A Tribute to the NASCAR Fans

NASCAR fans come from every walk of life, trucker to CEO, and yet converge on Sundays to watch the sport they love as one.

They share travel stories about how far they came, who their favorite drivers are, and who they are picking to win that particular race. NASCAR race fan discussion sometimes even gets a bit heated, but that is all usually put aside over an adult beverage and some good race track eats.

NASCAR fans are passionate like none other. They demonstrate that passion with the gear that they wear, from T-shirts to jackets to pajama bottoms sporting their favorite team number or race car, to the bags of merchandise they purchase from the many haulers at the race track.

Many have even poked some fun at NASCAR fans, citing the occasional missing tooth or the perhaps a little more predominant beer belly. And there is a definite fascination of the variety of racing tattoos or the interesting hair dos sported by fans at every event.

But at the Nationwide race in Daytona, the first one of the season, where everyone in the stands was so excited to start the 2013 year off with a bang, NASCAR fans instead became helpers and first responders.

As the pieces and parts of young race Kyle Larson’s car flew into the stands, after the last lap crash, fans were helping fellow fans, taking off those race-themed T-shirts to help staunch the bleeding of those who were injured.

And they used those loud NASCAR fan voices, ones that had just been cheering for their beloved racers, to instead summon help from the nearby emergency responders.

“It was surreal,” Ron Diehl, Jr., a fan who was at the track just a few sections away from where Larson’s car hit the fence, said. “The debris was raining down.”

“You saw the smoke and then we saw the impact and then parts started flying up in the air,” Diehl continued. “I kind of froze and ducked my head.”

“I was kind of in shock.”

Another fan, Larry Spencer, said, “As soon as he hit the catch fence, it looked like the car exploded. There were pieces of debris flying everywhere.”

In spite of trying to protect his brother, Spencer said that he did suffer a cut to his cheek, requiring stitches.

“As soon as I saw the pieces of debris go flying, I grabbed him and put my arms around him to shield him.”

Those NASCAR fans not at the track at Daytona took to social media, Twitter and Facebook, to post their concerns, sharing their prayers as they tried to gather information about how many were hurt and how critically.

In that one moment, they forgot about their rivalries and instead came together as a community to worry about any fan, adult or child, injured in the last lap melee.

Even the drivers joined in sharing their concerns about the fans, acknowledging that those are the people that make their racing possible.

Tony Stewart, who actually won the Nationwide Drive4COPD 300, was somber in Victory Lane, deciding to waive off the festivities in light of his care and concern for what was happening in the stands.

“We always know that this is a dangerous sport,” Stewart said. “We assume that risk but it’s hard when fans get caught up in it.”

“My concern is for the fans right now.”

NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski, who was also participating in the Nationwide race and was involved in the crash, echoed Stewart’s concerns.

“There was obviously a big wreck with a lot of debris,” Keselowski said. “I really hope everyone in the grandstands is OK.”

“That is the most important thing right now.”

Both the track president Joie Chitwood and NASCAR’s president Mike Helton made formal statements about their joint concerns for the fans in the media center after visiting the hospital where many of the injured were taken.

But, as with any tragedy at any race, from the death of Dale Earnhardt at Daytona in 2001 to the death of a fan from a lightning strike at Pocono Raceway last year, NASCAR fans know that the show must go on and the racing must continue.

And that is again is how the heartiness and resiliency of the NASCAR fans is demonstrated. The stands will fill this weekend and every weekend going forward, the National Anthem will be sung, the engines will be fired and the fans will cheer mightily for it all.

Perhaps Dave Moody, radio host and announcer for MRN, summed it up best by starting a trend in using the Twitter hash tag #NASCARSTRONG in communicating via social media about the fans and the last lap crash. After all, that is exactly what race fans are – strong, feisty, determined and resilient.

Indeed, NASCAR fans are a family. And every race fan is in fact #NASCARSTRONG.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.


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