Memphis Grizzlies: hometown team
Ole Miss Rebels: alma mater
Memphis Tigers: hometown team, parents’ alma mater
New York Giants: feature former Ole Miss star, Eli Manning
St. Louis Cardinals: major league affiliate of hometown team, proximity to hometown
Nashville Predators: home state team
These are my teams and why I cheer for them. Most people probably cheer for their teams for one of the same reasons.
When it comes to the four major sports*, teams are chosen because of hometowns or home states, favorite players, parental influence, or because the person attended the team’s school or attended school in that team’s city.
All of these reasons are pretty clear cut and very few would disagree if a person told them that they cheered for a team for one of those reasons.
But what about NASCAR? How do NASCAR fans choose their favorite drivers? Races take place all over the country and feature every driver and drivers are from so many different places, so fandom can’t be decided by hometowns. I’ve never heard much fuss made over a driver’s college, so it doesn’t seem people would use school loyalty when picking their guy. Parental influence appears to be the only legitimate reason that carries over from the big four to NASCAR, but to assume that all fans picked based on who their parents like is a bit farfetched.
Since this is a conundrum I have wrestled with for some time, I decided to poll two die hard race fans, one male, Reid, and one female, Emily, to get some answers.
Admittedly I assumed I would get some ridiculous comments like, “He’s a badass. ‘Nough said.” But all the comments were well thought out and made a lot of sense.
Emily really likes Kevin Harvick for many reasons. Primarily he is her fiancé’s favorite driver, and her fiancé was the one who got her into NASCAR. She expounded upon why he chose Kevin Harvick, and I will say, his reasoning was touching.
I didn’t start watching NASCAR until Trey and I started dating 9 years ago, and he was a Harvick fan. Kevin was bumped up from what is now the Nationwide Series to the Cup Series immediately after Dale Earnhardt Sr. died to take his place in the GM Goodwrench car. Trey was a Dale Sr. fan. After only his third race in the cup series, he (Harvick) won, and as he did his burnout he held up 3 fingers out the window for Dale. That’s probably when he won over Trey.
So we have loyalty to the team as one reason people choose a driver.
She went on to say that she chose Kevin Harvick for a myriad of what sound like normal reasons. Good attitude, great personality, and doesn’t take anyone else’s crap. She went on to say that he is very intelligent about the sport and owned his own teams in lower tier racing series only to sell them around the time he discovered that he would be a father.
Mr. Harvick is looking like a pretty stand-up dude. If I get into racing someday, I might pick him.
Reid is a Jeff Gordon fan. Much like Emily, Reid got into racing because others he loved were fans. His older brother was a Dale Earnhardt, Sr. fan and attempted to sway Reid onto that bandwagon. Instead of obliging his older brother, he decided to piss him off by cheering for, at the time, the younger, more exciting, always winning Gordon. He has stuck with him ever since, and now, much like his older brother once hated Gordon for being the winner, Reid hates Jimmie Johnson, the Jeff Gordon of the present day, for winning too much.
Like Emily, he also cited attitude and personality as factors people take into consideration when picking a driver to cheer for. In addition to these reasons, he used the same phrase as Emily did in saying people like “aggressive drivers who don’t take crap from anyone”, so I think we have a pattern there. NASCAR fans don’t like pansies.
Honestly though, both Emily and Reid made a great deal of fuss about the kind of car a driver drives. It seems that it is a big freaking deal to the fans. Apparently, if you’re a Chevy guy, you will never cheer a Ford driver. And to quote Reid, “Toyota is akin to the bubonic plague in the NASCAR world, so if you don’t drive a Ford, Chevy or Dodge, you can basically expect a chorus of boos.”
Other reasons given were gimmicks (Carl Edwards’ back flip), attractiveness to the lady fans, and Dale Earnhardt, Sr. in general. To quote Reid once again, “The single most important reason a lot of fans cheer for someone rests solely on who his daddy was. Dale, Jr. is a good driver, but his popularity is based solely on the fact that his father was some sort of redneck Jesus.”
So there we go. Problem solved. People pick their favorite NASCAR driver for a multitude of different reasons. But all of the reasons make perfect sense to me. I’m sure there are some fans out there that pick drivers for different causes, but if I were to pick a driver, I would probably take the reasons discussed above into mind when choosing.
* Yes, the NHL and ice hockey fall into the four major sports category.