Gentlemen, start your corkage! Don’t know if you’ve heard the news or not — are you ready for this? — but stock-car smoothies are switching from beer to wine! I don’t mean those corporate types who occupy luxury suites. (You know, what NASCAR used to call “booths.”) I mean, guys behind the wheels. Some of them are going from guzzlin’ to sipping, pinkie properly deployed at a sophisticated angle.
Ye gods, try to imagine Joe Weatherly, Fireball Roberts, or even Richard Petty strolling around the garage area with a glass of cabernet savignon in hand. Don’t know if you’ll be seeing a lot of it around the garages out at the Hampton track Sunday or not, but they say that it’s a growing trend.
You have to understand, stock-car pilots ain’t the chawing, p-tooey, greasy-nails fellers you find diggin’ under the hood any more. They leave that to their crew, staff, whatever they’re called these days. Oh, I know, some of them get in there with their mechanical experts at times, but the drivers have become executive pilots. Not only that, but get this:
Some of them even have orchards and produce wine with their own labels — and drink the stuff. Or rather, sip it.
Jeff Gordon is one, After one of the races, he was seen reaching for some crystal with wine in it. The famous racing owner, Richard Childress, has his own orchard and winery in North Carolina, not far from my hometown. “Book Your Event at the Winery” is an ad you’ll see in publications in that part of the world.
How do I know all this? Reading Forbes magazine, a story that should be titled “From Bud to Red.” The general theme is that NASCAR is outgrowing its Southern roots. Only nine of its 37 races are run in the South these days. Remember, after Daytona they jumped to California the next week. It was a strain on those guys in charge of getting from here to there. And only by the grace of lucky scheduling did they miss getting snowed out in Atlanta last weekend.
The rising prominence of wine in the stock-car society is not by design, simply sort of following a switch in taste. A one-time driver named Randy Lynch was out front among stock-car wine pioneers, beginning with orchards, then a winery, and now a big-time mover in the market. Can’t say that I remember him, but he has surely outgrown his old stock-car upbringing.
Don’t expect to be seeing wine-tastings and crystal on white linen at the Kobalt Tools 500 on Sunday. Bud, Miller, Coors and those brews haven’t been swept into oblivion, but just say that when Forbes sees a trend developing, it’s enough to turn your head.
Oh, did you notice? The wine society isn’t getting away without some serious regional competition. The Ed Clark society had declared this race “Georgia Peanut Farmers Appreciation Day.” Ed runs the track, you know, though I’m not certain where he stands on the incursion of wine. Tally ho, lads!