When two friends and I got an apartment in college, the arguments soon started about the legitimacy of racing, identification of drivers as athletes, my "misplaced" fandom, etc. Some got pretty heated, but most just involved good-natured ribbing.
One of the two friends and I continued sharing an apartment after graduation. Some of the banter continued, but I tried a different angle. I suggested he put his money where his mouth was: Go to a race and see if you don't return with a changed opinion.
Initially, he didn't take the bait. But then Ken Schrader's Red Baron Ford caught his eye during the 1987 Firecracker 400 on TV.
When the next year's Firecracker rolled around, he and I made the drive from Chattanooga to Daytona. Schrader had moved to another red car. He was out of Junie Donlavey's #90 Ford and into Rick Hendrick's #25 Folger's Coffee Chevy. By then, however, he was a Schrader guy regardless.
He took a VHS camcorder and made his way to the fence on the final pace lap as the cars came out of turn 4 to the tri-oval. He glanced back at me as the drivers prepared to hammer down, shrugged his shoulders, and sneered as if to say "not impressed".
I waved him back and mouthed "Just watch!" Ignoring the Barney Fife Security Force's admonition to move away from the fence, he stayed as the cars came up to speed in turn 1.
When they roared through 4 at speed, he quickly lowered his camcorder and instinctively snagged his cap as the wind tried to make off with it. He then slowly turned back towards me, smiled broadly, and mouthed "I. Like. This."
While he never became a rabid NASCAR fan, he certainly became much more interested in it. After his debut at Daytona, he went with me a couple of times to Talladega and once to Atlanta - where he got to see Schrader win in the Kodiak Chevy in 1991.
Concerned about TV ratings or attendance for NASCAR events? Have a friend or family member skeptical about racing? Know someone who enjoys racing but has never experienced the thrill of being at the track? Invite them!