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Carolina Thunder Revisited: Toward a Transcultural View of Winston Cup Racing

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Almost three decades ago, cultural geographer Richard Pillsbury documented the national expansion of NASCAR and what he considered the erosion of major-league stock car racing as a unique southern tradition. This claim is reassessed in light of recent research, leading us to suggest that the sport is actually “transcultural” in nature. It is influenced simultaneously by tradition and transition, as well as regional and national forces. In revisiting Pillsbury's seminal work, we document major changes and continuities in Winston Cup racing and briefly examine two North Carolina cases that provide contradictory views on the current relationship between the sport and the American South. North Wilkesboro illustrates how the changing geography of track locations can devalue and demoralize places associated with the tradition of southern stock car racing. The greater Charlotte area demonstrates that the South remains an important part of NASCAR, serving as a gathering place and “knowledge community” for drivers, racing teams, and fans from across the country. In addition to advancing research in the geography of sport and popular culture, the article encourages readers to think critically about regional cultures and their relationship to the forces of nationalization.

Keywords: American South; NASCAR; sports geography; stock car racing; transcultural

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: May 1, 2003


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