NASCAR FOR NEOPHYTES
For the rest of America--beyond the 75 million adults that NASCAR claims as fans--here's a quick primer on the common misconceptions about the sport.
(FORTUNE Magazine) – MYTH: "All the fans are rednecks."
REALITY: NASCAR may have Southern roots, but that's no reason for pejoratives. One out of five fans has income above $75,000. Fans are also more likely to be professionals than the average American. Some 18% are black or Hispanic.
MYTH: "Women don't watch."
REALITY: NASCAR claims women make up 40% of its fan base. Of sports watched on TV, NASCAR boasts the second-highest percentage of women viewers, according to Nielsen. Families turn NASCAR weekends into outings that include kid-friendly face painting and teen-friendly concerts.
MYTH: "Crashes are the only entertainment."
REALITY: Racing involves strategy. Drafting can increase speed and save fuel, which makes for fewer pit stops. Good drivers can find the fastest line on a track. The timing of passing and pit stops is critical. At 190 mph, nothing is simple.
MYTH: "The fastest car always wins."
REALITY: Cars are tightly regulated to stay within certain mechanical norms. Teams do build engines from scratch, use computer models and wind tunnels to perfect body designs, and customize vehicles for different track conditions. But no amount of money will make up for poor driving, a lousy pit crew, or just plain bad luck.
MYTH: "Stock-car racing isn't really a sport, and drivers aren't athletes."
REALITY: Temperatures in a 3,400-pound, 850-horsepower stock car can reach 130 degrees, and drivers fight against three Gs of force while cornering. They make nonstop, split-second decisions for nearly four hours during a race--some lose as much as ten pounds of body weight. Unconvinced? Listen to Ernest Hemingway: "There are only three true sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games."