Pickleball has infiltrated NASCAR.
Yes, it sounds like a set up for a joke. Of all the sports that come to mind when you think of pickleball, driving fast for hours in a circle doesn’t seem to jibe.
But history was made this month when a Toyota Supra driven by Ryan Truex and emblazoned with a giant “Shop USAPickleball.com” paint job on the hood made its debut on the NASCAR track in Martinsville, Virginia, as part of NASCAR’s Xfinity Series.
The car’s logo included a painted pickleball, which is bound to be instructive to many NASCAR fans, who may confuse the ball’s holes as the result of target practice.
Looking at it another way, this is one of the rare times a vehicle bearing a pickleball decal has been driven by somebody who doesn’t have grandkids.
Naturally, the news of this sports merger was received by a fair amount of head scratching in the auto-news world.
“Admit it, you had no idea what pickleball was, did you?” is the opening line in the Autoweek.com story about the pickleball car.
That story referred to pickleball as “like midget tennis, played with flat plastic paddles and something akin to a wiffle ball.”
I guess, we pickleballers can be reciprocally catty by describing NASCAR as “like reckless driving, done mostly by grown men dressed in something akin to toddler pajamas.”
But we pickleballers like to take the high road, preferably one without a lot of traffic. And we welcome NASCAR fans to experience the heart-thumping thrills of low-speed cross-court dinking.
At least we pickleballers can introduce our game to middle schoolers as a participation sport. By contrast, if a middle schooler tries NASCAR as a participation sport, it’s called “grand theft auto.”
Not that we’re trying to be judgy here. We’re just trying to make sense of this new marriage too.
To give a more comprehensive look at how NASCAR racing and pickleball dovetail, here’s a handy little comparison guide to consider.
NASCAR: Studies show that pit crews and drivers are exposed to noise levels up to 900 times higher than the allowable occupational daily noise dose.
Pickleball: Some people who live near pickleball courts say the percussive thwacking sound of paddles striking plastic balls drives them crazy. In one California lawsuit, a homeowner complained that the sound of people playing pickleball 100 yards from her home has caused her “severe mental suffering, frustration and anxiety.”
NASCAR: The Daytona 500 teams are allowed 15 sets of tires for the race.
Pickleball: If you feel the urge to change shoes in the middle of a pickleball game, you need new shoes.
NASCAR: Penalty options including point deductions, suspension or fines can be assessed for engine alteration infractions in cubic-inch displacement, compression ratio, internal components and performance enhancements from nitrous oxide and vacuum leaks.
Pickleball: You lose the rally if you volley from the Kitchen.
NASCAR: Attendance is down. About 10,000 to 25,000 spectators sit in the grandstands at most races. About 123,500 fans came to this year’s Daytona 500.
Pickleball: Attendance is up. Crowds at professional pickleball tournaments are sometimes reaching into the dozens, after excluding other players watching games while waiting to play their own.
It’s all about elevation
NASCAR: Drivers use the track’s banked turns to keep their cars’ speed up around 200 miles per hour.
Pickleball: Players take advantage of pop-up dinks to hit the ball hard at their opponents.
NASCAR: David Spade, James Franco, the Rascal Flatts band, Martina McBride, Michael Jordan, Reba McEntire, Tom Cruise, Kevin Costner
Pickleball: Everyone else in Hollywood
NASCAR: STP Motor Oil
Pickleball: Hyland’s Leg Cramps
NASCAR: Carbon fiber seats that are form fitting to the driver.
Pickleball: A paddle prototype with an open throat near the handle.
Suitable for indoors?
NASCAR: Absolutely not
Pickleball: Depends who you ask