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Issue 10 – Easter 2022


Strictly Stock

On N.A.S.C.A.R.


N.A.S.C.A.R. held its first race in 1947, and, in the following five decades, the stock car series saw consistent and sometimes spectacular growth. It peaked in the 1990s, when tickets were often in short supply and promoters were clamoring to secure more tracks and race dates. By any measure, N.A.S.C.A.R. was a kingdom, complete with a self-styled king: Richard Petty, who after his two hundredth victory at the 1984 Daytona 500—attended in style by Ronald Reagan—retired and became the series’ unofficial ambassador. But those were the glory days. N.A.S.C.A.R.’s kingdom is losing ground. Its decline has been slow, but steady, both in attendance and television viewership. It’s not uncommon now for track owners to paint grandstand seats different colors, making it hard to discern that many are empty. Explanations for the decline abound, and the series hasn’t yet devised a way to boost N.A.S.C.A.R.’s popularity. But it’s clearly worried about the future.

While N.A.S.C.A.R. higher-ups fret about their fate, it’s worth recalling that existential fear about everything else was in large part what allowed the sport to become popular in the first place. It’s often said that modern life is characterized by guilt about the past, boredom with the present, and anxiety about the future; a thorough-going existential malaise. At one time N.A.S.C.A.R. provided relief from all that. It was truly a Sabbath activity. Go to church Sunday morning? Yes. But go to the race or vegetate in front of the TV afterwards? Yes, too. If you picked the right driver, church and racing were complementary exercises. N.A.S.C.A.R.’s declining popularity no doubt corresponds with the fact that for many people that is no longer true. But the sport can still be a soothing balm in a country marked by pervasive ennui. We must examine its history, its present state, and look forward to its future to recover its healing powers.

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About the author

Robert McLeod

Robert McLeod is retired from the Episcopal clergy and blogs at He is the author of Romans: The Definitive Roguecleric Commentary Using Tools of Hebrew Rhetoric.