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October 25, 2006 | South Carolina Headlines


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Start your engines!
Jonathan Pait
September 13, 2001

3:00 PM - NASCAR announces that Sunday's race at Loudon is cancelled.

Being informed should never be downplayed. Unfortunately, most Americans do not work very hard at getting beyond the images that flash across the screen of their television sets.

Recently, those scenes continued to show over and over the tragic scenes of the hijacked planes crashing into the WTC. As is the case with all such events, the news media reaches a point where the constant barrage of news turns into reporters interviewing reporters and “authors of such and such books” offer “insights into the tragedy.”

It is time for the images to change. It is time for Americans to act. Not all of us can go to battle. We can give blood. We can volunteer. Most of all, we can back the government as they carry out the true Constitutional responsibility of defending the citizens. We can do so in any number of ways. While this may seem trite, one such way is to hear from Loudon, New Hampshire those words, “Gentlemen, start your engines.”

NASCAR is often maligned. The fans are characterized as southern rednecks that drink beer and beat their wives. Those who know or are the fans of NASCAR certainly realize that the fan base cuts across many classes of people. However, we also realize that the bulk of these fans are blue-collar middle class Americans. While they may seem simple to some, it is that simplicity that at a time like this becomes one of America’s greatest assets.

Some may call it gaudy, but there is something about the pre-race activities at a NASCAR race. Never mind the parties going on in the infield. Look at the official program. The voice over the PA says, “Please stand for a word of prayer.” All around the track tens of thousands (and at some tracks over 100,000) of people stand to their feet. Hats are removed and there is relative silence as a minister prays. Then the voice returns, “Now, please remain standing for the National Anthem . . .” Typically this is followed by “performed by such and such recording artist.” Sometimes they murder it and other times it causes your soul to soar. As the last notes begin to fade, at most tracks, you begin to hear the roar in the distance and soon a military flyby passes low overhead.

It is patriotism seen unlike at any other sporting event. Look around the track. Sure, there is the number of flags of the Confederacy but above all you see Old Glory. Then there on the track you see the 43 some odd cars representing American automakers, Chevy, Ford, Pontiac and Dodge. The voice is heard once again announcing the grand marshal for the race will say, “the most famous words in auto racing, ‘Gentlemen, start your engines!’”

At that a huge roar comes from the crowd and even greater roar from the exhausts of the cars that start to life. It is not only heard—the power is felt. The pace laps end and the race begins. Competition abounds and political correctness goes out the window. Americans do what they have done for 53 years—and not much has changed over those years. The crowds are larger. The cars are faster. The atmosphere is the same.

So, if NASCAR fans are a bunch of rednecks. Maybe we should all be. Whatever the case, don’t make me look at Tom Brockaw, Peter Jennings or Dan Rather. Let me see some patriotism and some good American power.

Gentlemen, start your engines!

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