NASCAR gained much of its popularity and fans due to the fact their drivers were easily accessible. Fans could walk up to drivers in the garage and get the autograph or picture they desperately wanted from their sporting idol. NASCAR gained the reputation for being the most accessible sport in America. Fans at NFL games couldn’t just walk up to players, same for baseball, hockey and basketball. In NASCAR though fans could get up close and personal with the drivers which resulted in a lot of people becoming fans.
Indycar/CART use to be known as a pretentious bunch that viewed their jobs on track and in the garage as something more important than the fans. You could never get the access with an open wheel driver that you could get with a NASCAR driver. Open wheel racing was the champagne lifestyle crowd while NASCAR was the beer budget crowd.
Times Have Changed
In 2017 those roles have been reversed. NASCAR drivers are increasingly less accessible than Indycar drivers. For NASCAR it’s almost as if they have a sense of “we made it” so we don’t have to put the time in with the fans because they’ll always come back. It’s really hard to meet a NASCAR driver in 2017. Unless you’re paying for a pit pass or know someone who can hook you up with a hot or cold pass you’re out of luck.
Even if you do get a pit pass you still likely won’t see the driver you were hoping for. Drivers do their appearances the morning before the race then go back to their coaches or haulers until race time. When that time comes they go straight to pit road on a golf cart and avoid the fans. Drivers almost look annoyed now with signing autographs and taking pictures. Listen I get it, that stuff gets old and just because you bought a pit pass doesn’t entitle you to anything. Having said that though, fans are fickle will remember that.
Indycar Is The New NASCAR
Indycar drivers are super accessible. When you go to an Indycar race you’ll almost always be able to get the autograph or picture you were hoping for. Go to any event during the Month of May and you’re more likely than not going to meet a driver or ex driver. You can do all of this without a pit pass too.
Even at test days Indycar drivers are making impressions with fans. At the first open test for the Indy 500 this year Graham Rahal came to the spectator mound in turn 2 to sign autographs, take pictures and bullshit with fans. James Hinchcliffe and Connor Daly did the same thing in the afternoon too. Yesterday at the Gateway test all the drivers went to the front stretch stands to shake hands and sign autographs during a stoppage.
— IndyCar Series (@IndyCar) May 2, 2017
Going to the Indy 500 gives you the most access to a racetrack anywhere in the country. A regular ticket gets you to the infield which lets you walk right to pit road, roam around the pagoda and stand next to gasoline alley where every driver and team has to pass by. You can walk and hang out by the coach lot and the hauler lot where drivers go on golf carts. You have access to everyone.
NASCAR doesn’t give you that access at all. Some drivers are way more open to being accessible than others. For the most part though a NASCAR ticket gets you a seat and that’s it. Going to a test session means you’ll be sitting far from the drivers and will 99% have no contact with anyone.
If you’re a fan looking for a race to go to. Hit up the Indy 500 and see what the best race in America has to offer. If you’re NASCAR, make sure your drivers don’t act like pretentious assholes.
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