Representing 40 percent of NASCAR’s fan base, new and returning female fans rev up for the 2008 racing season.
By Michele Peters

The deafening roar of engines as racecars thunder past creates a wild energy. The drivers pour through the turns and maneuver for positions. The grandstand is filled to capacity with 160,000 screaming fans from every socio-economic group–including women.

Welcome to a typical NASCAR race.

NASCAR claims 75 million fans in the United States. In addition, races are broadcast in more than 150 countries in 30 languages. Racing is the No. 1 spectator sport today, and women now make up 40 percent of the fan base.

David Ragan in AAA’s No. 6 Ford Fusion car pulls ahead last year at Kansas Speedway. AAA photo
NASCAR racing has all the elements of a mystery, a romance novel and an adventure thriller rolled into one complete story with new characters, plots and thrills each week. Each race, in fact, unfolds a mystery. Which driver has the most skill? Whose pit crew is the fastest and most adept to fix, correct or change whatever needs to be adjusted in 30 seconds? Who will win always is a mystery, often until the very end.

Ladies, behind those helmets are some of the most down-to-earth and best-looking guys in sports. Some of these drivers can easily rival the hero on any romance novel cover. Look at Kasey Kahne or AAA’s young driver, David Ragan, who has garnered many female fans of all ages.

And for thrills, it’s tough to top a sport where the average speed is 195 mph and 43 cars are racing to the finish line. While no fan wants to see a driver injured, nothing gets the heart pounding faster than seeing a driver spin out, and through sheer skill combined with a bit of luck, finish the race in the top 10.

Training for your first NASCAR race

Kristin Warfield, director of AAA Motorsports and a 10-year motorsports veteran, recommends NASCAR newcomers familiarize themselves with race terminology. That helps to demystify the sport, which is so much more than just going fast and turning left. Basic terminology and facts include:

• NASCAR: the National Association of Stock Car Automobile Racing, founded in 1947, has 38 races per season located at tracks throughout the country.

• COT: car of tomorrow. The newly redesigned and reconfigured racecar that all NASCAR drivers will be racing in 2008.

• Track bank: degree of the track’s incline from lowest toward the infield to highest at the outside of the track.

• Pit road: road inside the track where the cars pull in for new tires, refueling or mechanical adjustments.

• Pit crew: located in the pit, these specialists perform the necessary adjustments, and all of their jobs and movements are coordinated for maximum effectiveness–usually under 30 seconds.

• Chase for the Cup: the Kentucky Derby, World Series or Super Bowl of racing. Top 12 drivers qualify the Chase for NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series based on points earned in the first 26 races. Points are earned throughout the season according to place finish: 1st = 185, 2nd = 170. Even last place earns points.

• Pole sitter/spot: inside No. 1 start position.

• Victory Lane: where the winner celebrates in front of the crowd.
Other key facts a fan should have at her fingertips include:

• A racecar can cost between $100,000 and $225,000.

• There are four types of tracks: superspeedway (more than two miles in length), intermediate (one to two miles in length), short (less than a mile) and road course (multiple right- and left-hand turns).

• Tires are leased with no tread.

One of the best ways to learn about NASCAR, Warfield said, is to watch a race on television. The commentators are knowledgeable, informative and do a great job of explaining the cars, strategy and the race.

Your first NASCAR race

Once in the grandstand, you’ll immediately know you are part of something big. Each race begins with the singing of the national anthem while four fighter jets fly overhead. After the race is underway, each lap virtually creates a seething cauldron where tempers can easily ignite from the mix of pressure, passion, raw emotion and a driver’s fight for his future.

But NASCAR is known for its strict enforcement of rules, a code of conduct and clean racing. Even pit stops are watched by eagle-eyed officials strictly enforcing all rules and safety measures. The best testament to these measures is that in spite of a recent 12-car pileup at Dover International Speedway in Delaware, no one was seriously hurt. All drivers walked away from the mangled tangle of racecars.

The action in the grandstand can be as interesting as what’s happening on the track. NASCAR fans are known for unwavering devotion to their favorite driver. A couple or members of a family can be fans of different drivers. And more than likely, they are lifelong fans.

“Women screaming for their particular driver totally irrespective of their partner’s choice are common,” Warfield said. “They may or may not follow their spouses or partners; these women are fans–not followers.”

And no matter the gender, racing elicits a tremendous amount of excitement among its fans.

Warfield recounts one story about an over-enthusiastic male fan at Watkins Glen International raceway in upstate New York. The red flag waved and all drivers had to stop. The excited fan jumped over the fence and shoved a hat through the window for the driver to autograph. The driver, a little startled, looked at his devoted fan and said as kindly as possible, “Dude, I’m just a little busy right now.”

Michele Peters is a new contributor from St. Louis, Mo.
Jan/Feb 2008 Issue

BEFORE YOU GO
For more information about NASCAR, visit www.nascar.com or www.AAA.com/motorsports.

To plan a NASCAR getaway, first stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks® and TourBook® guides. Click here for a list of offices.

By Michele Peters

The 50th running of the Daytona 500 will be next month. AAA photo
A NASCAR race is a huge event, with some races drawing 200,000 spectators. Preparation to attend such an event–especially if it’s your first race–is critical. Find links to many racetracks at www.AAA.com and click on the motor sports section.

When driving to the track, leave early to get one of the closer parking spaces. Some fans will park as soon as the gates open–as early as 6 a.m.–and tailgate. It’s also a good idea to map out a back road to the track to avoid traffic.

Attire depends on track location, area of the track and type of access. Generally, fans with grandstand tickets should dress comfortably and be aware of the weather. Women with access to the pit or garage areas should wear sneakers–not sandals–cover their shoulders and do not wear shorts.

And remember to drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.

Some important dates for early 2008 include:

• Jan. 26 appearance by David Ragan at the St. Louis Auto Show, America’s Center;

• the Budweiser Shootout, Feb. 9, at Daytona International Speedway;

• the 50th running of the Daytona 500, Feb. 17, at Daytona International Speedway;

AAA also offers auto racing travel packages, including trips to the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 on May 23–26. Packages include amenities like lodging, race tickets and a rental car.

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