Smoke-free Racing? Yeah, Right …

I obviously suffer from skewed judgment. Things that strike others as perfectly reasonable strike me as ridiculous. I don’t know why. I’d like to think that I think things through, but there’s no great body of evidence to that effect.

For instance, I heard recently that Charlotte Motor Speedway will be smoke-free this year. How can that be? Has there been some great advance in green technology so that 43 race cars emit no exhaust fumes? Are they all equipped with catalytic converters or whatever those are called now? If I sit in the CMS grandstands this May, will I smell no exhaust, no rubber, no grease?

Oh. It’s cigarette smoke. This seems, to me, a rather tiny element of the toxicity in the race-track air. I suppose it would be annoying before the race starts to nearby patrons, but once it starts, and 43 cars are whipping around, I doubt a lit cigarette would even be noticeable.

I’m not suggesting that smoking be allowed at all sporting events. But automobile races? Some fans love the smell of exhaust and rubber as much as Robert Duvall’s character loved the smell of “napalm in the morning” in “Apocalypse Now.”

I doubt I’ll be in the grandstands at all this year, and if I am, I won’t be smoking, but banning smoke at a race track makes no more sense than banning butter from cineplex popcorn.

Besides that, 20 years on the NASCAR beat left me with the unmistakable impression that many race fans smoke. Are they going to spend five hours without a cigarette? I’m not sure, but I would think the race-car smoke in the air would cause a smoker to want to light up in the worst way, so much so that he might defy the rules, and if not, stay home and watch on TV. There’s a lot of that – staying home — going around already.

This may come as a shock, but I’ve heard that some race fans drink beer. Some people who don’t otherwise smoke have been known to do so when they are drinking.

Good luck with that, Charlotte. Meanwhile, I’ll await an onslaught from the ranks of the politically correct.

I can’t help but imagine a scene in which a huge wreck occurs off turn four. A car erupts in flames while pinned against the wall. As the safety trucks arrive and fire extinguishers are activated, a lone fan peers through the cloud and screams, “Hey! Hey! That guy three rows behind me is smoking a cigarette! Security! Security!”

A smoke-free section? Good idea. An entire smoke-free grandstand? Fine. Other than that, it seems to me that you buy your ticket and you take your chances.

What’s next? Only non-alcoholic beer? A Nicorette ban? Mandated mufflers? No burnouts?

About Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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15 Responses to Smoke-free Racing? Yeah, Right …

  1. Steven Rose says:

    I agree with your comments 100%. Having a non-smoking area is OK by me and probably should be in place for those patrons that are bothered by smoke or who have small children. Along those same lines….the non-drinkers should have their own section as well. But for the fried-chicken eating, ball cap & sun glass wearing, cooler toting, average Nascar fan… be able to enjoy a “cool beverage” and not “light up”…..I don’t see it happening. It would be like “washing your feet with your socks on”. Just don’t work.

    If Charlotte is worried about the effects of 2nd hand smoke on those that do not partake, I would suggest that they look at other things they should ban or modify if they are all that worried about the fan’s health.

    #1 – Start with the foods served in their concession stands. Hot dogs, greasy hamburgers, fried potatoes, huge candy bars, sweets galore…..need to drop that stuff and just serve water, salad, apples, and oranges. Obesity and high blood pressure kill a lot of folks within the US.
    #2 – Charlotte should cover the infield, the track, and stands to keep the fans out of the blazing sunshine and oppressive heat encountered during their events. Skin cancer and heat strokes kill a lot of folks within the US.
    #3 – Charlotte should also consider giving ear plugs with each ticket purchased. These races can be very loud events…..and can easily damage a fan’s hearing.

    As you can see, I am just scratching the surface. There are a lot of other things that could/should be addressed, but no—–they’ve got to worry about me and my Camel Lights.

    (for what it’s worth—-this has all been in jest —– but, I am a smoker…..cough, hack, spit, ah-cheeeew……it hain’t never bothered me none.)


  2. Sharon Burrows says:

    Pocono is that way too. They can get drunk in grandstands and go hit someone with their car but we cannot smoke! Knew this would happen when Winston got out of the series

  3. eMan says:

    I usually go to Sonoma every year. Usually sit in the grass so I can smoke. In 2011, one of the workers told me I couldn’t smoke. So in 2012, I brought an E-Cigarette, and they threatened to kick me out because it “still looked like smoke.” I don’t go to A’s games or Raiders games because there is nowhere to smoke once you give them your ticket, and if you get caught, it’s a misdemeanor ticket. If NA$CAR keeps it up, I’ll stay at home and forgo the 4 hours in traffic, $200 in tickets, and the roughly $200 I buy for food and various trinkets.

  4. Bobi says:

    MIS went smoke free a few years ago. And they’ve had non alcoholic grandstands for over 20 years. I’m bothered by smoke and applaud the efforts. Daytona is smoke free now too. It’s just a sign of the times. In my top row seats at MIS, I can’t smell the car smells anyway. Anyone who really wants a dose of burning rubber should skip the NASCAR race at Charlotte and head over to Zmax for the NHRA…burning rubber for the real aficionado!

