and another guy watch what he likes and everyone is happy? I can’t imagine a time when I would think that my choices of what I like in racing would make me think I was better or smarter then the next guy.
 

TexasRaceLady

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I enjoyed reading your thoughts and opinions. One thing that struck me is why can’t one guy watch what he likes and another guy watch what he likes and everyone is happy? I can’t imagine a time when I would think that my choices of what I like in racing would make me think I was better or smarter then the next guy.
Because usually everyone thinks their opinion is the right one, and everyone else's is wrong. LOL
 

Charlie Spencer

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I enjoyed reading your thoughts and opinions. One thing that struck me is why can’t one guy watch what he likes and another guy watch what he likes and everyone is happy? I can’t imagine a time when I would think that my choices of what I like in racing would make me think I was better or smarter then the next guy.
'Cause, the Internet.
 

Taco

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And the writer is:

Rachel Corbett is an American art journalist. She was the executive editor of Modern Painters from 2016-2017. Prior to that she worked as a correspondent for The Art Newspaper in 2013
 

Charlie Spencer

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races paint brushes..that's good.
The paint brush races these days can't hold a candle to the one's back in the '60s and '70s. Back then the painters built their own brushes and you didn't need to worry about aerodynamics. And the painters back then didn't hesitate to speak their minds like the corporate shills slinging pigment around these days. And don't get me started on restricted palates...
 

DanicaFreak

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I love this from the article:

The scrape between Logano, the clean-cut son of a New England businessman, and Stewart, the paunchy-gutted son of an Indiana salesman, was in many ways emblematic of the developing fault lines in Nascar. Never mind that Stewart is worth an estimated $100 million, is a co-owner of a Nascar team and flies to races on his private jet. He still eats Spaghetti Os out of the can and lives in his hometown, Columbus, Ind. — albeit in a $3.5 million log mansion.
 

toledo47

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I like everything, NASCAR, Dirt, road course, whatever...
But i often end up sitting next to someone who (without me mentioning NASCAR) will bash NASCAR or say, "dirt racing is the best, pavement is for getting to the track , dirt is for racing".
Same with some people at road course events (like IMSA), "these guys are the best, nascar guys only turn left"...
I think its kinda silly... Its all racing, its all good stuff. I have my preferences too (big short track pavement events), but in the end, its all good!
For me its boring to do the same thing everytime... I went to a little over 40 tracks this year, 19 short paved ovals, 14 dirt, a handful of big ovals (around a mile or larger) and a couple of road courses.
My least favorite to attend is traditional road courses and street circuits since the view for fans is usually limited (There are some exceptions though...).
 

LewTheShoe

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Dirts for Farming, Asphalts for Racing! ( thought I'd stir up the cultural divide)
"Dirt is for Racing... Asphalt is for Getting There."

I have that T shirt, but actually consider myself fluent in both Dirt and Pavement. I prefer @toledo47's approach... variety is the spice of life. But there is a lot of parochial animosity out there, unfortunately.
 

Mispeedway15

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Good article. I think the thing that sticks out is how NASCAR isn’t seen as the big draw anymore. Sure we all go to local speedways, but Sundays were for tuning in to watch the big guns. We’ve kinda lost that star power
 

gnomesayin

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I used to poke fun at casual NASCAR fans during the boom years who couldn't fathom that other forms of racing existed, and if they did, they must be a type of NASCAR as well.

However, here is the crux of why the 'us vs. them' mentality is wrong headed on any side. If you go find ten self-identified dirt racing fans, and ten people who don't know what dirt racing is, I guarantee you more from the first group will be viewers and attendees of NASCAR races. If you find ten NASCAR fans and ten people who profess to not like NASCAR, I guarantee you that more from the first group would be willing to watch or attend a dirt race.

That's all there is to it. Different forms of auto racing help draw interest to each other far more than they hurt each other.
 
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sky

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Good read, few things wrong but you can tell she did put a lot of time into it. Always thought NASCAR's "casual fans" were sports car, dirt track, drag racing, motorcycle race fans.
 

ChexOrWrex

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The nature of sports journalism today in America is two differing opinions in competition with each other on who can have the hottest take.

I’d rather read her research than her article that attempts to pit two sides against each other.
 

IanMcVittie

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I agree with what others have said about one form of racing leading to the enjoyment of another form. I like rally racing plus snowmobile and moto cross and others too. The biggest problem is trying to fit all the things I like to do in my spare time with the spare time I have!
 

Revman

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All perceptions IMO. This hard nosed grizzly rrrracer is a man of the people....and goes home to a 3.5 million dollar home financed by the people. Perceptions are good, but they are just that. As fans, we should fall in love with perceptions, and leave the reality behind. This should be why we watch. Sometimes we search for fundamental truths around here. There are none. Only perceptions....and that is good. Enjoy the race today for whatever it is. You are watching because your life isn't total ****. In that, be grateful and feel blessed. Have fun. Go Kyle Busch!
 
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