Rob Tornoe knows first hand the passion of those who come to Dover Raceway. He just doesn’t share it completely. His commentary and editorial cartoon are a click away. He awaits your comments.
Here is Rob’s commentary:
If you’re planning on heading south this weekend through Delaware, you might want to adjust your plans. You see, NASCAR is in Dover through Sunday, which means your scenic drive to the beach might be interrupted by gas-guzzling RVs making their way to the races.
NASCAR remains a huge economic engine for Kent County. An economic impact study hasn’t been done on the race since 1991, but Cindy Small at Kent County Tourism tells me that the two races are the top two draws in Dover for the entire year – no other event brings as many people at once to Kent County.
Good thing Grotto’s Pizza opened their new Dover location in time for the race.
I grew up living behind Dover Downs, and got to see first hand the section-by-section growth the stadium went through between every race, eventually swelling to hold 135,000 beer-chugging race aficionados, making it the largest sports venue in the mid-Atlantic.
I can vividly remember sitting in class at Town Point Elementary and getting excited hearing the cars’ loud engines roaring during time trials. Once Sunday rolled around, my friends and I would ride our bikes towards the stadium, where the normal sounds of a lazy afternoon were drowned out by the excitement created by a sea of RV’s crowding yards and roads surrounding the track. If you thought walking the streets of New York was a feast for the senses, travel to Dover during the race and take a stroll though the lanes created by these colorful campers.
Security was lax in those days, so twice a year we would dutifully jump the fence and make our way through the hoard of merchants, finally reaching a vantage point where we could watch the race.
And five minutes later… we were bored and went home.
I know there are millions of race fans in this country, and hundreds of thousands of people will passionately be rooting for their favorite drivers this weekend in Dover, but I could never quite understand the allure of watching four left turns 400 times in a row. And this is coming from a huge baseball fan, a sport my wife labels with the longest version of the word “boring” ever spoken aloud.
I’ve talked to many die-hard NASCAR fans, trying to understand the appeal of this uniquely American sport. It all sounds good – multi-team strategy made by drivers pushing the envelope at speeds over 180 mph, with every team competing every single week. It sounds great… until I start to watch.
Maybe it’s due to the cars themselves. Much to my father’s disappointment, I was never much of a wrench monkey, and following a sport where technology determines 90 percent of the outcome limits my interest in rooting for a driver. I might as well be rooting for Toyota instead of Mark Martin. NASCAR even backs this up, noting that the car, and not the driver, qualifies for the starting position.
Another pet peeve – why have your Super Bowl in the beginning of the season? NASCAR’s largest race is the Daytona 500, and it’s run in February. Does this make any sense to anyone who isn’t holding a Kyle Busch koozie?
Honestly, NASCAR fans remind me of soccer fans in the way they defend their sport. There is obviously a great deal of strategy, athleticism and competition involved in every game of soccer. But watching two teams play non-stop for 90 minutes and end a game in a 1-1 tie doesn’t exactly leave me roused with passion. Soccer is a blast to play, and I imagine driving a car around a track that fast is quite an adrenaline rush. But for my taste, both are the entertainment equivalent of having my teeth pulled.
Maybe I’ll tune in to the race this weekend. I’m feeling guilty not supporting an event so near and dear to many in Delaware. It just depends on what boring baseball games are on Sunday afternoon.
Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.