  5. Jeff Burton says:

    Go you good thing,
    Monty, I have been banging on the same drum here in Australia ever since the government forced the tobacco companies to stop advertising their perfectly legal product, mind you they still have their beaurocatic hand out, to pocket the billions ( yes B for Billions) in tax dollars raised from the sale of the same product.This all done purely to make the government look good with no real benefit, the smokers keep smoking but the venues keep closing .

    Sydney used to be the hub of live music in Australia (the home of AC-DC) last week the last live pub venue for rock bands closed, why ? whether we like it or not people like to have a smoke and a drink when they listen to party music, now those people are being forced to stay home and download their music, everybody loses.

    The same has happened in the motorsport industry, no major race at any racetrack in the largest city in the country, they can’t fill the venues, oval track racing has taken to charging the COMPETITORS big money to race because they cannot get people in to watch and need to cover their costs, one actual spectator count of 228 people at a meeting last season, back in the good old smoke sponsored days the same venue was FULL.

    If you speak to the tobacco companies they live by exactly the same theory as baby food companies do, they don’t advertise to encourage customers, they advertise to get existing customers to change brands.

    Yes, there should be smoke free areas because it does smell, but there should also be alchohol free areas for the family members.

    You are totally correct, the same people who make these decisions have blinkers on! If it is so bad make it illegal, but they continue to drive their tax supplied cars, spend half their time in tax supplied fuel burning aircraft and blow more smoke up our tax paying hindquarters than the smokers could ever produce.

    Jeff Burton
    Motorsport Editor
    The World on Wheels

  6. Robert Lewis says:

    Although I haven’t had a cigarette since the Clinton administration, banning smoking at racetracks is absurd. If there’s a big public outcry, ban it in half the grandstand area and permit it in the other half. I think NASCAR will find that most of the busybodies who claim they don’t come out because they’re bothered by smoke never have come out, won’t start now and will never come out in the future, although loyal fans who tire of new rules might stop coming and might not ever come back.

  7. Jo Koster says:

    Having sat behind serial puffers at Charlotte before, and been driven from my seat by the fog and the throat irritation, I welcome this change. I don’t want to have to keep getting up, disturbing other people around me, to try to find some breathable air for four hours. I paid for my seat and I should be able to sit in it without being caused discomfort. You can complain about fans who use profanity, who get too drunk, who are abusive–but until now you couldn’t protect your own health unless you wanted to sit in the lower level of turn 4, the worst seats in the place, which was the “no smoking” zone. I wish all tracks would go smoke free–it would make the viewing experience much more enjoyable.

  8. Judy B says:

    Respectfully disagree. IMO smoking should be banned in all crowded areas, indoor as well as outdoor. Aside from folks who are allergic to smoke or are just very annoyed by it, it’s a matter of safety. Burns from lit cigarettes or cigars are VERY painful & can become infected. Not to mention property damage. At a race a couple years ago, a fan dropped a lit cigarette into the hood of a fan sitting in front of him. Luckily the woman sitting next to the smoker saw it & had the presence of mind to dump her soda on the poor fan’s head. Rare, I’m sure. But I’ll bet similar things have happened often enuf.

  9. Kenn Fong says:


    You and others say “bothered.” Do you know anything about the science? I thought not.

    When I was thirteen, my doctor drew a grid on my back with a non-toxic approved marker. Inside each square he put a tiny swab of something. They were animal danders, chemicals, foods like wheat, peppers, and other allergens.

    I reacted violently to cigarette smoke. He did not tell me what he’d put into that box. I did not react because I find cigarette smoke repellent.

    This is not a blue-state/red-state divide. This is not about the difference between someone who prefers to watch foreign films with captions compared with someone who buys tickets to see Ron White. This is not about someone who would rather shop at Trader Joe’s instead of Walmart.

    This is a health issue, pure and simple. If someone blissfully chooses to ignore decades of irrefutable scientific and actuarial proven data, that’s their choice. But don’t tell me that I have to share their ignorance and stupidity and pay for the privilege.

  10. Monte says:

    I didn’t tell you that you had to anything. I merely expressed my opinion. And I respect yours.

  11. Mike Ray says:

    Smoke ’em if you got ’em!

  12. Kenn Fong says:

    By saying “bothered” you’re making it sound like those of us with legitimate medical concerns are whiny little pests trying to get attention.

    But you’re right, and I stand corrected. I’ll chose to stay home and watch the race on my DVR. In my experience, separate outdoor sections for non-smokers doesn’t work all the time because if the wind changes, the smoke comes to us.

    Racing is a big tent and there’s a lot of room for everyone, if we respect each other’s differences.

  13. Pat Griffith (TN88Fan) says:

    I’m with you, Monte. I find it ironic that people go to race tracks and sit in what’s basically a bowl, where there’s 43 racecars each emitting clouds of toxic fumes for hours at a time and yet what they complain about is someone smoking a cigarette. lol

  14. Monte says:

    I knew opinion would be sharply divided when I wrote it. I guess my basic attitude is, “Life is fatal.”

  15. Monte says:

    Thanks so much for reading it. The next, The Intangibles, will be out sometime this year.

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