NASCAR’s Future

This article is in progress.

Media often presents battling headlines and sound-bites of contrary elements. As example, recently there was a headline declaring that the Colorado River system has a good chance of producing less available water. Lake Mead’s current water storage capacity of 38% was an example of potential impacts with crisis implications. The article and headline placed directly below announced drilling for Arctic oil had been approved. These clashing headlines are silently connected by a cause and effect that goes beyond sharing the same space on a newspaper’s page – consequences of our addiction to fossil fuels. It is a connection developed economies find stunting, even suicidal, to acknowledge and accept. Our modern times are defined by iconic enigmas, non-reflective paradoxes and blinding – binding belief structures. Relationships and impacts of headlines to each other are rarely given their own headlines – reader beware, connect the dots on your own.

Fossil Fuel Tire Tracks, Forget about Footprints
Another conundrum in the face of rising CO2 levels is NASCAR. It is safe to assume that the NASCAR season has the largest accumulated carbon footprint of any sport. Soccer’s World Cup may be a rival but it is an global event with a far greater following. Per-capita carbon footprints for NASCAR participants and spectators must be at, or near, the top. According to NASCAR, about 6,000 U.S. gallons of fuel are consumed during a typical Sprint Cup weekend. For the 2006 season, which included 36 points races, the total for the season would have been 216,000 U.S. gallons. One environmental critic recently estimated NASCAR’s total fuel consumption across all series at 2 million U.S. gallons of gas for one season.

This is the story of one man, Kurt Busch, his girlfriend/conspirator and two auto races on one day. But it more a story of human nature’s attraction to powerful objects that make loud noises and that humans can identify with. I am that powerful, I am that fast, I am that important, I am that sexy, I am that cool.

Much was made of Kurt Busch’s attempt to finish, or win, both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on July 4, 2014. That is 1100 miles of racing in cars that average between two to five miles per gallon at race speed. It also included a week of flying back and forth between Indianapolis, Indiana and Charlotte, North Carolina for practices and qualifying sessions in a 12 passenger Cessna Citation X 750 jet, that cruises at 606 mph. The jet flights took 90 minutes each way and additional Bell helicopter rides were 30 minutes. There are 428 air miles from Charlotte and Indianapolis and 584 miles by car.
On race day, Charlotte Motor Speedway had given Busch permission to land his helicopter in the grass infield area inside the tri-oval prior to the Coca-Cola 600.

Jets and helicopters are not that fuel efficient. Logistic leader for this self-indulgent effort was Kurt Bush’s girlfriend Patricia Driscoll. She would stand by his side looking up proudly at him as he answered media questions with comments like, “That’s my love, my passion, and it’s in my blood. And it’s a chance to challenge myself, to do something physically and mentally as a driver, and show how tough NASCAR drivers are.” (All the NASCAR drivers, except one, are anglo-saxons males.) Busch was also advocating post-traumatic stress syndrome awareness and veterans’ high suicide rates. “And it’s even extra special for me that this is happening on Memorial Day weekend,” Busch said. “I really want to dedicate this to all the men and women who defend our freedom.” “This is fun,” said girlfriend Patricia Driscoll, the linchpin who had organized the logistics — planes, karate and carb-loading — in Busch’s attempt at becoming the fourth driver to race the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day. “Normally, he’s not this fun after qualifying. At all.” Busch smiled sheepishly. “Yes, Dear,” he said.

Jet Contrails
I never heard anyone questioning the ethics of Busch’s manic carbon footprint. What good comes of racing back and forth from one track to another and then racing in two races on July 4, 2014? Did this effort make the planet a better place? Kurt finished the Indy 500, hopped on his private airliner, rondevoued with his chartered helicopter and crashed during the Coca-Cola 600.

Equal Opportunity Employer?
NASCAR lists 109 drivers on its 2015 website. 107 are white males. Danica Patrick is the only female and Juan Pablo Montoya is the only driver with a hispanic surname and he longer races in NASCAR. One wonders if there will ever come the day that there is a black-asian transgender driver?

Domestic Disputes
When I saw Driscoll standing by Busch’s side something seemed amiss. Why were they doing this? Was it all about the veterans? Was it all about Kurt Busch? Was it all about Patricia Driscoll? Was it all about the Nascar fans? Was It all about auto racing? Was it all about the fact Kurt could do it? Why was there a need to do it in the first place?

Weather Hurting TV Ratings
NASCAR is having a rough time with the weather delaying or postponing races as the TV commentators try to kill dead air for hour after hour. Climate change could be increasing the number of rain and lightening events. If so, isn’t burning fossil fuels considered one of climate change drivers? If so, will there come a day there are car races in cars not burning fossil fuels?

How much longer can NASCAR be politically, or legally, correct?

©2015 Anders Tomlinson, all rights reserved.