- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
I REMEMBER CLEARLY THE DAY I BEGAN TO UNDERSTAND THE CULTURE OF NASCAR. It was May 16, 2009, and I was on my way to Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. The crowds that would fill the stadium that Saturday had already been there for three days, camped in places long since staked out like coveted box seats passed down to the next generation. I was just getting there, and I thought I was early. Looking out at the men holding court around barbecue grills and women talking with each other while watching their children cool off in plastic pools, it became clear that NASCAR isn't about who wins or who loses or who crashes; what's important is the annual renewal of friendships, the meeting of strangers and just having good, clean fun.
The mood reminded me of the passion I'd seen among soccer fans in Europe, minus the threat of hooliganism. The fields and dirt parking lots outside the track were alive with the colors and numbers of the drivers for whom the fans were rooting. Loyalty is expected, win or lose, and I found that refreshing. "My driver is my driver." Period.
I was not at Lowe's as a spectator but with my band, Modern West. I formed the band in 2005 with the encouragement of my wife, Christine. I'd been around the world with these guys, but it was clear we'd never been to a place like this. I felt at home. There was no pretense. We played loud and long that day, under the threat of rain. Our song Backyard raised the loudest cheer.
The song was written in 2007 for the movie Swing Vote, in which I played a character named Bud Johnson, who lived in a trailer park with old cars on cinder blocks strewed around his yard. Bud, like so many guys around the country, is a dreamer who still sees himself racing. Everybody but him seems to know that his cars are never going to run. They need a lot more than just a fan belt. They really need to be gone, and if the wife and neighbors had their way, they would be, except for that dream. That's the idea behind Backyard.
Teddy Morgan, the band's lead guitarist, got the song going. He came up with the first verse. The whole band had fun filling in the rest.
They're all in my backyard them old cars
I love every one I get
Mixing gasoline with my NASCAR dreams
Yeah I'll get one running yet
The song is kind of funny, I think, but it has taken special care to involve the Everyman who loves NASCAR. The last verse was added after I met Richard Petty on the set of Swing Vote.