Deep-fried Twinkies, jars of moonshine and kegerators set up in the backs of recreational vehicles at Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway. To one scholar, these aren’t just the trappings of a modern-day Nascar race weekend — they’re evidence of a hidden past.
“It’s almost a direct carryover from the Middle Ages,” says Karyn Rybacki, a professor of communication studies and public relations at Northern Michigan University. Ms. Rybacki, who studies stock-car racing, says the cultural elements of Nascar races — where fans travel many miles to attend, wear the colors of their favorite teams and virtually knight popular drivers — may be directly descended from medieval times, when people came in droves to make merry before another fast and dangerous form of competition, the joust.
Ms. Rybacki says the similarities first struck her when she received a grant more than a decade ago to research fan behavior at the Daytona 500. She likens the giant mugs of beer, sausage and roasted turkey legs popular at Nascar concessions to the foods served at medieval festivals. “It was almost like being thrown into a Renaissance fair without the medieval costumes,” she says.
I want to know where I can get my grant to “research fan behavior”
With Nascar, the main attraction is the race, where some 43 cars speed around a track as long as 2.66 miles at close to 200 miles per hour. But fans say they’re also at the track for the communal 48-hour party that surrounds it. In the infield in Talladega, well before race day, fans cooked up jambalaya and chicken wings and made batches of Southern-style Bloody Marys and moonshine-soaked grapes, then exchanged these homemade delicacies through a barter system.
Like jousting knights who wore the colors and emblems of overlords who supported them, Nascar drivers don team colors and logos of corporate sponsors. And fans do, too. Last year, racing enthusiasts spent millions on T-shirts, caps and other souvenirs emblazoned with images of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and other racing icons, according to industry estimates.
If anyone has some grant money laying around and would like to do some in depth research into nascar tailgating and fans send me an email and I will send you my address.Â I am willing to do research in all relate fields (but I think drinking is a good topic), pro or con, just sent the money and I will slant it anyway you would like.