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The Callahan Report: NASCAR Fans . . . A Unique Family

6 February 1998

By Terry Callahan
The Auto Channel

Darrell Waltrip
Darrell Waltrip
DAYTONA BEACH: The Daytona 500 is just around the corner. The fans at the track will be from a variety of backgrounds. It doesn't matter. Their love for the sport makes them part of a close-knit group . . . a family if you will. They are the people who have made NASCAR racing what it is today. They are the ones responsible for making the Daytona 500, "The Great American Race."

Seasoned veterans like Darrell Waltrip all the way down to newcomers like Kenny Irwin, Jr. understand the importance of this family. Waltrip once said, "If it wasn't for the fans, I would have to go out and get a job!"

NASCAR fans all have a great deal in common. They all have their favorite driver. They all have their least favorite driver. They all have a passion for the sound, the color, and the excitement which surrounds the NASCAR scene. Even though their love for the sport is equal, NASCAR fans fall into certain categories:

1. The Diehard (fanatic NASCAR enormous)
2. The Common Joe (fanatic NASCAR Intermediate)
3. The Thrifty (fanatic NASCAR parsimonious)

The Diehard: These are the fans with large motor homes in the infield. The roofs of these rolling houses are lined with lawn chairs. They have banners touting their favorite driver. Their faces are well tanned but their ears are pale from wearing headphones during all the races (plugged into the scanner . . . listening to all the radio communications between the teams and drivers). They are wearing NEW T-shirts (they buy a minimum of two per race). If it is a cool morning, they will also be wearing those expensive, logo covered racing jackets. It is sometimes difficult to identify this species of NASCAR fans if they are out of their natural habitat (away from their motor home). The Diehards travel in packs, so be careful. You must be knowledgeable of NASCAR racing before engaging in conversation with The Diehard. If you are not well versed in the subject of racing, you will not understand any of their conversations. The Common Joe and The Thrifty are welcome and comfortable in The Diehard tribe.

The Common Joe: This fan is often identical in looks to The Diehard. Many of The Common Joes will have the same pale ears as The Diehard. They will be wearing the same racing attire as The Diehard. Some in this class will be armed with cameras which have lenses resembling bazookas. They will be hitting the souvenir trucks before the race, making many purchases. The Common Joe will make it to at least three races during the season, but less than ten. They must acquire their wardrobe for the coming year within that time frame. The only way to determine if you are viewing a Diehard or a Common Joe is to follow them to their vehicle. If they arrive at a motor home . . . they are a Diehard. If they go to a car . . . voila . . . a Common Joe. The car will have personalized plates with something catchy like "C3GO48" (See Earnhardt go for his eighth championship). The Common Joe interacts flawlessly with both The Diehard and The Thrifty. The Common Joe was probably a Thrifty in his or her younger days.

The Thrifty: These fans are the backbone of NASCAR. The Thrifty group is equal in number to The Common Joe at each track. However, The Thrifty species far outnumbers The Diehard and The Common Joe nationwide. A new flock of Thrifties arrives at each race. STAMPEDE ALERT: Use caution around the souvenir trucks before and after the race. Thrifties must make their purchases TODAY. You will know The Thrifty by his or her faded racing T-shirt and disposable camera. Their dedication and love for racing are equal to that of The Diehard and The Common Joe. Please give them the respect they deserve. HABITAT: Both The Diehard and The Common Joe will feel at home sitting outside the two-man tent of The Thrifty at any race track.

At fifty years old, NASCAR is healthier today than ever. In part, the success which NASCAR enjoys is due to good planning and organization. The most credit must go to those people described in this article . . . the racing fan . . . the paying customer. NASCAR fans are all part of a great fraternity with one common thread . . . a passion for racing. NASCAR fans form a family. The next family reunion is The Daytona 500. See you there.

Editors Note: The images displayed in this article (plus many more) can be viewed in the Racing Image Galleries.