It's no secret there's rivalry between devotees of open-wheel and stock car racing. F1 fans see NASCAR as a loud, vulgar extravaganza; NASCAR fans see F1 as a bunch of pretentious, poncey twits doing plenty of preening but not much passing. And now that former F1 champ Kimi Raikkonen has announced plans to give NASCAR a try, the open-wheel fans have brought out the knives.
Interestingly, however, there are those in Europe who actually take a look at NASCAR for what it is, not what it's stereotyped as, and their views of our sport are rather fascinating (and illuminating). Consider, for instance, this article in Planet F1, in which the writer "defends those across the pond" (that would be us) with a breakdown of the way NASCAR is equal, or superior, to F1. A few choice quotes:
• "In NASCAR you can sit on the chap in front's back bumper ... This allows the two cars to have better slipstreaming, giving them a speed advantage over the rest of the pack. It's impressive to watch. In F1, the cars create so much 'dirty' air that it's almost impossible to close up on the guy in front. And if you were to and actually put your cars arse-to-nose, chances are you'd lose your front wing."
• "In NASCAR there are more than five overtaking moves a race. In fact, in NASCAR there are more than five a lap. Take the Daytona 500 run at the start of this season. There were 74 lead changes, that's not including all passes, and 22 different drivers led the race - that's the entire F1 field in Melbourne."
• "There's no pretence [sic], what you see is what you get. In NASCAR the drivers give officials the finger when they get penalised [sic] for speeding through the pits (and later the officials slap back). They tell it as it is, or as they perceive it to be, when someone takes them out. Throw the occasional punch. If their car is crap they will tell you it is and that the team needs to work harder. There are no grid girls, you stand by your car with your wife, your children, your family."
• "It is a sight to behold when the crowd stands to their feet, removes their caps, puts their hands on their hearts and sings along [to the National Anthem]. The drivers, their families and team personnel all do the same ... At last Sunday's Australian GP, the crowd stood and sang while the F1 teams and drivers chatted. Even F1's only Aussie driver, Mark Webber, was, at least according to the pictures shown on TV, not paying any attention to the anthem."
And there's more, talk of the superiority of green-white-checkers and rain rules and, yeah, the fact that two big stars in Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya have jumped ship to drive the taxicabs. It's a good read, and perhaps it'll give you a little more perspective on how things could be worse over here.
[Aside: if this was an April Fool's joke, I'm flying across the pond myself to dispense a little NASCAR justice.]