Hi, my name is William and I am a car enthusiast. No really, I can prove it. And since I'm about to tell you why I don't like watching racing, something most enthusiasts consider blasphemy, I figure I damn well better provide some proof.
My automotive resume is pretty stacked. As a child, I had a Countach poster on my wall and buckets of well worn Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars in my closet. That carried on through my teen years. I took my driver's test on my 16th birthday. In a tropical storm. And passed. I've spent way too much of my life reading and eventually writing for sites like this. Since then I've owned all types of conventional car layouts and have raced them all, spending many, many days at various tracks and autocross events around DC. I even taught at a teen performance driving school, that was a lot of fun. I love to race. But I don't like to watch professionals race and it's a little embarrassing as an enthusiast. Even my non-car loving friends are confused by it. Here is a typical exchange.
- Coworker: "Did you catch that NASCAR race yesterday, pretty awesome".
- Me: "Um, I don't watch NASCAR".
- Coworker: "But you're a car guy….".
So is there something wrong with me or am I just not doing it right? Let's try and figure it out. The best method I could come up with to get through this is to analyze each of the major types of motorsports and let you all know what I like, and and what I don't like about them. Perhaps I can get some help or maybe I'm a lost cause.
I'll start with the most popular, at least here in 'Merica. 200 miles per hour with big V8 cars, sounds awesome. But biggest beef with NASCAR starts with the name. The "National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing" Stock cars. So these used to be stock? Oh good, then not only can I root for my favorite manufacturer, I can go buy something similar to what's on the track! Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday am I right?! Oh, I can't buy one of these? That doesn't come with a V8 and rear wheel drive? Hmm. This may be a theme across each of these sections, I just don't care about the cars. And if I can't get into the cars, what's the point? I'll take the one on the right in the picture below.
The only thing left is to root for specific drivers. "Who's ur driver" they say. There are lots of personalities out there, I can pick someone I identify with or find interesting! Only that doesn't seem to be quite as easy anymore. Gone are the days of Earnhardt Sr., Richard Petty and people who's persona came into the room before they did and was still there when they left. Tony Stewart seems like a pretty awesome guy, owns his own dirt track. But so far he hasn't been enough to get me to tune in to watch him on TV. I've always been told that "you have to go see a race". Admittedly, I haven't. Even though I'm only an hour or so from Dover, I haven't gone.
But this is about me watching on TV and I unfortunately don't care about the cars or the drivers in NASCAR. Let's move on.
The pinnacle of motorsports, F1. But much like NASCAR, I don't get any enjoyment out of the "cars" if you can call them that. They are at the top of the food-chain from an engineering standpoint, and that I very much appreciate. And I think that is enough for most people, but for some reason it just doesn't do it for me. So this seems to be a trend, maybe we are making some progress here! This confirms that I need to be able to identify with the cars. Thanks for letting me talk this through internet. You're the best.
Let's look at the drivers. That Kimi guy seems to be pretty interesting. And I do like Ferrari. Maybe that will be my driver and team this year! Except that I have a lightly worn Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari shirt from his 2007-2009 time with the team. And I didn't really end up actually paying enough attention back then either. Has anything changed in the last few years? Are drivers interesting enough now to make me tune in? Part of me wants some conflict, some audacious behavior. I want the drivers from Rush! Ah, so I need to care about the driver's, I need some personalities! Now we're getting somewhere. It's like I'm on a psychiatrist's couch, only cheaper and with less questions about my family.
I put this next because I actually used to watch it. And when I say "watch", that is relative. I probably spent more time watching The Price is Right in my life than I have WRC. I used to catch it on The Speed Channel (is that still a thing? Kidding, I know Fox killed it) at midnight and it was fascinating. You had real cars competing in real world environments with interesting drivers. I really enjoyed rooting for Solberg and Subaru to beat Grönholm and his silly French Peugeot. But there was a problem. It's almost never on TV and, in the end, the drivers either didn't really hold my interest over time, they moved onto another, higher profile sport, or they just plain retired. So what else is out there?
I'll admit, I had to Google this one to understand what it is actually called now. I know there was an expensive watchmaker involved, something like that. I see lots of interesting coverage of Daytona and other sports cars racing events on my favorite blogs, but I don't know a lot about the series itself. I just read up on the "unification" between two existing North American sports car racing series, the American Le Mans Series and Rolex Sports Car Series. OK, I've seen some of that on TV, and the cars look fantastic! Some of them even look like cars I can buy, so that's cool. Box checked. What about the drivers?
Well I've heard of this guy, loved him in that movie he played a teenage prostitute. Is there anyone else interesting? Hmm, doesn't look like it. Please let me know if I'm wrong on this, but this series doesn't have the coverage of F1 and NASCAR, curious if there is more to the story than I think there is. I need some tension, I need some rivalries.
So what did we learn with this drill? I need real cars and I need real personalities. Well, fake personalities would be OK as long as they are interesting. Unfortunately the largest motorsports, in terms of popularity and coverage, don't meet my car criteria, and the series that are based on real cars don't seem to have enough interesting personalities. Plus they're rarely on TV.
I hate to say it, but we almost need more reality motorsports TV. Yep, let's put these guys in the same house for a season, see how things go. See how they succeed and fail at being a race car driver, let me get vested in their lives a bit. I know it's not necessarily "real" but it's interesting for sure.
So what am I missing Oppo? I know there are a lot of passionate race fans out there. Sell me on your sport.
Will is an automotive writer and regular contributor to Right Foot Down. Based in Maryland, he contributes to Jalopnik's Opposite Lock under "thedriver" and has had a long history of founding failed automotive sites and spending way too much time on car forums. He has owned "too many Mustangs" according to Josh and has a fetish for RWD V8s. He spent most of his 20s on tracks in the mid-atlantic and killing cones in parking lots and has even taught at a teen performance driving school.