TehBen.com welcomes Deb Broadwater to the writing crew! As a lover of books, senior citizen bingo, and most importantly NASCAR, Deb brings a wealth of personal experience to our crazy little family. Check her out on Twitter and let us know if you want to see more of this awesome new TehBen member!
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a NASCAR fan. I’m sure there probably was a time between my birth and when my actual memories start, but I can’t pinpoint it. I remember sitting with my Dad every Sunday, hearing a prayer, the National Anthem, and race cars starting up. I remember being 6 years old, sitting on my Dads lap, at my first NASCAR race.
Twenty-three years later, and nothing’s changed, despite the stigma of being a NASCAR fan, who (surprise!) is a woman.
Are you surprised? I hope not, because –spoiler– there’s more of us than you might think. Some of us, like Lacey (@laceymarieee) and Melissa (@melissameek), we were born into it, with members of our families racing on a local level. Fans like myself, Emilie (@houndnuggets_), Michele (@Chele08_), and Sara (@tygibbsfan) followed in our parents footsteps, watching every Sunday, attending races at a young age with them, and we continue this tradition today. Christina (@tunnelturnchris) watched on and off throughout childhood, but really became a fan when she met her husband and started attending races together. These women are a just a few out of the thousands of female fans of NASCAR. Being a fan isn’t something we “grow out of” or something we even want to.
What should not surprise you though, is what’s said to us when some people find out we like NASCAR. Oh sure, we get the typical “And ANOTHER left turn”, or “they just go in circles!” like any other NASCAR fan gets. There comes a time though, where the exclusion goes deeper than that. It started at a young age for Emilie, who remembers a time in the 4th grade. “The boys in my class would talk about NASCAR during recess and I remember actively trying to join the conversation but they wouldn’t let me because I was a girl.” Weslyn (@weslynfugate), had a similar story growing up as a closet racing fan. “I say closet fan, it’s because where I grew up in Ohio, it wasn’t the “cool thing” for girls to like NASCAR! We were supposed to love country boys and being petite and girly. We had Eldora and I grew up going because my grandparents live right around the corner. But I couldn’t brag about being there because it would cause people to make fun of me for it.” Brianna (@briward13) finds it hard to talk on social media about NASCAR because of comments she receives. “It doesn’t take long for the rude comments to flow about how she’s a girl, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, she only watches for Chase [Elliott], typical. It’s honestly disheartening. No one cares to know what a female fan knows about racing. The second a girl speaks up it’s, ‘she’s just an obsessed fan, she only watches for his looks‘ so I will be honest, the fandom has shut me up a bit because I feel like I can’t post or say anything without being targeted for being a girl and watching racing.” Some people tell Sara she only watches because her favorite drivers are attractive and that have been told she doesn’t have proper knowledge of the sport because of being a female. This is unacceptable.
“The boys in my class would talk about NASCAR during recess…but they wouldn’t let me because I was a girl.”Weslyn (@weslynfugate)
For me, my most uncomfortable moment came from an xFinity series race I attended at Dover a few years ago. Being a longtime Dale Jr. fan I was decked out in my JR Motorsports gear and looking forward to a great race. An awesome part of the track experience is talking to fellow fans around you in the grandstands, but the guy next to me ruined this part of raceday for me. Danica Patrick was one of the drivers for Jr at the time, and the guy asked me if I rooted for her because I was a girl. Even worse he insisted this was true because Danica was “a hot girl” too. I was mad for being judged a certain way as a female fan. I was sad that someone could say something sexist to me unprovoked. What was there to gain by talking to me this way?
We’re fans. We attend races, we buy merchandise, and we fearlessly support our favorite drivers and teams. We support the corporations who invest in our sport. Sara discussed our passion, saying: “we just support with our whole heart and mind, and I don’t think that should be frowned upon. Female fans are usually very passionate, and that passion brings a whole new level of support and fire to this sport. NASCAR needs that.”
“I was mad for being judged a certain way as a female fan. I was sad that someone could say something sexist to me unprovoked. What was there to gain by talking to me this way?”Deb Broadwater
Weslyn adds in saying, “We love the cars and competition and speed” and she’s not wrong. If you’ve ever been to a race, you see us meeting drivers, talking with crew, and discussing cars. This year (thanks to the Covid pandemic), instead of finding each other at the track, we’ve used other outlets like social media. The other females I’ve spoken to, as well as the ones mentioned here I’ve never met in person: we’ve “met” on twitter. We talk racing, live tweet during the races, and take part in numerous group chats. It’s no different than our male counterparts. Emilie mentioned how social media brought us together, explaining: “I began to see a prominence of female fans which certainly made me feel belonged in this sport. If anything, I’ve found security in the female fans of this sport because the women I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know share the same values and has had similar experiences.”
I asked the ladies mentioned above if they had any advice for female fans meeting resistance on social media. Brianna offered some great advice. She says, “My advice would be; buy the merch, root for who you want, and just have fun. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. One day I hope more women will be in the sport of racing until then we must be the best support system and fan base we can be. It shouldn’t matter what sex you are. At least we are dedicated to the sport we love.” Christina mentions her daughter: “ I want female fans to know we are out here. That we are important too. I have a daughter. One day I want her to be the best at whatever she wants to be. There are going to be people that put you down no matter what gender they are. It won’t change my love for the sport of racing.” Emilie urges women to find their tribe, saying: “I have found security in the female fans of our sport, I want new incoming female fans to have that same feeling and experience of having a group of friends to connect with and to feel proud of being a NASCAR fan!”
“I will be honest, the fandom has shut me up a bit because I feel like I can’t post or say anything without being targeted for being a girl and watching racing.”Brianna (@briward13)
After I reached out on Twitter for comment from people in the NASCAR community, an overwhelming number of drivers, owners, sponsors, and others in the industry reached out looking to offer their assistance. Thanks to them, we’ve decided to turn this into a two-part series! You’ll hear from some amazing people in the sport in Female Voices in NASCAR (PART 2): The Industry Weighs in. Thank you to the wonderful women mentioned above for speaking with me and thank you for reading.
Be sure to follow Deb Broadwater on Twitter for all things NASCAR.