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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Embracing My Inner Redneck

Tony Stewart Signing autographs at Eldora Speedway August 2006
©Lucy Owsley 2006 do not use without permission

Today is the Daytona 500, the Super Bowl of Nextel Cup level NASCAR Racing.

And this lefty tree hugging , organic farming, college educated, brought up by liberal and affluent parents, farmer is gonna be watching and cheering on Tony Stewart who is favored to win the big race.

I got into NASCAR back in the late 1980's due to dating a gearhead ex-dragster racing dude. he watched the Winston Cup races every Sunday afternoon (this was before 2 networks showed these races or there were any Saturday night races). We'd sit around all afternoon swilling beer and watching fast cars go round and round the track and occasionally have a big wreck. For a couple of years I found this about as appealing as watching paint dry. But getting tight did help in that respect and of course the wrecks were always worth watching. Some weeks the two of us would got to Zerby's house and watch with him. Zerby hated NASCAR but he and I had a good time wondering what would happen in they used a figure 8 track and just generally making fun of stock car racing while Drew-bob got all pissed at us for not taking this sport seriously.

frankly, back than I could not take NASCAR seriously because I was not tapping into my inner redneck. Despite being raised in SW Ohio (this is where a lot of guests on the Jerry Springer Show come from, in the first 5 years of that show I'd hazard a guess that about 75% of his guests hailed from Hamilton, Butler and Preble Counties in Ohio. I grew up in Butler county and I have lived in Preble county for the past 14 years), I was a liberal , anti corporate, feminist, secular humanist, conservationist, foodie, well read, a tree hugger, Birkenstock wearing elitist. I am still all of these things.

But after being taken to a nigh of sprint car racing in Winchester, IN I was hooked for real. Nothing like driving into the parking lot and hearing your first racing engine doing hot laps. God that was exciting! This was not a top level NASCAR event. Actually I don't believe it was a NASCAR event at all because I do not remember stock cars racing that night. It was all sprint cars. It was also Jeff Gordon's last time driving sprints before going off to the big show-Winston Cup Stock care racing on the super speedways (he was such a geeky looking teen back than). Not that I knew what that meant at the time. I was just told this 17 year old who was winning all his races that evening was leaving for the big time. And he has certainly made his mark.

Anyhoo Drew bob and I broke up and I figured I would quit watching NASCAR but I found myself drawn to it. And this embarrassed me as none of my close friends could stand the sport and ridiculed it. So I went underground for several years. I did have a co-worker, Kenny who was heavily into Winston Cup and we would sometimes talk about it at work or after work if we went out drinking together (pretty common thing to do when you work in a kitchen). Than in 1997 (or thereabouts) I met my buddy Rosie and we found we had two strange things in common-we both loved the Ohio Lottery show (which has since been ruined) and we both love NASCAR. Like me Rosie is well educated (Ph.D from Harvard in toxicology) and politically liberal. Finally I had someone I could come out to. Someone who would not denigrate the redneck inside screaming to come out, but rather would embrace her.

The only problem we had in the beginning was the fact I did not like Jeff Gordon back than. I referred to him as God-boy. but Rosie was (and is) in love with Jeffy. I used to bust her chops by insulting Mr. Gordon and than telling her the story of getting to see him race his last non NASCAR race. I don't do that any longer as I have grown to really respect Jeff Gordon's abilities on the track. He's very very good.

Back when I met Rosie I was Bill Elliot fan but now I have been a Tony Stewart fan for the past 5 years or so. I like the fact he's a local boy from Rushville, Indiana (yeah he claims to be from Columbus IN but when he was a rookie he was called the Rushville Rocket), he 3 years ago bought Eldora Speedway up near North Star, OH (about 45 minutes north of me), he has an anger management problem which can make for some rather interesting incidents and he is one hell of a driver.

I got to "meet" Tony last summer when he was racing at Eldora. After the races you can go to the pits and wait in line to get something autographed. Most people chose to get their hat or T-shirt signed. Me, I opted to have him sign a thing of Old Spice deodorant that they were giving out to everyone who came to the track that night (Old Spice was the main event sponsor). Next time I will get a T-shirt as Sharpies and the plastic on the deodorant container do not mix well and even after 6 months the ink has not set and will easily rub off.

So this afternoon I will be allowing my inner redneck to revel in the Super Bowl of NASCAR. I can't wait.

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