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Why I love left turns, or, memories of NASCAR

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Danica Patrick prepares for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Sam’s Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Feb. 26, 2010.
Photo: Erik Kabik/Retna/www.erikkabikphoto.com

Yes, it’s a bunch of cars driving in circles, but NASCAR isn’t just a series of left turns. Involved is a lot of strategy – when to take pit stops, what tiny tweaks to make to your car, when to make moves against your dozens of competitors. As a lapsed fan of competitive racing, it disappoints me when others discredit it.

NASCAR Hauler Parade on the Strip

I spent my youth in Tucson, Arizona, where each weekend my father and I would drive out to the local raceway. I was years from understanding the intricacies of cars or the sport, so my love was primal. It was the roar of dozens of engines turning on all at once, the smell of rubber and the excitement in the air. The raceway’s motto was, “We’ll sell you the whole seat, but you’ll only need the edge,” and it was true. Sometimes, we didn’t need it at all. We’d stand and cheer even though we could barely hear over the roar of engines.

Greg Biffle.

Greg Biffle.

I carried a checkered flag and a Sharpie with me, getting signatures from the drivers before the race began. I don’t really remember the selection process I used for picking my favorite driver, Greg Biffle. (My guess is I thought his last name was cool.) I do, however, remember my father coming home one night with a piece of Biffle’s shiny fender. He’d wrecked that day and my father has spoken to him afterward, told him what a big fan I was. Biffle signed the fender and my elementary school photo. It was with these that I first felt that mixture of fear and excitement that only a fan feels.

Eventually, I grew out of wanting to spend my weekends with dad, but my appreciation for racing has only grown. Call me a closet redneck, but I’ve nothing but fond memories of my NASCAR-infused childhood. And when I hear racing’s brilliant call to arms, I still can’t help but smirk.

Start. Your. Engines!

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