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Is NASCAR Still American Enough for Real Americans?

So, I'm waking up slowly on a Saturday, sipping coffee and noodling around on the Tubes of the Internets. TV is on, tuned to ESPN. The top of the hour rolls by and ESPN begins coverage of a NASCAR race in Michigan. I'm not really paying attention, as I have never had any interest in NASCAR, but since I'm playing on the computer, I don't bother to change the channel. Then I noticed an advertisement promoting NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program. The spot featured a woman and a couple of minority men and the gist of the spot was that whatever your gender or skin color or whether English is your first language or not, the only line you should need to cross to be successful in NASCAR is the finish line. Apparently, this program has existed for a number of years, but this is the first I've heard of it.

I'll leave it to others to opine as to the program's merits, as a quick internet search has produced a number of articles both pro and con, but it struck me as interesting from a social perspective. I have always associated NASCAR with white, rural, and predominantly southern culture; basically the same culture that tends to self-identify with the Republican Party (and now, perhaps, with the Tea Party). I have always thought of NASCAR as one of the cultural pillars of modern American conservative society and, perhaps, there is no shortage of such people who regard NASCAR as "theirs," sort of the same way that hockey is very much a Canadian game, even though it is obviously not theirs exclusively.

(As I write this, there is a pastor leading the drivers in prayer to Jesus thanking him for a nice day and freedom and such. Apparently, the National Anthem isn't enough... Oh, and what looks to me like an old B-25 just flew over the track. Did I mention that this was a predominantly conservative crowd?)

From a business perspective, if nothing else, it makes sense for NASCAR to try to broaden it's appeal. Why not get women and minorities out to the track and buying merchandise? But it also seems to me that the very word "diversity" sets the average conservative's blood boiling. Diversity, of course, is part of the great liberal conspiracy agenda to subvert the American Way and lead us toward dreaded communism, or some such horror.

As the American Right Wing (you know, the REAL Americans...) drifts ever more to the Right, how long will it be before they talk themselves into believing that even NASCAR isn't sufficiently American enough for them anymore? Somebody should tell Glenn Beck about this...

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