Despite all of the changes that have been made to NASCAR over the past 20 years, the sport is still one that prides itself on its history and tradition. One of those traditions happens to be the pre-race invocation which is usually given by pastor from a local church from wherever the series happens to be racing that week. The invocation usually consists of the pastor or preacher thanking the lord (or God) for various things such as the weather, the fans, the drivers etc. Often times the invocations asks for protection over the drivers and fans and wishes everyone in attendance a safe race. The invocation then ends with the speaker usually saying “in Jesus’ name Amen.”
While the message behind the invocation is a positive one the question is whether or not there is still a place for religion in NASCAR during this current day in age.
NASCAR is currently in a ratings lull. This drop in the ratings comes a few years after NASCAR was considered to be one of the fastest growing spectator sports in the country back around 2001-2008. The recent burst of success that NASCAR experienced was good for the sport on many levels, one of those levels being that it helped remove the redneck umbrella that was hanging over the sport. NASCAR’s roots come from down south as does much of their history and tradition. As a result of this many casual fans or non-fans often categorized NASCAR as a sport for rednecks, southerners, and those who drink beer all day and have low IQ levels. Obviously those generalizations are not accurate but for a long time that was how the sport was perceived by many.
As NASCAR has continued to evolve they have done a terrific job of distancing themselves from that perception while at the same time bringing in new fans. While NASCAR still may be dominant when it comes to their fans in the south, it has also branched out to other regions of the country and even the world. As NASCAR continues to grow the one thing that seems to stick out is the fact that they still have the pre-race invocation each and every week.
Some weeks the invocation is simple and to the point. Other weeks it can be humorous while other weeks depending the who is giving it, it can have strong religious undertones. For a sport that is trying to become a global success is it appropriate to attach a certain religion or religious tone to yourself? For a sport that might have several drivers who might not believe in God or religion is it appropriate to hold the pre-race invocation. For a sport that is trying to reach out to different cultures around the world who may believe in a higher power other than God, is it appropriate to have the invocation?
I will be the first to tell you that I do not believe that the pre-race invocation has any impact on fans, viewers or ratings. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone out there feels the same way that I do. Given the world that we live in today some would commend NASCAR for continuing this tradition while others might condemn them for holding onto a tradition that is outdated.
Be sure to vote in the above poll and let us know where it is that you fall when it comes to religion still being a part of NASCAR.