A podcast with Bonnie Neely, owner of Real Travel Adventures
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The culture of the race car
Culture, and the many subcultures that are part of the of human experience, is what makes Homo Sapiens truly unique.
Eons ago, when we stood up and began to migrate — and to travel — that crucial transition moment was also the beginning of our species ability to adapt, to invent, and to conceptualize. And a great deal of the ingenuity that has become our “stock in trade” was initially thanks to our opposable thumb which allowed us to create tools and to manipulate so much in our environment.
But our innate ability to predict and imagine was also a major great leap forward in so many ways. We became a species of dreamers, in the best and most comprehensive sense of the word. We also to developed the ability to visualize and to design.
In essence, we became engineers.
And the art of engineering also led to so many other triumphs, for example the space industry. As Frank Lloyd Wright said, “Space is the breath of art.”
And for the many millions who are fans of the race car, it too is a thing of beauty, and an art form. And in many ways, it is the ultimate in mechanical engineering. It is all about beauty, design, and the physical manifestation of our ability to transcend our limitations.
NASCAR as a travel and tourism “industry” unto itself
As USATourist.com points out, NASCAR is the stuff of cultural traditions and social history. This industry has its roots in the wide open spaces of the American South and in its landscape which formerly included large areas of farmland.
But the NASCAR cultural phenomenon is also an ideal venue for sociologists, psychologists, social historians, and cultural anthropologists.
Consider the following:
“During the post-World War II years the American economy hit a boom time and more people spent money on entertainment. Dirt track racing was already popular in the South where large tracts of land and inexpensive gasoline fueled the sport. In 1948 Bill France organized racing into an entity that expanded during the next fifty years. The first official NASCAR race was held February 15th 1948 in Daytona. That year 52 races made up the NASCAR season. The original stock cars were the same sort of automobiles that traveled America’s highways.
NASCAR is rooted in the dirt roads and mountain passes of the American south. Until the 1980s, the South was a string of rural communities with lots of wide open space. A large part of the south is farmland. With limited public transportation, the automobile is a necessity. The earliest stockcar drivers copied the driving style of moonshiners, those who make alcohol illegally to avoid the paying taxes on it, frequently driving through the backcountry to deliver their product. In the USA, making and selling alcohol without paying taxes on it is an illegal activity.”
But it wasn’t just about moonshine; as a cultural phenomenon NASCAR also became a democratic initiative in that it brought a degree of levelling to American society.
And like so much in the American tradition, it brought the sport of race car driving to the people.
Beauty, art, and adrenaline
NASCAR: a community and family affair
Bonnie’s articles about NASCAR racing
Lead photo courtesy of The NASCAR Hall of Fame (Sean Bush). Other photos courtesy of Bonnie Neely