June 3, 2012
By Kim Roberson
It always interests me to find out what creates a NASCAR fan, especially when the debate over “old fans” and “new fans” seems to pop up.
Just what is it that caught your eye about the sport? Was it because your parents were fans, or another friend or family member? Or were you like me and became a fan just by watching one particular race and having something about that race grab your attention and wrap its arms around you and draw you in?
To me, it doesn’t really matter when you became a fan. I’ve been a fan of the Miami Dolphins since I was able to walk, but that doesn’t make me feel like a “better” fan than people who have become a fan of the franchise more recently.
Just because I was raised on Shula, Griese and Csonka doesn’t mean that those who joined in the Marino era, or the Bush and Williams era, are any less a fan. Just because I was alive when the Dolphins went undefeated and won the Super Bowl doesn’t mean that there is no way fans of this day and age, where the team can’t seem to get out of its own way some years, can’t be just as loyal and supportive as I am.
And yet, in NASCAR, it doesn’t seem to matter how supportive or loyal you are to a new team or new driver. Some “old” fans seem to think there is no way on earth you could possibly be a “real” fan, because you weren’t around in the “good old days”.
You mean the days when only two cars finished on the lead lap, and some teams won almost every race and the little guys never really had a chance?
Last weekend, we had a point in the race when only TEN drivers were on the lead lap. The race to be the Lucky Dog seemed to be more exciting than the race to see who was going to win. I have heard numerous people state that the Indy 500 or even the F1 race in Monaco was more exciting to them than the Coca-Cola 600 was. And yet, with only ten cars on the lead lap, that was the way racing “used to be in the good old days”.
Can someone explain to me how watching races like that makes someone a “better fan” than I am, because I am not quite sure I understand. My biggest issue last weekend was trying to stay awake until the checkered flag flew on the 600. After all of the emotion and excitement of the Indy 500, the Coca-Cola 600 was a pretty big letdown, with the exception of the fact that Kasey Kahne became the sixth different winner in the first 12 races of the season -- a feat that hadn’t happened for over two decades -- adding to the list of drivers who will have a win in the column and thus a chance to get into the Chase should they not be there via points in September.
Without new fans, there is no future for a sport, plain and simple. It doesn’t matter if it is stick and ball, swimming, ice skating, curling, or racing. Eventually, the old fans die off, and if you don’t have a way to replace them, then the sport will eventually go away as well. So instead of telling them they aren’t true fans or heckling their inability to associate with what is seen to you as “the good old days”, how about taking that new fan aside and sharing the stories of when you first became a fan, and imparting some of that history to them? That way, the legacy of the sport will never really die off or go away, but instead will be passed along to the next generation who will carry this great sport into the future.
On a final note, I want to give kudos and congratulations on one of the best kept secrets in recent NASCAR history. When it comes to the Earnhardt family, there doesn’t seem to be any aspect that stays under wraps for very long, because somehow, some way, fans seem to find a way to dig their nails into the family and dig out their secrets. (Even Dale Jr.'s girlfriend finally came out from being a relatively well hidden figure last year when she attended the NASCAR Banquet.)
However, last weekend, away from the prying eyes of fans and media, Dale Earnhardt’s youngest daughter, Taylor, was married, and apparently no one outside of family and close friends knew about it until a press release was sent out in the middle of this week. Taylor Earnhardt was just a pre-teen when her father was killed in front of millions of fans, and since then, she has been allowed to grow up relatively out of the public eye. But no matter how hard her mother, Teresa, tried to keep her safely out of the media scrutiny that her step children faced, Taylor was still an Earnhardt, and the media seemed to find out about the milestones in her life as she has grown into a young woman. As a result, the first inclination that this major milestone in her life happened was when the following press release was passed out on Wednesday:
“Taylor Nicole Earnhardt, daughter of Teresa Earnhardt and 7-time NASCAR Champion, Dale Earnhardt was married on Saturday evening to Mr. Brandon Samuel Putnam in Mooresville, North Carolina.
The southern elegance inspired wedding was designed by celebrity event planner David Tutera and took place at the Earnhardts' private estate. The couple exchanged their vows in a romantic outdoor evening ceremony, in a lakeside arbor nestled under the trees with stained glass panels suspended from surrounding trees.
The bride arrived at the ceremony in a horse-drawn carriage that was a gift from her father when she was a little girl. Taylor wore a customized lace wedding gown by Rivini and walked down the aisle to "Bless the Broken Road" by Rascal Flatts, performed by an eight-piece string ensemble. After saying their "I Do's," the couple rode to their reception in a vintage 1946 cherry red pickup truck that was from Dale Earnhardt's Classic Car Collection.
Taylor and Brandon's guests were escorted by horse and carriage to the reception space on the estate, where they celebrated under a rustic open air pavilion that had been constructed especially for the wedding.
Earnhardt, 23, is a professional rodeo competitor and devotes herself to supporting the Dale Earnhardt Foundation, a charitable organization that is dedicated to children, education and wildlife preservation. She is also the Director of Equestrian Development for Dale Earnhardt Incorporated. She is currently studying equine business, reproduction and training to use in her future endeavors.
She is the daughter of Dale and Teresa Earnhardt of Mooresville, North Carolina. Her father, seven-time NASCAR Champion Dale Earnhardt, was the co-founder of Dale Earnhardt Incorporated. Her mother Teresa is the co-founder and current CEO of Dale Earnhardt Incorporated based in Mooresville, North Carolina.
Putnam, 25, is the owner of Hi Tech Incorporated, a grading and trucking company in Charlotte, North Carolina. He also competes in rodeo professionally and is an avid hunter. He graduated from Central Piedmont Community College and received a degree in Fire Science.
He is the son of Sam and Julie Putnam of Charlotte, North Carolina. His father Sam is a retired landscape and grading company owner and CEO, and his mother Julie is an accountant and financial manager for several grading and land care companies in Charlotte, North Carolina.”
Congratulations to Taylor and Brandon, not only on their marriage, but on being able to pull off one of the best kept secrets in NASCAR.
Follow Kim on Twitter: @ksrgatorfn
The thoughts and ideas expressed by this writer or any other writer on Insider Racing News, are not necessarily the views of the staff and/or management of IRN.