Cupid in a checkered toga and wearing a horse collar |

Cupid in a checkered toga and wearing a horse collar

The Super Bowl is on Feb. 16, and football should be over. It should have been over right after the Raider-Buccaneer game. Right after, which would have cut out all the celebrations, the riots, the ceremonies and all of the other news that really didn’t matter. After all, in any football game, there is a winner and a loser. Let’s just leave it at that and not bother with all the reactions or comments.

Because, if there was no more football news, there would be a lot more time for stories on the upcoming Super Bowl. In this Super Bowl, the players won’t always charge the middle, only to get crunched after a few yards. Nope. Instead, they’ll take the outside, the inside or the middle, and they’ll go for miles, hundreds of miles. If a pass is completed, the players won’t jump around and do the funky chicken in an end-zone, they’ll just keep playing. The players will wear horse collars and suits which are designed to help protect them when they’re on fire. They are sponsored by big names and all have million-dollar cars.

You seem rather confused. I assure you, I am not talking about that game which happened way back in January. I am talking about the Super Bowl – where dozens of teams come face to face and battle it out for a shot at the cup. The Winston Cup.

Yes, sports fans, it’s NASCAR (National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing) season! Forget black, silver, red and white! It’s time for green, yellow, red and, of course, black-and-white checks. There are no scantily clad cheerleaders and no fans with painted faces and spike necklaces. There is a true team effort, from pit crews to drafting partners. It is the only sport I’ve seen where all hats are removed when the national anthem plays. Unlike football, which saves the main event for the end of the season, NASCAR starts the season with a bang, the Daytona 500, on Feb. 16.

The Daytona 500 is raced at Daytona Beach, Fla. Construction started on the Daytona International Speedway in 1957, cost $3 million to build, and was completed in 1959. The inaugural Daytona 500 was raced on Feb. 22, 1959. About 50,000 fans attended what was considered just another race, the only difference being the facility and faster speeds.

Now, the Daytona 500 is more than just a race. It is the starting point of the Winston Cup season and one of the most highly anticipated races of the entire stock-car season, not to mention one of the most family friendly sporting events out there today. NASCAR is a family sport for the racers, too. For families like the Pettys, the Burtons and the Earnhardts, racing is in the blood. Father and son, brother and brother – racing relationships are not uncommon. Racers don’t celebrate in locker rooms, but instead bring their wives and children to the winner’s circle in Victory Lane when they win a race. In 1990, driver Derrike Cope was so surprised that he actually won the Daytona 500 that he had to radio his pit crew and ask them for directions to Victory Lane. Obviously, Cope didn’t have the superstar ego that so many professional athletes seem to have.

There just seems to be a different mentality for NASCAR drivers and fans, both in victories and vocabulary. Instead of rioting, victories are celebrated with doughnuts. And I don’t mean the pastry kind. I mean the kind where a driver tears up asphalt and tires and sets the fans screaming at the sight.

“Shake it!” doesn’t mean “do a dance in the center of the field because you just made a great play!” It was what Darrell Waltrip’s pit crew chief told him to do in the 1989 Daytona 500. He was 8 seconds in the lead, just about to win, when he noticed that his fuel gauge was on zero. “Shake it” was the command given, meaning “swerve back and forth to slosh any remaining fuel into that tank’s pick-up to keep your little car going!” It pays to listen to your pit crew … Waltrip won with just a few drops of gas left in his tank.

“Hitting a wall” doesn’t mean that the driver has reached his physical limitations and can’t produce any more effort. It means that he actually hit the wall, hurting himself, his car and, sometimes, causing a pileup. And “wedge” isn’t used to describe a quarterback trying to sneak through two sumo-sized defensive players; it’s the adjustments made to springs when the car isn’t handling properly.

It takes a while to pick up NASCAR terminology. The only reason I know some of the vocabulary used is because my uncle is a huge NASCAR fan. He’s taught me everything I know and really deserves a place in a NASCAR knowledge hall of fame. So this month, instead of worrying about who’s winning in arena football, I’m going to be spending some quality time with my family … watching a true family sport.

Meredith Blake writes a monthly column for the Youth page. Write her c/o Youth Page, The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945, or at

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