NASCAR fan driven to tell outsiders, ‘NASCAR is more than going in circles’


Shelby Foster

Jan Davis works in the Atlanta Motor Speedway gift shop where she sells merchandise to NASCAR-crazed fans like her. Davis has been a NASCAR fan for 51 years and enjoys when fans come into the gift shop to tell her about “their” driver.

Fans drive from all over the country to watch their favorite drivers compete for the coveted checkered flag at NASCAR races. Without the fans, there would be no grandstands echoing with cheers of joy and jeers of defeat.

She became a lifelong NASCAR fan after her father drove his tractor 15 miles from nearby Fayetteville to Hampton to help grade the land for the speedway.

— Staff Writer Ashton Long

Atlanta Motor Speedway is home to one such fan, Jan Davis. Davis has been a NASCAR fan for 51 years. She became a lifelong NASCAR fan after her father drove his tractor 15 miles from nearby Fayetteville to Hampton to help grade the land for the speedway.

The earliest memory Davis has of the Atlanta Motor Speedway starts with her father bringing her, then six years old, in the car with him. She remembers her father letting her sit on his lap, putting her hands, covered by her father’s, over the steering wheel and driving into turns 1 and 2 at over 100 mph. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘Oh wow, this is great’,” Davis said. Her mother and brothers were crying as her dad “floorboarded” their green Mercury with his hand out the window.

Although Davis grew up with the track, she really knows what NASCAR is all about. The fans. The drivers. And nice, clean racing.

“I was raised in the generation that was different than it is now, so my main thing is for the drivers,” Davis said. “I want you to put on a good show, but I want you to do it with moral and values. ‘Cause this sport has always had morals and values.”

Ashton Long
Jan Davis stands next to her favorite “young gun” Erik Jones driver of the No. 20 for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Davis is looking forward to the Sunday race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Feb. 25.

Davis values drivers who treat their fans with respect and understanding. NASCAR fans are a crucial component in the NASCAR world and Davis believes if drivers lack the right amount of fans, they can easily be dropped out of the spotlight and replaced by a different driver.

Davis loves NASCAR for the good entertainment and how it helped bring her up and it is for these reasons Davis believes morals and values play an essential role in NASCAR’s culture.

“If you start showing out, [NASCAR] will get rid of you,” Davis said. “They do not need you. You need NASCAR. That is just the way it is. They can get someone else to drive that car. They may pay you $20 but they can get someone [else] to drive that car.”

Davis likes to see “cars be cars.” Having been involved at the track ever since a young age, she remembers the simpler days of NASCAR. She prefers cars to be made out of metal and steel compared to fiberglass, which is what today’s cars are made of.

Davis believes the rules of NASCAR have become too extensive as she longs for the the simpler times in NASCAR.

“Just simplify, don’t keep addin’, don’t take away,” Davis said. “Don’t get hard so the fans can’t follow it.”

For about 30 years now, Davis has been working on her daughter to watch NASCAR as well as other people she has met. However, they just do not get the sport. She believes in bringing fans into NASCAR, you need to drag that person into the grandstands at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Davis believes that no one is going to understand NASCAR if you watch it on television as much as getting the hands-on experience Davis has been getting her whole life.

Feel the whole experience of it. You cannot get that experience on TV. If you are coming for the first time, you need to be out there…

— Atlanta Motor Speedway employee and lifelong NASCAR fan Jan Davis

“Fan experience is like hands-on for me. You gotta get out there and get amongst [the fans],” Davis said. “Feel the whole experience of it. You cannot get that experience on TV. If you are coming for the first time, you need to be out there and just watch.”

With Davis’s expertise and experience in NASCAR, she has a perfect and favorite race. Davis’s perfect race would have her “future husband,” Carl Edwards, returning and driving for all the future races to come, minus any wrecks. In addition, her favorite race was the 1992 Sprint Cup series at the Atlanta Motor Speedway when the grandstands were filled with 200,000 people to watch Richard Petty’s retirement race along with Jeff Gordon’s first race. She remembers that it took her eight hours for her to get home, but was fortunate enough to grow up in that generation, “when cars were cars, not fiberglass.”

She believes a lot of these rising “young guns” are going to get their feelings hurt. She knows, these “young guns” are not going to get the respect they want on the track from the veteran drivers this year. From her background in NASCAR, Davis recognizes that they have talent and will be able to roll with the punches.

“[The veteran drivers] will race you hard,” Davis said. “You better earn it in this sport.”

Any fan coming to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend needs to stop by the gift shop and have a real racing conversation with Davis.  But be warned, she is not afraid to tell it like it is.

“There is no grey area for me. It is either black or white,” Davis said. “I am straight forward with it. I know what I like and I know what I don’t like. I like to know what makes [NASCAR] run.”