Autograph Etiquette: A Driver’s Perspective

June 28, 2016

 

Autograph Etiquette:
A Driver's Perspective


By Frank Velat
 

Imagine, as unlikely as it may be, a scenario. You show up for work tomorrow. In the parking lot, you are approached by a handful of people. They have pictures of you, diecast models of your car, or t-shirts that resemble your work uniform. They hold the items out as you walk past, asking you to sign them. You oblige as many as you can without making yourself late. As you walk away, some of those missed mutter rude comments about how important you must think you are. You head up to your workstation. Every path you take is lined with people here and there, holding items, requesting they be signed. Again, you do your best to scribble on as many as you can. Some look at the signature and beam with joy. Others mention their inability to read it.
 

Later, as the time for you to move to another work area approaches, you notice the crowd gathering outside the door. They peek in constantly, and it's obvious they are growing impatient waiting for you to emerge.
 

Welcome to the Sharpie filled world of NASCAR superstardom.
 

Most drivers sign more autographs now than ever before in the past. Nearly every fan who attends an event seeks to get one.  Sometimes it feels like the driver's duties each weekend include signing autographs. We've all seen the stars of NASCAR mobbed with diecast and hero card toting crowds on race weekend.
 

For the most part, the drivers don't mind, or at the very least, if they do mind, they hide it well. But how does one get their prized signature without coming across like a rabid gold digger?
 

Recently, I had the pleasure of discussing this topic with Noah Gragson, K&N Pro Series and a member of the NASCAR Next Class of 2016 driver of the SPEEDVEGAS/ AlertID Ford.  Noah shared some of his thoughts on when might be a good time (or a not so good time) to approach a driver.

"Personally, I like interacting with the fans no matter if I just won the race or crash on lap 1," he says. "Other drivers, not so much." Noah adds "Timing is everything." So, for the fans who want to access a not-so-interaction-eager driver, when exactly is the right time? "A right time for an autograph is at any autograph session or if you see the driver having alone time." As for the wrong time to approach a driver, Noah seems to understand this situation from both perspectives. "Seeing from the outside in, I would find it somewhat disrespectful for one to ask for an autograph while the person is eating, talking with their team, or doing an interview. This goes back to timing." Seems simple enough.
 

I would recommend only imagining a role reversal, similar to my opening situation involving your job. If you were in that firesuit, would you be bothered or annoyed? Sometimes, it won't be all that easy to tell.
 

Noah provides an oft-forgotten point. "You must remember that the driver has several things to do during his busy day." Let's say a driver is power walking through the garage area. Is he late for the drivers' meeting? Perhaps he's hungry. Maybe he just likes to walk more quickly than the average person. No one expects fans to be able to read every situation entirely. But let your common sense keep you out of any situations that a driver obviously isn't interested in being approached.
 

If your favorite competitor pulls into the garage with a damaged car and angrily tosses their helmet upon exiting, I'd sincerely hope you and any other nearby fans would give that driver their space. We all have bad days. Understand that a driver who doesn't seem thrilled to sign for you may be upset about something else entirely. They don't intend to come across as rude, but it's possible that they can't help it at that moment.

So, as a competitor, what would Noah like to see from his autograph-seeking fans? "I would love if every fan who wants an autograph would just come up and ask. I'm a very open person and would love to spend time with each and every fan. Sometimes I am busy, but I love talking to fans and signing their gear." Drivers like Noah understand that for many fans, an autograph is an ultimate prize. A chance to have a tangible way to show others that they had a brief but meaningful encounter with a NASCAR personality. Fans should seek to have this experience if they so desire.

Nearly everyone involved in the sport jots down their signature and poses for a picture hundreds of times each weekend. Generally, they are happy to do so. Catering to fans are a big reason that NASCAR has grown to the level of popularity that it now has. So the next time you see Noah Gragson or any other NASCAR star, ask for an autograph.


Just do your best to make sure that the time is right.

What do you think?  We would love to have your opinon in the comment section below!

 

See you at the track!

~Frank

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Frank Velat has been an avid follower of NASCAR and other motorsports for over 20 years. He brings a blend of passionate fan and objective author to his work. Frank offers unique perspectives that everyone can relate to, remembering the sport's past all the while embracing its future. Follow along with @FrankVelat on Twitter.

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