NASCAR: The Fan Experience – From the Pits
“In the early days of NASCAR, the gates under the flag stand opened after the race and spectators streamed down to pit road to mingle with the drivers. Letting fans onto the field and into the ‘locker room’ to get close to the sport’s biggest stars was part of the charm and allure of NASCAR. And it still is.”
~ The Weekend Starts on Wednesday by Andrew Giangola
I have been to a few NASCAR races here and there… but NEVER LIKE THIS. We did it all except driving an actual car! (Hmm, besides the Richard Petty experience, I wonder if I could drive Kyle’s car.) Three days of our five-day trip were spent entirely at Homestead Miami Speedway. We left Jacksonville on Thursday, arrived in Miami Beach that same night and on Friday morning immersed in the NASCAR culture. The NASCAR weekend usually runs as follows: Friday – Truck Series; Saturday – Nationwide Series and; Saturday – Sprint Cup Series.
On Friday, the girls from the Marketing & Multicultural Outreach from NASCAR were nice enough to set up all kinds of fun interviews with several Latin@s in NASCAR. It is such a brand-focused sport that fans tend to forget that this sport goes beyond the driver and his or her sponsor. In addition to meeting Bryan Ortiz, a young boricua driver, we met Chevy engineer, Alba Colón, and a couple of tire changers from one of the pit crews. There are a couple of important things here that I cannot pass by without a few comments:
1) Women in STEM – According to a 2010 report from The American Association of University Women (AAUW):
- Among 1st-year college students, only 2.5% women intend to major in Engineer.
- Among Hispanic/Latino women, 1,186 earned a B.A. in Engineering.
- Among women in the workforce, mechanical engineers register in the least amounts, only 6.7%.
2) A 2011 report released by the Pew Hispanic Center shows that, even though the Hispanic college enrollment has spiked in comparison to the previous years, “in 2010 only 13% of Hispanic 25- to 29-years-olds had completed at least a bachelor’s degree.” I have experienced first-hand, as an educator, the advantage of offering vocational or occupational schools to the younger crowds. And what could be a better option for somebody interested in the automotive field than to go to a pit crew academy. The tire changers were talking with so much passion and shedding light on the possibility of a life-time for many kids out there. Albeit this information is readily available, the possibility of working as part of a NASCAR pit crew memeber is not an idea that comes to mind immediately. These kids, whether Latino or not, should be making an effort to convey this message to their peers and the new generations – I wonder if NASCAR already has some sort of educational outreach program related to this field -.
Our incredibly informative tour ended up with some classic Southern fast-food (turkey legs, sausages) and, como broche de oro, the Camping World Truck Series, having first enjoyed the drivers’ introduction from inside the track.
From the Pits
If there is something we learned this time around at a NASCAR race is that there is nothing better than having “Hot” pit &
garage passes. What do NASCAR fans truly want? Of course they want to enjoy an adrenaline-filled car race, but they go to the track to get more than “just” a race. Fans like to see the cars up close and personal, they like to interact with their drivers, and even be able to try everything and anything that their chosen brands have to offer during race day. The smell of burnt rubber – they type that is constantly present and impregnates all layers of your clothing -, the excitement of standing behind your favorite driver’s pit box, and getting greasy lugnuts as souvenirs are some of the perks of having the “Hot” hanging around your neck. Getting into the track immediately after the race and being on first row to celebrate on Victory Lane are other added values of this pass. The level of engagement that fans are able to achieve by being in the pits is truly sublime.
The most amazing moment was when my two boys were invited to enjoy the Sprint Cup race from the top of their favorite driver’s pit box, Kyle Busch! (Unfortunately, Kyle ran out of gas at the end of the race and, after being the race leader during 191 laps, he finished in 4th place.)
Back in the pits, the excitement is like a roller coaster, being the pinnacle of the experience during the actual pit stops. Can you imagine having your car service done in less than 11 seconds?! The pit crew changes 4 tires and fuels up the car within this time… no pressure. Check out these two pit stops. >>
This is all from the Pits, folks! Stay tuned for the next entry: The Fan Experience – From the Camp.Posted by Silvina Jover-Cirillo | 4 comments