Southern Cultures 4.4 (2003) 106-108
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Fixin' To Git: One Fan's Love Affair with NASCAR's Winston Cup By Jim Wright Duke University Press, 2002 305 pp. Cloth $26.95
Sociologist Jim Wright has taken on a two-fold task in Fixin' To Git: to make a sociological study of nascar's Winston Cup Series and to reflect on his firsthand experiences in attending six races during the 1999 season—what Wright refers to as his "Fixin' To Git Road Tour." As such, it contains a mix of academic study and personal reminiscence, alternating between an academic tone and a folksy, even chatty one.
Wright's book is primarily about dispelling misconceptions that many Americans have about nascar. He argues that "championship stock-car racing is not the moonshine-besotted redneck excrescence it is sometimes made out to be," and challenges the notion that stock-car racing is a peculiarly southern sport. Wright points out that the "mythology of nascar's moonshine origins" is based on "the biographies of . . . fewer than two dozen men." As for the alleged southernness of nascar, Wright asserts that this "common misperception . . . is a slow car that we'll lap a couple more times before we're done." He points out that in the early days of nascar many drivers from outside the region competed successfully and that 34% of races between 1949 and 1958 were held outside the South. Only in the 1960s did southern venues and southern drivers dominate the sport. Wright attributes this fact to nascar founder and owner Bill France Sr.'s southern chauvinism and his desire to promote his new Daytona track to people who could more easily attend its races. Beginning in the 1970s, both non-southern drivers and tracks outside the region began to come back into the sport. Based on his "Fixin' to Git Tour," Wright observes that "there is no hint of a regional gradient in the contemporary fan base, or indeed in the increasing number of nascar venues outside the South."
Scattered between the chapters of sociological analysis, Wright shares his observations [End Page 106] gleaned from visits to Winston Cup races—except in one instance where he shares his impressions of a race he viewed on television. For Wright, this process of first-hand observation is extremely important: as he puts it, "Like the Grand Canyon and oral sex, that first sensation of a Winston Cup event cannot be adequately explained." He goes on to attempt to capture the pageantry and excitement of these weekend-long events. Indeed, Wright observes the extreme of some fans' excitement as he contends, "Female fans . . . stand, bite their knuckles, and when their favorite driver thunders by, they do a little shimmy and shake all over—a once a lap mini-orgasm, maybe fake, maybe real, and maybe not mini." Wright concludes that "the flavor of the stock-car racing subculture is very much that of young, white, working-class guys who left school for jobs in the factories, make good money, hunt, fish and camp whenever the occasions arise, and get to the races whenever they can."
As far as love affairs go, unfortunately, Fixin' to Git is the equivalent of a one-night stand. Indeed, Wright seems to have little in-depth knowledge of his mistress. He bases many of his most important conclusions on a few secondary sources, one a work of fiction and one the observations of a fellow sociologist (an esteemed one to be sure) who attended one race and is admittedly not a nascar fan. Whole chapters are drawn almost directly from single secondary sources—especially Chapter 3, "Racin' Basics," a rehash of Richard Huff's The Insider's Guide to NASCAR, and Chapter 6, "Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms," most of which is drawn directly from Richard Hagstrom's The NASCAR Way.
While seemingly innovative, Wright's conclusions about the insignificance of moonshining and the relative lack of southern influence on the sport's formative years ignore important facts. It is true that the numbers of verifiable...