In Defense Of Turning Left


There's been a lot of hate for NASCAR over the years, a lot of well earned, warranted hate; but one thing that has always bothered me is the reliance of "have fun turning left, snore" as a kind of putdown.

Given the right application, turning left exclusively can be truly awe inspiring, and every bit the kind of heart stopping expression of gasoline (or maybe alcohol?) fueled automotive intensity that every young Jalop craves. To evidence this opinion, I present to you Sprint Car racing. An impossibly small tube frame chassis residing between the gargantuan mass of asymmetrical rubber subjected to the unrelenting power of 800 alcohol fueled ponies makes for a very interesting piece of machinery, and please don't ignore the presence of the largest aluminum article of down force one can manage, mounted atop for good measure (calling it a "wing" does it no justice)

So let's set the stage. You've arrived at the local dirt track (because, as the local's will tell you, "real men race on dirt") and taken a seat in the top tier of the old wooden grand stand (first time, you're cautious, it's ok). The volunteer track announcer bleeds on with the competition announcements, the crackly National Anthem bellows inharmoniously over the loud speaker, as everyone takes a seat for the first heat. A parade of push trucks line up behind tiny sheet aluminum creations ready to bump the tube framed contraptions onto the track. Seeing your head spinning just a bit about why such a small, light car can't make it onto the track under its own power, a local taps you on the shoulder "most of these guys are pushing near 17:1 compression, standard v8 starter can't turn it over." The cars burble onto the track, finally free of their mothering assistance and begin warming the tires for the coming heat. One of the hot shot drivers smashes the throttle on the initial straight and you stare as he lifts his left front tire almost a foot off the ground. The amount of torque playing against the small, rigid frame begins to sink in and you settle down for something you won't soon forget. As a track attendant pulls in the orange cone from mid track (with a shoe string, no less) signifying the beginning of the race, every car in the field mashes the big pedal in a symphony of frantic downshifting amidst 8000rpm V8 screams. The gentlemen at the front of the pack hang backside-out on the outside line, and with the small ¼ mile dirt track, that means a 30? drift for most of every lap. The race goes on with the expected position shifts and close call open wheels touches, but it's the nuances of the experience that pull you in; the pungent sweet smell of unburned alcohol wafting toward you with every fireball inducing downshift into turn 3, the purposeful lopsidedness of every car's anatomy, displaying a right rear tire almost 6 inches wider than the left, the rhythmic throttle pulses of the lead cars as they massage the throttle trying to maintain every bit of momentum possible while executing a 100 mile per hour banked drift. It's these little snap-shots that stick in your head for the duration, pulling you deeper into the heat, until eventually you await every passing of the pack so you can focus on a tail pipe in anticipation of a flame, or a rear tire waiting to slip, the little details create a kind of ballet of automotive perfection, each little detail its own little dance of furious racing savagery and simplistic anticipatory beauty. Sprint racing pulled you in with promises of mercifully short heats (usually about 5-7 minutes) and eventful, dog fight position stealing, but the details of the experience are what create the fan; the details are what create the magic.


So next time someone says "NASCAR sucks, all they do is turn left!" you may, if you wish, politely correct them about how it's not the turning left that makes NASCAR so unappealing, it's the distancing of the fan from any real detail, the alienating of a fan by allowing near complete removal of meaningful observation (if you watch racing just to see the next crash, it's not racing, it's a snuff film.) Turning left, however, can have all the excitement that turning left and right in succession have, (because really, turning left and THEN right is all that argument signifies) it just takes the same thing that any really entertaining race event has, the spectacle and beauty of tiny details (and maybe bad-ass 100mph drifting).

This piece was written and submitted by a Jalopnik reader and may not express views held by Jalopnik or its staff. But maybe they will become our views. It all depends on whether or not this person wins by whit of your eyeballs in our reality show, "Who Wants to be America's Next Top Car Blogger?"

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NASCAR has gone from competitive oval racing to moving billboards. Plain and simple. It used to be that you could differentiate the cars on the track (Ford, Chevy, Pontiac, Buick, Olds) and could not only cheer for a driver, but a make. Now all the cars are the same, the front fascia has some stickers to "tell" you what car it is and that's it.

The cars are so competitively balanced that there really is no competition (hope that makes sense) It was the beauty of seeing the different models battle it out for supremacy, engineers used to have a big say on how their team's car performed. Now it seems to be totally controlled by the NASCAR body and all the engineers can to is figure out how to make engine parts light enough to gain speed, but not too light to compromise the engine itself.

NASCAR needs to bring more road racing like Road Atlanta or Road America to name two and bring back the classic tracks likeRockingham, North Wilkesboro, South Boston.

Dump the Chase. It's a joke.

I was a big fan back in the late 80's - 90's but it has gotten too stale.