Or: Local Stewart Love
NASCAR does not have that huge of a following in my particular area of California. We are too far north of Auto Club Speedway and too far south of Infineon for “casual fans” to partake in live events. Don’t get me wrong- motor sports has its place here but usually it’s motorcycles at Laguna (Hey Laguna Seca- Bring back the Indy Cars!) or grassroots racing at Ocean Speedway. Because of this I am always pleasantly surprised when I see someone displaying their love of NASCAR locally. There is a lady on the other side of the street and down a block or so who proudly displays a Jeff Gordon poster on her window. Friends who visit someone down the street drives a little truck with a huge Sprint Cup Series logo on their back window. They actually fascinate me because I don’t see anything declaring love of a specific driver. The people who use to live in the apartment after my brother and sister-in-law moved out would display a huge NASCAR flag every race day.
So there are some fans here. Just not a whole lot. I always smile and point them out to whomever happens to be riding along with me- perhaps in an attempt to justify my love of a sport that is a HUGE part of who I am since I am pretty sure most of my family thinks I am kookoo for Cocoa Puffs. Usually these other fans are, no surprise here, Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans. Even in our little part of the country, Junior nation is well represented. Is it any wonder he wins anything with a fan vote. Jeff Gordon is also quite prevalent. Occasionally I will see the hold out Senior fan or the odd Matt Kenseth fan. Once I even saw a proud Denny Hamlin plate frame adorning a newish Toyota.
Where are my fellow Stewart fans? I know they exist. How? Because I always catch sight of them at the same place- a particular grocery store in town. It is downright bizarre to me that I only see other Stewart fans at the grocery- what is even more bizarre is that it is only at one particular grocery store in town.
The first time I noticed a fellow Stewart fan there I nearly gave myself whiplash. She pulled into the parking lot in a Tony Stewart edition Monte Carlo. I had never seen one before but I knew what it was the moment I set eyes on it. I remember staring at it kinda dumbfounded and watching the lady walk across the parking lot into the store as I was leaving. I have only seen that car that one particular time and this is one of three different grocery stores I bounce between so I am not sure if I just keep missing her, she got rid of her car, or she was perhaps just passing through.
In 2009, after the season had been going about a month, I saw a person strolling around this very same grocery store in an Office Depot race jacket. You know those nice heavy ones? I followed this poor unsuspecting woman and her grocery entourage (which appeared to be her three grandchildren) into the meat department. She was in a deep discussion with the butcher at the seafood counter when I approached her. I had to know if this was a misguided Carl Edwards fan or a Stewart fan. Nope- closer inspection of her jacket revealed to me that it was indeed a brand spanking new Tony Stewart one. Part of me wanted to approach her but she was still taking the butcher and I wasn’t at the store alone. And who am I kidding? I am really actually shy and not likely to approach a perfect stranger in the meat department to discuss her fandom of Tony Stewart.
Most recently, the Sunday after the race at Kentucky my mom and I had been making a large batch of apple hand pies when we ran out of some of the ingredients. I grabbed my keys and took off to the store. I parked, did my shopping and was pulling out of of my parking stall when something caught my eye. Was that? Yep- a brand new Tony Stewart License plate frame on a fairly new looking Tahoe that was parked next to me. I wondered if they parked there on purpose- noticing my plate frame, 14 sticker and Vanity plates. Or was it just because it was a spot that was open? Or maybe they had already been there and I just didn’t notice it on my way into the store. I actually stopped right there, basically double parking behind them and momentarily contemplated leaving a little note on it to say hi from one Stewart fan from another. I refrained because I know I HATE it when people leave flyers and crap on my car so I wasn’t about to do that. But it leaves me wondering…who are all these local Stewart fans? Well at least I know where they like to hang out- the grocery store.