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NASCAR auto racer Dale Earnhardt Jr. speaks wi...

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…but I do love NASCAR. Even putting these words on the screen causes me to wonder however did we get to this point? Cutting my teeth on baseball, initiated into the excitement of hockey before I was eight, desperately wanting to grow up to be a major league first baseperson, spending years in the gym watching my boys play basketball. That all seems so… well, normal.

But NASCAR? When the men in my home (and I am outnumbered 7-1, if you count our two dogs and two cats) started watching CAR RACING, all I could do is shake my head in disdain. What in the world is so great about cars racing around in circles. What a waste of a weekend—Truck Races, Nationwide Races, Winston…ummm I mean Sprint Cup Races. There were baseball games to watch, books to read, sun to bask in. Watch a race? No, thank you.

I politely declined all invitations to go on one of the guys’ NASCAR odyssey… Daytona? No, thank you, the beach is just fine. Atlanta? No way, have you heard those traffic horror stories? Talladega? You have got to be kidding!

I remember what we were doing when we heard that the legend, #3, Dale Earnhardt, died at Daytona on my birthday in 2001. I knew he had a son—who just happened to be adorable—who was racing and had finished second in the same race that ended his father’s life.

Secretly, I started hoping that Dale, Jr. would win. Such a cute guy, a nice person, who just seemed to epitomize the good southern boy. Oh, would never admit to actually caring about a race… but sometime during the last few years, I found myself catching a glimpse of a race while I was otherwise reading, writing, surfing the net.

Oh, you would never find me actually watching a race. That was for the guys. My older son kept asking me to go with them to a race. No way! Very adamantly at first, but over time I put some conditions on the request—I would consider ONLY a Sprint Cup race, ONLY if Dale, Jr. was racing. (Figured this was pretty safe, as they preferred going to truck and Nationwide races, then watch the Sprint Cup races at home.)

One day, I happened to be in the room for the pre-race show. Was I hearing an actual prayer being said on national TV? And was that the National Anthem shown in its entirety, with drivers, crews, and fans doffing their hats and placing their hands over their hearts? And were those soldiers in uniform everywhere, honored guests at the race? A flyover by elite Air Force jet fighter squad? We don’t do these things any longer… not on American TV. Prayers are passé, generic at best, certainly not invoking the name of the Lord. The National Anthem was the cue for a commercial. When’s the last time you had a flyover at the start of a baseball game?

I started paying attention, and week after week, the same components preceded EVERY race—Trucks, Nationwide, Cup. Always shown completely, reverently, without commercial interruptions or announcers talking over the pre-race ceremonies. What gives? Where in the world was the PC Police?

What a refreshing sight in a country that had suddenly seemed to be rejecting everything that had made America great. Here’s a group of thousands of fans week after week, who are unabashedly Proud to be an American (where at least I know I’m free…). Here’s a sport that is not afraid of offending someone by embracing the values upon which our country was founded. In an increasingly self-conscious world where we hesitate to pronounce who we are just in case we might offend someone, here is a legion of fans who don’t care if their patriotism offends, their prayers are said in Jesus’ name, and who still believe in the greatness of the American nation.

That is when NASCAR grabbed my heart. And I’m proud to say I’m part of the NASCAR Nation.

P.S. Yes, the men did call my bluff and got tickets to the Cup Race in Atlanta a couple of years ago, and I was on my feet cheering with the rest of the crowd when the 88 car took the lead. No, I did NOT particularly enjoy the noise, the smell of burning rubber, or being unable to actually follow the cars (do you realize how fast they go?). I have raised the bar a bit higher. I’ll go to another Cup Race in the future, IF we can sit in seats with backs, preferably in a suite.

In the meantime, watching on TV is just fine.

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