May 22, 2005


For a certain segment of the population, Nascar's raid on American culture -- its logo festoons everything from cellphones to honey jars to post office walls to panties; race coverage, it can seem, has bumped everything else off television; and, most piercingly, Nascar dads now get to pick our presidents -- triggers the kind of fearful trembling the citizens of Gaul felt as the Huns came thundering over the hills. To these people, stock-car racing represents all that's unsavory about red-state America: fossil-fuel bingeing; lust for violence; racial segregation; run-away Republicanism; anti-intellectualism (how much brain matter is required to go fast and turn left, ad infinitum?); the corn-pone memes of God and guns and guts; crass corporatization; Toby Keith anthems; and, of course, exquisitely bad fashion sense. What's more, they simply don't get it. What's the appeal of watching . . . traffic? It's as if ''Hee Haw'' reruns were dominating prime time, and the Republic was slapping its collective knee at Grandpa Jones's ''What's for supper?'' routine. With Nascar's recent purchase of a swath of real estate on Staten Island, where it intends to plop down an 80,000-seat racetrack and retail center for the untapped New York City market, the onslaught seems poised on the brink of full-out conquest. Cover your ears, blue America. The Huns are revving their engines.

As a reader suggests, "Replace 'NASCAR' with 'Hip-hop,' and then ask yourself whether this would have run in the Times." Certainly the editors would have objected to the condescension and stereotyping that run throughout.

On the other hand, perhaps this NASCAR stuff has gone a bit too far. . .

UPDATE: My race-car-driving brother notes that if you want real diversity, you should forget NASCAR and check out drag racing. Note the very cool photos. Meanwhile, reader Tom Carter emails:

Wow - what an article. Jonathan Miles has it all wrong. I'm having a hard time accepting the fact that a contributing writer for what is typically held as a good paper would fall into such blantant prejudices. Once again this smacks of the "blues" having a free pass at throwing stones. I wonder if Miles has ever been to a NASCAR function or even driven a stock car.

"The cars the drivers pilot -- modified Chevy Monte Carlos, Ford Tauruses, Pontiac Grand Prix -- are not so different from the cars Nascar fans use daily to pick up their groceries, shuttle their kids and get themselves to work."

Statements like that are just an indicator that this man has absolutey no idea of what he's writing about, and this just fuels the granishing disatisfaction with traditional media and their inability to effectively research their material.

Yeah. There's not much overlap between a NASCAR "stock" car and the actual stock vehicle of the same name, and hasn't been in ages.

I don't mind these articles in which the Times tries to explain red states to its readership (and unlike my brother, I don't care much for racing as a spectator sport) but I'd like them to do a better, and less-condescending, job of it.

ANOTHER UPDATE: SSgt J.P. Dawson emails:

Hey InstaDude,

In the Air Force (I'm active duty) I encounter a small group of hip-hop fans and a couple of Nascar fans every night at work on the midnight shift. There are conversations about Jay-Z and Nelly, as well as Dale, Jr. and Jeff Gordon. I tease both crowds, as we all tease each other about something. My New Yawk accent and thinning hair are the targets for them.

I'd never be so condescending of either group. Perhaps those of us in the military are just much more tolerant than the staff at the NY Times.

I think so, actually.