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Random Lugnuts: National Pride and NASCAR

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR
What is Random Lugnuts?  It's random bits of stock car racing commentary written on an irregular basis by an irregular racing fan.  The name is a reference to the lugnuts that go flying off a car during a pit stop:  you never know where they are going to go, what they're going to do when they get there, they can be annoying, they're often useless after a race, and every once in a while someone gets hit and they don't know exactly where it came from.
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Random Lugnuts: National Pride and NASCAR

Bill Crittenden
November 27, 2012


I know I've written on this subject before and I thought I'd take a different approach to writing on it based on some new perspective I've gained over the years.  It's also still necessary to say, based on a lot of the comments I still (sadly) see in online NASCAR fan pages...

The past several years for me has been a fascinating journey outward around the virtual world via the internet and deep inside the human mind learning about psychology.  I've discovered just how much each part of our personality is based on perspective, and how varied those perspectives can be across seven billion people worldwide.

We owe who we are far too much to random chance to think that any of us is somehow extra special and every one of us was raised in a certain belief system that almost always settles itself in a special part of our personalities as "the way things should be."  Even in your own perspective, as everyone's is limited by time and distance (even my own) you can see generational changes in how the world should be: the elder generation longs for the days of Leave it to Beaver, the middle generations miss Ronald Reagan, and some in the younger generation don't get either of those references.  Multiply the differences in who you are based on time across who you are based on geography, and you either feel very lucky or very unlucky to be who you are but in either case you realize who you are is based solely on the luck of the draw.

This is why I am fond of the phrase, "It isn't where you came from, its where you're going that counts." (Ella Fitzgerald)  I was reminded of this going through IndyCar press conferences for the Library.  In good ol' farm country USA, where life still looks a little like a Norman Rockwell painting except for the smart phones, a name like Arie Luyendyk just doesn't roll off the tongue like Carl Edwards.  I'm sure in The Netherlands, a name like that isn't all that uncommon, though.  Arie found racing success here in the USA in open wheel racing in 1985, won the Indianapolis 500 in 1990, and this where he lives today.  He raised his son, Arie Jr., for most of his life here as well (the information I have says that the family resides in Arizona).  But for some, despite embracing America and its forms of racing and our way of life they will never escape the fact that they, by random chance, weren't born here.  They're just another pair of "foreign names" that have washed away the "good ol' days" of American open wheel racing.

Based on comments I still see popping up on Facebook's NASCAR fan pages, there are those that still fear the foreignization of NASCAR is next.

Having been born with a common English last name in the middle of NASCAR country, of course one might feel growing up that Chevrolets rubbing fenders with Fords all driven by tough guys with mustaches is the way racing is supposed to be.  There's nothing wrong with that, the human psyche is comforted by the familiar.  What impresses me, and should be embraced rather than scorned, are those who look at their own upbringing, look at the world around them, and decide that we have something special here and they want to be a part of it.  They weren't indoctrinated by decades of growing up with images of Earnhardt and Elliott, they grew up with images of Fangio or Fittipaldi and instead left the familiar behind and chose good ol' American stock cars.  That is something special.  That is the sort of thing that proves NASCAR has something of value to the world of motorsport.  Oh, yeah, and Fittipaldi raced here, too, driving for no less an owner than recent NASCAR Sprint Cup winner Roger Penske after his F1 career had run its course.

And how did NASCAR-loving America welcome them?  Second-grade-level namecalling.

Look, I'm not asking NASCAR fans to go out around the world and try and pick another form of racing to like.  I'm not asking you to drink chai lattes and watch Formula 1.  I'm asking you to consider the fact that out of over seven billion people on this planet you happened to be born one of the much fewer than half a billion Americans.  And not just any American, but an American that has the means and the cultural background to appreciate NASCAR (just think, there are a lot of Amish without televisions here in America and don't care that they're missing racing...).

We wear our pride to be Americans around like a badge of honor, but what most of us do to earn it besides sheer dumb luck?  Everyone here loves to see someone make something of themselves from nothing, unless you weren't born here then most people just want you to fuck off and go back where you came from.  Nationally, we're the equivalent of trust fund babies, fortunate to be born in a wealthy land and acting as if we earned it.  We mock Kim Kardashian when she says she worked for her "success" but angrily slam the door in the face of anyone who comes here looking to work for what we were given.  This is especially hypocritical in a sport that values "paying your dues" over being born into opportunity.

If you bled for this country, served in its military willing to bleed and die for it, or maybe just left your homeland and all that was familiar to you behind and worked your ass off to become an American, you should be especially proud to be here.  As for the rest of us, we should be thankful for what we have by chance and welcoming to those who want to work to be like us!

Being the "melting pot" that we are, we have disproven that skin color, gender, ethnicity and sexuality are not barriers to success.  Nationalism is just racism's better groomed, more socially acceptable cousin.  It's still prejudice based on something that is out of the control of the person born with it, judgement based not on the content of one's character but on the color of one's passport.

Instead of looking at the Indy 500 field and whispering, "look at all those foreigners, I hope NASCAR doesn't let that happen to it, too!" we should say, "damn, look at how many people from all around the world want to come to a town in Indiana to win a race, this really is something special!  Let's see if we can get them all to come to Charlotte next year!"  We should be proud of the fact that Toyota is in NASCAR.  The fact that Dodge couldn't make it and might have found some teams to support and hang on in the sport if it weren't for Toyota is just proof of our system working: let everyone from around the world come to compete, openly and freely, the best will succeed, and we are all stronger for it.  Yeah, Juan Pablo Montoya came, and he's getting his 7-time-F1-Grand-Prix-winning ass kicked around the track.  Dodge is gone, but Toyota hasn't won a Cup championship yet and hasn't taken over the sport as some feared.  Isn't that better for national pride than having "good ol' boy" Americans win all the time because we didn't let anyone else compete?

We're supposed to be the country of Rocky Balboa and the Miracle on Ice.  We look for a challenge to make us stronger.  Pride comes from beating the best, not from beating whoever we pick to compete against.  We should be going around the world, inviting everybody to come to America and the motorsport world to compete in NASCAR.  We should welcome them with a handshake for coming to America and greet NASCAR's new competitors with arms wide open saying, "bring it, bitch!"  If they beat us, they beat us, we shouldn't complain, just come back better than ever next time, and we will all be stronger for it.  Open competition.  That is why we're such a great nation, and if NASCAR is to embody our national attitude, we need to find more competition from around the world.  If we lose this attitude, we may well lose what makes us a place worth coming to.

For a previous look at what I've written on this sort of topic, read Random Lugnuts: This Ain't Your Older Brother's NASCAR from October 2007.



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