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Jacob Smith: My first ever in-person NASCAR race proved me wrong
Jacob Smith
Jacob Smith, the new Dawson County News sports reporter - photo by Alexander Popp

Before being hired by the Dawson County News in February 2020, I had never watched a NASCAR race in full. 

I owned a copy of NASCAR 08 with Tony Stewart on the cover for my PlayStation 3 and my best friend’s dad played in a NASCAR fantasy league, causing me to catch glimpses of the sport when I spent time at their home. But the hype around racing never truly excited me. 

Cars driving in circles seeing how fast they could go is all I thought NASCAR was. It was fun to see how many cars I could cause to crash within the video game, but that was it. 

Once I moved into the role of Dawson County News Sports Reporter, I immediately began learning as much about NASCAR and competitive racing as I could. Though some races still felt long, I could see that it was much more than cars driving in circles, but that there was strategy and different methods for every racer to achieve different success. 

When I would talk to locals, most told me that how I viewed the sport would change even more once I went to a race in person. Feeling the RPM’s run through my chest and watching the cars pass would immediately open the sport up for me, they said. 

For my first NASCAR race, I got to go to the July 11 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Dawsonville native Chase Elliott started in the pole position and faced adversity throughout the entire race, finishing in seventh place. 

From that experience I can honestly say that what everyone told me was right. The feeling couldn’t even compare to being in a pit at a rock concert. Standing right behind the No. 9 pit crew, all of the sounds consume your body and you can’t even hear someone shouting next to you. 

It is a true marvel watching how fast the cars move past you. On TV, you can hear vehicles traveling over 200 miles per hour and not really understand how fast that truly is until you see it for yourself. 

Upfront and personal is the way to watch a NASCAR race. The atmosphere in the stands and the infield creates a fun environment to cheer on your favorite drivers. Being able to watch your favorite driver for the entire race rather than being at the liberty of whatever Fox or NBC chooses to show on the broadcast. 

I never had to guess if Elliott was battling for track position with anybody or what move he made to pass someone. Unlike in any ball sport, the camera on TV is always following the action, but there is only so much action they can cover at one time, since so much is going on. 

Though I did not get to watch Elliott celebrate with his pit crew in Victory Lane, I did get to experience the ups and downs of a very respectful finish at a NASCAR Cup Series race. 

Compared to other sports, NASCAR is a must-watch in person. Only thing left for me to do now is to join a NASCAR fantasy league.