It might be so loud you plug your ears, with vibrations strong enough to tickle your belly, and the drying air cracking your already parched lips. No, you're not riding a rail car or working the tarmac. What you're feeling is much more exciting―you are at the start of a NASCAR race.
Still, you don't have to be sitting in the stands to enjoy NASCAR. In the comfort of your own living room you won't feel the tremble of the first lap, but you will get excellent coverage and in-depth analysis from the announcers. The roar of the engines comes through your television, helping you sense the speed of the cars and the urgency of the race for better positions.
NASCAR offers something for everyone, and that's why the popularity continues to grow. Now a billion-dollar industry, NASCAR covers all the bases.
You might be drawn to watching the teamwork that goes into getting a car ready for race day and then competing against the best in the field. But NASCAR teams do more than build and design a car. Many fans study pit strategies and learn the different skills used by the crew on pit row. How will the crew handle refueling in the final laps? Or, when will the crew put new tires on the car? And most importantly for race position, how long will the pit crew take to do their job? If you're like most people, you're captivated by the pit process.
The driver uses skill and strategy too, of course. You probably have a favorite driver, or even a few, because you like their attitude, driving style, or experience. Every driver has a unique skill set built on a racing background; following the driver's career can be fascinating.
When you watch NASCAR, you feel like you're part of something. The drivers, sponsors, families, and race tracks work hard to connect with NASCAR fans. Drivers sleep in RVs inside the track, only a few hundred feet from thousands of fans snoozing in their own RVs. The sponsors you see supporting NASCAR, are the same ones making the products you use every day in your home or office.
NASCAR is a family sport―you can bring your family to the race just like the drivers and pit crew do. If you follow the circuit, you often meet the same families year after year or track after track. Being a NASCAR fan means you are part of the NASCAR organization.
With NASCAR's growing popularity has come additional raceways; there are now more than 30 tracks. Every racetrack is unique because its length and grade differs, as does the shape and layout. You might be interested in the track history, culture, and personality. Like baseball fields, every track has a story to tell. And the stories keep coming, because each racing season writes a new chapter.
The schedule of NASCAR races is full, so most fans can usually find a race somewhere close by. However, actually getting tickets could require some planning. Fans complain that tickets are hard to come by when the race is popular―like the Daytona 500―or when the track is small with little grandstand seating.
Getting to the race is a challenge most NASCAR fans approach enthusiastically―it's all part of the lure. Traffic, parking, and available tickets ($25 to hundreds of dollars each) are often the focus long before race day arrives.
Whether you drive across town or across state lines, free parking is common at many raceways. Based on NASCAR statistics, most fans are older than 44, own their own home, and work full-time. Still, many of them are able to squeeze in a payment to rent or buy a nice RV; scan the track parking lot and you'll be amazed at how comfortable RV traveling can be.
Fans without RVs rent motel rooms, condos, or hotels near the track. To be far away could decrease your costs, but you'd lose out on the race-day atmosphere. Chatting with other fans about drivers, points, standings, and winnings is all a part of race-day preparation.
As you might expect, the typical NASCAR fan is male; still, 40% of fans are women. Most of the male fans are married (more than 60%), as evidenced by all the couples at the racetrack wearing matching hats and t-shirts promoting their favorite driver.
Kids love racing, too. The merchandise, food, and bustling atmosphere at the track pulls in the children. And if the 100 or more laps take too long for the little ones, parents can walk them back to the RV and finish watching the race on television.
NASCAR has a wide breadth of appeal because the organization is a huge network of drivers, crews, racetracks, sponsors, and fans. Almost everyone loves NASCAR. You can be involved on any level and still feel like you're part of it. Fans don't grow bored because every season there is so much to learn about the strategy, equipment, and rookie drivers.
NASCAR fans are aware of something we should all bear in mind: There is always more than meets the eye. If you think racing is just about cars driving fast around a track, ask any NASCAR fan what they find so alluring about the NASCAR life to get the full story.