Where Do Old Fans Go?
Note: My articles are based solely on my thoughts and observations. Normally I do not offer statistics, although at times I may reference what different broadcasters, among others, have said or alluded to.
I am what is called "an old fan" or "longtime fan" of NASCAR racing. There are also many other phrases or names used to describe stock car race fans like myself, who have been avid fans since the 1950's. We have been called everything one can possibly imagine from a crazy idiot to very knowledgeable and wise about the sport. Sometimes we are referred to fans who just want to live in the past and cannot accept all the changes that have come about since the beginning of the sport.
Thinking back on all that has happened during the years since I became a fan of auto racing, has made me stop and think of all the changes throughout the last six plus decades.
People have changed throughout each of these decades. We were very naive back in the 50's and 60's. We were full of wonderment and excitement over this new thing called stock car racing. That is truly what it was then - stock car racing. Stock cars that had moved from back deserted roads to tracks that were built by those who either wanted to create a league or group of professional racers, or by those just looking to make money from this new sport. Many tracks came and many tracks were abandoned during those years.
Dirt tracks became plentiful and locals plied their expertise to racing their own vehicles which they converted into race cars. The rules were lax and innovation was used in abandon. Soon, rules were needed to control the chaos that had been happening at some of the local tracks. Most of the drivers/racers only had volunteer pit crews. Most of these mechanics, body men (including painters), machinists, and what we called gophers were strictly volunteer help. If one got the right group of people helping, then he normally did very well. Many among us regular contributors here at RFF participated in some manner at the local tracks near us. We loved it and we thrived when our racer did well. Sometimes, we would tow the race car 300 to 400 miles to a specific track that paid well. Many times though, the cost of preparing the race car and traveling, including food, outweighed the money taken in. One might conclude that it was more of a hobby, rather than a profession.
When I was involved in local racing, I did miscellaneous gopher type jobs, which included selling tickets and pit passes. Once all the cars had checked in, I would then go to our pit to help with helmet prep by attaching the tear offs and polishing; then it was time to wipe the car down, check the seat belt connections, among other last minute details. I was part of the team, but once the races were ready to start, I would rush to the tower to assist in counting laps. That was a manual job then and I lost quite a few stop watches during those times. I also did some picture taking, verifying how names were spelled and making sure the information was correct about where they were from. The 6 tracks we ran were in Northern California and Northeastern Nevada.
These are the types of memories we should try to keep alive for the history of auto racing. Some of the professional racers today had the same kind of experiences at their local tracks. However, with the new technologies available, some never had the unique experience of working on their own cars or interacting with strictly a volunteer group of pit crew people. Many of these people not only donated their time, but many times donated parts, fuel or even money and food for the crew while helping prepare a winning car.
Time has passed, and now many of us are older and we can no longer do the things we used to do or travel to tracks so the big question is: What do we do now and where do we go? To answer that, I did some soul searching and came to the following conclusion. We watch racing on television and often make comparisons to how it used to be. We try to decipher the feelings of drivers and the broadcast teams and usually form opinions which may or may not be right. We criticize, often harshly because we feel they are not serving the fans. A lot of us think perhaps we could do a better job, but could we really? People change as do the times and what may have been important then, may not be important now. We have to change in order to grow and since the way life and other things have advanced, if we don't change, then perhaps we cannot really or rightfully compare then to now. The most important thing I feel we should do is just to preserve and pass on the history as we knew it and experienced it. Stop and think about the following: We can't go back and re-live the past, nor can we change it. Therefore, let's pass it down as accurately as we can. That is one thing older or longtime fans can do and should do, for posterity.
Thank you for reading and commenting here. Your thoughts, ideas on the subject and opinions are very welcome. I remind you to keep them clean and no bashing, please. You may also email comments to me.