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August 3, 2013

The need for speed

Local fans talk about what draws them to NASCAR


For some fans, watching the races isn’t enough — they want to get behind the wheel, too. 

When Les Streeter of Maryland was 16, his dad helped him race pro-stock. 

“I also became a fan of NASCAR and would follow my favorite drivers,” Streeter said. “I’d watch the drivers work their way up to the big time.”

Gucwa said he recently took the opportunity to drive on a track. “It cost $500,” Gucwa said. “I took a 45-minute class on driving and then drove three times around the track, hitting 168 miles per hour.” 

The experience gave him a new perspective on the strength and stamina required to handle a racecar. “My butt cheeks were tight,” Gucwa recalled. 

Started by Bill France Sr. in 1947-48, NASCAR is family owned and operated. NASCAR sanctions the Sprint Cup Series, sponsored by Sprint. The series has previously been known as Strictly Stock, Grand National, Winston Cup and Nextel Cup. 

Janet Guthrie, the first woman to drive in both the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, made 33 starts in NASCAR’s top series, with a best finish of sixth at Bristol in 1977. 

“I drove Watkins Glen many times, but not in NASCAR,” Guthrie said by email. “In 1964, I finished sixth overall and second in class in the Glen’s first-ever 500-mile SCCA National Championship race, in my Jaguar XK 140, with the first engine I ever built with my own hands.” Janet Guthrie also said, “I drove NASCAR Cup (Winston Cup as it was then) at Pocono; and finished 11th in 1977, my rookie year.” 

Guthrie now serves on NASCAR’s Appeals Board and although she hasn’t attended a NASCAR race in person in quite some time, she said she tries to keep up with what the women are doing. 

There are several female drivers in the lower NASCAR series, but Danica Patrick’s move to NASCAR from the IndyCar, has put women back into the spotlight. This year she became the first woman to earn a pole in NASCAR at the season-opening Daytona 500, and by leading, became the first women to lead a lap in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500, two of the most storied races in American racing history.

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