I grew up around race cars and to think there was any other racing that compared to motorsports seemed preposterous. However, as I stopped racing cars and started on my new life of fitness several years ago, the sound of 1000 horse power motors was replaced with the raw power of the human body. I still enjoy motorsports, but they do not have the same effect on me as they did years ago. Several weeks ago I took a few days off from a business trip and visited an old racing buddy who has also started to dabble in triathlons and running events. We spent Saturday at stage 6 of the Tour of California and Sunday at the AutoClub 500 NASCAR Race. I was interested to see which style of racing had more of an impact on me.
The Tour of California was amazing. I have never seen a pro cycling race before and I was impressed with the cyclist. It was beautiful, yet gritty. The stage started in Santa Barbara and made its way to Santa Clarita where they did three laps around the city. The breakaway pack and a 4 minute lead heading into the first lap, but the pelaton erased that lead and caught the pack 1 mile before the finish. The race came down to a sprint with JJ Haedo from CSC taking the stage victory. The sprint finish was spectacular. The cyclist were throwing their bikes side to side as they hammered at 30+ mph to the finish line. Levi Leipheimer from Discovery was the GC winner of the tour.
On Sunday we packed are bags and traveled to California Speedway in Fontana. The 90,000 spectators at the NASCAR race was definitely a bit more than the 8,000 or so that showed up for stage 6 of the cycling race. Getting to the race track is half the battle. The other half is getting to your seat. We missed the drop of the green flag, but we were in our seats by lap 20. I am still impressed with NASCAR and how close these cars race to each other. However, after about 120 laps I had had my need for speed and was ready to beat the crowd home. California Speedway is also not the most exciting track to watch. The small bank oval does not provide the same excitement as a high banked speedway or short track.
Besides the obvious difference between the two sports (human powered vs. machine powered) the spectators are an amazing contrast. Most of the cycling fans are cyclist them self or somewhat fitness minded. You may see an occasional team jersey or hat, but that is about it. NASCAR fans on the other hand live and breathe their favorite driver. The Christian religion could take some lessons from NASCAR as the drivers are worshipped beyond any religious figure. Yes, I truly believe the number 8 (Dale Earnhardt Jr) will become more iconic than the Star of David, The Cross, Buddha, etc.
You have to love NASCAR fans...this dude stood up every time Matt Kenseth drove by...literally 250 times!!!