A Day For Diversity in NASCAR

First, Danica Patrick wins the pole for the Nationwide series race at Daytona; and then, Brazilians Miguel Paludo and Nelson Piquet, Jr. took the front row for the Camping World truck race this evening while a rocket took off from Cape Canaveral, of all things. It seemed fitting.

Danica’s been the stuff of jokes for a long time. Considering the GoDaddy commercials, it’s obvious which directions said jokes have taken. And sure, we’re talking qualifying and not the last lap of the NNS race. However, let’s remember that she’s just making the transition from IndyCar to the heavier, slower-responding stock car. The self-described “honey badger” should never be underestimated. I think she’s got “it,” the real talent behind the wheel needed to do the job at the highest level. She can win, folks. Honey badgers fear nothing; neither does she.

As for Paludo and Piquet, Jr., they were part of a three-truck sweep of the top spots for Turner Motorsports; that was the result of hard work and superior setup in particular. You have to be impressed by that fact alone.

No longer can the general sports media say that NASCAR is a good-ol’-boy sport. It’s grown far past that. Sure, part of its fan base remains decidedly rooted in the deep South, but there’s no question that it’s also truly nationwide in scope. By the way, the last time I attended a NASCAR race (the All-Star show at Charlotte a couple of years ago), I saw a dramatically more diverse crowd in the stands than I’d expected. I expect that the attendees at Fontana in a few weeks will be equally so.

Oh, uh, I should be there for it. Hoping to be able to blog about it while there, but if not there will be a full report when I get home.

But I digress….

This is a momentous day for motorsports. Decades from now, I hope people will point to this date on the calendar and say, “That was the day the walls truly came down.” When gender, ethnicity, background, etc., truly no longer mattered. People like So and Amal Shaheen of Bowling Green, Ohio, who run the best convenience store anywhere around and serve THE best gyros I’ve ever eaten, are also huge Jeff Gordon fans; they think nothing about these matters, at least I hope they don’t because they shouldn’t have to. No one should have to. I think also about the crowds at Toledo Speedway, again a diverse group because the ticket prices are affordable and many happen to be local folks who bring their kids. I keeping thinking those kids are thinking the same things I did when I was their age: I’d love to do that, too. I don’t know what old bigots would say to any of this or about the changes in demographics, but it’s easy to imagine. Let’s let them stew by themselves, for a change.

One day, none of this will matter because fields and grandstands alike will be more completely integrated across all cultural barriers. The old -isms, of course, will never be quaint; the old Stars-&-Bars isn’t no matter where it flies because of what it intrensically means, neither is the Klan, neither are Nazis and neither are their descendents. But as for that future day, just consider the storylines and imagine the look of the crowds in attendance. This will immensely add to the sport’s richness.

Here’s to that day. Here’s hoping the old bigotries die and stay dead.


About johnwylam1957

I'm a poet and teacher now living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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