Monday, August 07, 2006

NASCAR -- The Un-American Sport?

I just spent almost two months with my youngest daughter and her husband. They are huge NASCAR fans. I am not. I find it boring to watch people drive around in circles. Yes, they drive as fast as they can, given the road conditions and the tolerances built into their specially-made cars. And people who do enjoy the sport are passionate. However, I think that right now it is a ridiculous pastime and even, perhaps, un-American.

Now most NASCAR fans would wave their flags in my face and call me a “pinko-commie” as my son-in-law’s father called two girls dressed as hippies in a movie we all watched that took place in the sixties. Frankly, it was amazing to me that the Speed channel wasn’t on instead, as it had been the entire weekend which I mostly spent in my grandson’s room, reading a book. My daughter and son-in-law live in Terre Haute, Indiana—about 70 miles from Indianapolis which is almost shouting distance. There was a big race at Indy this weekend. Racers drove their cars in circles for a total of 400 miles on Sunday, with preliminaries and qualifying trials on both Friday and Saturday.

My S-I-L’s parents came up from Texas on Thursday. They flew into Indianapolis and rented a car for the drive to Terre Haute. On Friday, they watched the race preliminaries on the Speed Channel. On Saturday, they took my two oldest grandkids to the qualifying trials and on Sunday, just the four adults went to the race. That’s three round-trips between Terre Haute and Indy for a total of 560 miles driven over the weekend by one family. It would have been four round trips if the Texas contingent hadn’t rented the car for transportation to and from the Indianapolis airport.

That is a lot of gas to use up in one weekend. Especially from the point of view of a person who is not sure she can afford gas to get to a doctor’s appointment at the VA in Danville on Wednesday. Just driving home from Terre Haute I’ve already logged over 100 miles on my own car so far this month. I can usually only afford one tank of gas a month.

So, why do I think NASCAR in un-American? Well, I’ll answer that question with a few questions aimed at NASCAR. How many thousand gallons of gas do racers use in a typical weekend of testing, qualifying and racing? How many thousand gallons of gas do fans use getting to and from the racetracks? And at a time when people are being urged to cut back their gasoline usage, to convert to more fuel-efficient cars—particularly hybrids of various sorts—and there are many people in this country who have to choose between buying groceries, medications or gas each month, how can NASCAR justify the colossal waste of such a precious commodity? How can people waste so much gasoline and yet wave the flag as vehemently as they do?

I think that NASCAR should suspend their racing until race-cars can be converted to use alternative fuels such as ethanol, which can be easily renewed. Are our soldiers fighting and dying in Iraq so people can watch cars go around in circles as fast as they can wasting the very commodity for which our service men and women are dying? We should be outraged. I know I am.