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 Columns & Editorials

July 7, 2002

The Fans In The Cheap Seats

By Robin Smith Miller

The race fans at Daytona International Speedway eagerly displayed their displeasure at the Winston Cup officials who ended Saturday's running of the Pepsi 400 under caution.

As Michael Waltrip led the field of cars around for the final two laps as the yellow flag flew, fans threw seat cushions, pizza boxes, beer cans and anything else they could find onto the racing surface to show their anger at being denied a green flag finish.

Seasoned veteran, Rusty Wallace said he had never seen anything like it in his entire racing career. Points leader, Sterling Marlin, made his biggest bonehead mistake of the season after the race, which has been marked by more than a few NASCAR for Dummies incidents involving himself.

"Those were the cheap seats where they were throwing those cushions", Marlin said after the race. Marlin must not think too hard before he opens his mouth as evidenced by his remark earlier in the season about the fact he never read the NASCAR rulebook either. This remark about the cheap seats, however, should have him hanging his head in shame.

Considering the lowest price for any seat at Daytona must be at least $50, there are no cheap seats. In those cheap seats sit the fans that made NASCAR what it is today, lower middle class families who save money all year to bring their families to a stock car race.

Those are the people who sent todays NASCAR stars on their way to the road to riches so they can sit in their million dollar motor homes in luxury in the pits, while their fans are sweating for hours in the sun, in low seats that do not allow them to see beyond what is in front of them on the race track.

The people in the cheap seats are not the new breed of race fans, upper middle class professionals who buy $50 golf shirts at vendor trailers; guzzle $6 cups of beer, or pay $500 or more for access to the air-conditioned hospitality tower.

The people in the cheap seats buy their t-shirts across the street from the speedway at K-Mart; and bring in their own 14 inch cooler filled with beer, soda and bologna sandwiches because that is all they can afford.

It becomes more obvious every day the people in the cheap seats don't matter to NASCAR or its drivers anymore. It doesn't matter that many of these people sat in earlier versions of the cheap seats with their parents and grandparents, watching the sport they love when no television network would even think about broadcasting this redneck Southern sport. The people that matter are the ones who are lining the pockets of the NASCAR community with dollar bills.

Shame on Sterling Marlin, and on NASCAR for forgetting their roots.

They seem to forget the impetuous nature of the America public. How quickly they flit from one amusement to another in their quest to avoid boredom.

Time and time again we read about the loyalty of NASCAR fans and how they buy products that are affiliated with NASCAR. What they fail to say, is that it is the people in the cheap seats who buy these products, not the new breed of race fans.

The new breed of race fans drink Corona beer or some other exotic foreign label; not Budweiser, Miller or Coors. The new breed of race fan sends their laundry out, they dont buy Tide because it is on Ricky Cravens car.

Most of the new breed of fans dont shop at Home Depot or Lowes, they pay someone to repair or renovate their homes. The closest they get to McDonalds french fries are a baked potato at the Outback Steakhouse and that is a cheap night out for them.

Stock car racing is America’s sport, supposedly. It needs to remember the Americans who made it successful, those sitting in the “cheap seats”.

If they fail to do this, those sitting in the “cheap seats” may fail to remember to buy Tide or Kodak film or Budweiser beer. How long do you think these corporate sponsors will remain in a sport where its fans don’t buy its products?

Maybe then Sterling Marlin and NASCAR will remember those fans in the “cheap seats.”

-Robin Smith Miller
[Originally published in the Lehigh Acres Citizen, Breeze Corporation]

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