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NASCAR a way of life for die-hard fans

Write Angles
Dale Shrull
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Denise Aldrich motors from one table to the next rarely slowing down.

She’s all about speed. When she’s not zipping between customers at Chili’s, she’s watching, talking, pondering and obsessing about NASCAR.

Denise is all about speed. All about NASCAR.



Like the gigantic throng of NASCAR fans, Denise is fanatical. And like about 40 percent of NASCAR fans, her devotion rides with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or just Junior to NASCAR fans.

Last month, Denise made the mistake of not asking for Sunday off and she was forced to grab glimpses of the Daytona 500 on the TV screens at Chili’s.



As she finishes with a quick chat with a table of customers, yes it was about NASCAR, she stops to watch some of the Daytona 500 action.

“Did you see the 48 get smacked?” She says gleefully.

NASCAR fans have a strange way of identifying drivers with the number on their cars. The 48 belongs to Jimmie Johnson, the two-time series champ

She despises the 48.

As Ryan Newman ” the 12 ” captured the checkered flag at Daytona, Denise stopped and watched. Not upset, not excited. Junior didn’t win but she found satisfaction in the race anyway.

“At least the 48 didn’t win.”

She’s happy for Newman, then talks about how he and his wife do lots of charity work, especially with animals.

She’s all about NASCAR. She knows it all. Everything about the drivers, the cars, the teams, the tracks, the wives, the pit crews ” almost everything.

“I don’t know some of the old stuff,” she says with a grin.

NASCAR fans are all about who they love and who they don’t.

As powerful as her devotion is to Junior, who now drives the 88, it’s a virtual dead heat when compared to her hatred of Johnson.

It doesn’t matter that Junior and the 48 are now teammates along with Jeff Gordon, who all drive for Hendrick Motorsports.

“The 24 (Gordon), I don’t care that much about, but the 48 …” she says with obvious disdain. “He didn’t earn anything. They cheated and they gave the 24 cars to him.”

She also despises the “Bozo Brothers” ” otherwise know as Kurt and Kyle Busch.

She’d rather spend an afternoon on a waterboard than watch the 48 or the Bozo Brothers take the checked flag.

Denise named her pets Daytona, Talledgea, the Motor and June Bug ” “June Bug was his dad’s nickname for Junior.”

Yeah, she’s a NASCAR fan.

She once said that wouldn’t get a tattoo because she was afraid Junior would change his number. That decision paid off.

Junior now drives for the powerful Hendrick team.

After going winless in 2007, Junior is still searching for his first big track win in 2008 but has three top 5 finishes in the first five races this year.

Junior drove for his father’s team ” DEI (Dale Earnhardt Incorporated) until this year. Dale, Sr. was killed at Daytona in 2001.

Running a close second to the 48 in Denise’s hate column is Teresa Earnhardt, Junior’s stepmom. The woman responsible for Junior no longer driving the red No. 8 with Budweiser plastered on it.

“The 88 and the color (green and white) is ugly,” she says of Junior’s new ride. “Just give me five minutes with Teresa.”

Junior is what powers her love of NASCAR.

“He’s a jeans and T-shirt guy, that’s him, that’s who he is.”

Now that Bud is out of the picture more sponsors are calling.

“He has so much personality and talent, sponsors are coming to him because he reaches out to everyone. He’s the Michael Jordan of this era.”

The NASCAR image appeals to Denise. It’s wholesome, it’s blue collar, it’s all American.

“Other sports is about the love of the all-mighty dollar (Which she also says about Teresa Earnhardt). These guys do it because they love it, I love Junior because he’s normal, there’s no bling-bling starter kit, he’s just real,” she says.

But this married gal from Rifle is worried about the ladies vying to take Junior off the single’s market.

“I don’t want him to marry someone who’s just about his money.”

As for members of her family, NASCAR isn’t too important. Her husband is not a NASCAR fan and her mother-in-law thinks Denise should get into NASCAR anonymous.

But that’s not going to happen.

She lives and breathes NASCAR all week-long. Sunday is usually race day, then Monday she gets online and gets all the latest NASCAR news; on Friday she watches Junior’s show on ESPN.

Denise would love to see Junior back in No. 8.

“I want Teresa to step down (with DEI). It’s terribly sad. Dale Sr. built that company for his kids. It’s all about the money to her.”

NASCAR fans are all about passion, and that means a polarizing difference between who they love and who they don’t.

For now, she’ll be rooting on the 88, wishing he was still in the No. 8, and hating the 48.

Welcome to NASCAR nation.


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