A fan’s-eye view of auto racing’s Winston Cup circuit and a sociological scan of the members of the NASCAR tribe, as dedicated and loyal a bunch as any Deadhead.
Deploying a voice with plenty of authority and a low-key humor, Wright (Sociology/Univ. of Central Florida) disabuses the notion that stock-car fans are a pack of dreadful, racist yahoos, and in large measure he expunges the moonshine myths and regional fables associated with the sport. Attending eight of the Winston Cup events for 1999, Wright drinks in the “rich, erotic sensory overload—the sights, the sounds, the smells, the feel—of weekends at Winston Cup tracks.” He sets out to convey the color and flavor of the NASCAR atmosphere—the roar of the grease-paint and smell of the crowd, so to speak—that’s said to include “Americanism, community, Christian virtue, and family values.” He brings tyros up to speed on the character of the tracks, the history of the sport, and various race-day strategies both of drivers and of fans, who must secure decent seats and parking that allows for a fast getaway after the event. Wright is at his sociological best when addressing fan and driver demographics and the racism—or the perception of it—that NASCAR projects. He examines the nature of corporate involvement in the game, especially the ways fans relate to corporate muscle, taking umbrage at any diddling with race traditions (the renaming of the Charlotte Motor Speedway to Lowe’s, after the home-supply retailer, occasioned much hue and cry) that come in the wake of brand-name backing. He’s also good on booze: “We’re talking Winston Cup racing here, where the standard of drunkenness is high—way higher than the six-pack or two I go through.”
Revealing indeed in its profile of NASCAR fans.