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The History of NASCAR’s Most Iconic Memes

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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Memes have a unique way of binding certain niches, cultures, fandoms, and any other group together through a shared interest or inside joke. NASCAR is no different, and it has had its’ fair share of interesting memes throughout its history. They have come from many different places, but what is the history of some of NASCAR’s most iconic memes?

On-Track Memes

Of course, the best place for NASCAR memes to begin is on the race track itself. Some patterns have developed on the race track that many have taken for incredible jokes on social media, and here are a few of them.

Thanks, Ross

This meme took different forms from “Thanks Ross” to getting “Chastain’d”, and it stemmed from numerous on-track incidents involving Ross Chastain. Throughout the 2022 and 2023 seasons, Ross Chastain won a few races, but he also made a lot of enemies thanks to causing a lot of crashes. This reared its ugly head in 2023 when Chastain wrecked a lapped car at Dover and wrecked with Kyle Larson while racing for the lead at Darlington. Chastain has cooled some since, but people still jokingly blamed him for completely unrelated incidents. Chastain laughed it off mostly.

Denny Hamlin Smile Mask

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, NASCAR drivers were required to wear masks when they got out of their race cars. Some decided to get very creative, and Denny Hamlin got even more creative by putting his own smile on his face mask. The mask gained notoriety on social media after Hamlin won a race at Darlington in May of 2020. The mask he wore eventually found its’ way to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Wrecky Spinhouse

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has had a reputation for wrecking a lot of equipment since he was taken out of his Xfinity Series ride with Jack Roush in 2009 for wrecking too many cars. His reputation, fair or not, preceded him to the NASCAR Cup Series, and his nickname of “Wrecky Spinhouse” came from Kyle Busch on an NBC rain delay, who has been on the wrong end of a Stenhouse Jr. wreck more than once. To this day, people bring this up whenever Stenhouse Jr. crashes.

Vortex Theory

Whenever it is about to rain at a race track, fans immediately bring up the vortex theory. The theory’s origin is uncertain, but one of its most ardent believers is none other than Darrell Waltrip. The theory goes that getting cars going around the race track causes a “vortex” that keeps rain away or it creates so much heat that rain droplets evaporate before they hit the ground. The jury is still out about whether or not it is actually true.

Kyle Busch Reaction Images

Kyle Busch has an…interesting…relationship with the media, and his media availability moments have become very memeable. Here are a few of the most popular memes from Kyle Busch’s funniest reactions.

“Thumbs Up”

When people try to put some spice on a sarcastic comment, they add the Kyle Busch thumbs up picture. However, where did this meme come from? It came from Kyle Busch at the Bristol Xfinity Series Night Race in 2019 when an engine failure ended his race after leading 137 of the first 171 laps. His post-race interview ended with him giving this iconic thumbs up.

Crying Face

Another iconic Kyle Busch camera moment is his crying face. Fans have since made a meme about this primarily because Kyle Busch has a reputation amongst some for being a “crybaby”. Others do it just to explain thoughts when someone is upset for no good reason. However, the meme originated from Kyle Busch’s post-race interview from the iconic Overton’s 400 finish at Chicagoland Speedway.

Blank Stare

Is there a blanker stare in NASCAR than Kyle Busch? There are plenty of images going around on the Internet depicting Kyle Busch and his blank stare when people try to show their displeasure at something. The most famous one comes from after a crash at Atlanta in 2022, when Busch gave short, one-word answers with the same, straight-faced expression the entire time.

Movie Quotes

Movie quotes can become statements that we say in everyday culture. In NASCAR, it is no different as different movie quotes have become synonymous with racing despite not originating in the NASCAR garage. Here are some movie quotes that have become iconic NASCAR memes.

Days of Thunder: “Rubbin is Racin'”

In NASCAR, one of the aspects that makes the sport unique is the contact between cars. It’s something that you do not see in other motorsports, and you often will hear NASCAR fans say “Rubbin’ is Racin'”. However, that quote actually originated from the movie Days of Thunder starring Tom Cruise. To this day, it encapsulates NASCAR in a unique way.

Talladega Nights: “Shake and Bake”

This weekend when the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Talladega, you will hear the phrase “Shake and Bake” when two cars based on the movie find themselves on the track. This originates from Talladega Nights where Ricky Bobby and Cal Naughton Jr. are teammates, and their catchphrase is none other than “Shake and Bake”.

Talladega Nights: “I’m on Fire…Help me, Jesus! Help me, Jewish God! Help me, Allah! Help me, Oprah Winfrey!”

Whenever a race car is on fire during a race with everyone being okay, you may hear someone say help me to virtually every deity they can. Well, this comes again from Talladega Nights where Ricky Bobby acts like he is on fire after a terrible crash at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Here, he begs for help from anyone who will hear him to help put out a non-existent fire.

Talladega Nights: Commercial Break

NASCAR is famous or infamous depending on your perspective for the sheer amount of advertising. Not only that, but the amount of commercials that happen during a race. Some of that is earned, but some of that also comes from Talladega Nights, where an incredibly long crash ends with an Applebee’s commercial.

YouTube Memes: RawGator

Some memes have originated from YouTube thanks to one interesting NASCAR YouTuber, RawGator. RawGator has almost 180 videos on his channel dedicated to memeable commentator statements and movie quotes. Here are a few of his most iconic.

“Keep Your Foot in It”

RawGator depicted multiple Jeff Gordon crashes with the commentator overlay being Darrell Waltrip screaming “Keep your foot in it AHHHHHH!”. Well, this originates from the 2009 All-Star Race, when Gordon was in a three-way battle for the lead when he spun into the grass and then into the outside wall. D.W., take it away!

“Brad Keselowski won this race”

RawGator remixed various Brad Keselowski wins with the commentary being Larry McReynolds saying, “Brad Keselowski won this race!” Well, this came from Brad Keselowski’s first win when he turned Carl Edwards on the frontstretch heading to the finish line. McReynolds seemingly said it solely to make sure the audience knew who won as Edwards was flipping towards the finish line.

“He put him in the wall”

Once again, it was a Darrell Waltrip quote that RawGator used over multiple incidents where a driver was put into the wall. This comes from the 2010 All-Star Race where Kyle Busch was put into the wall by Denny Hamlin, causing Waltrip to make his declaration. This was so iconic, that RawGator made three videos on this quote itself.

And that is the origin of every iconic NASCAR meme. They truly come from multiple different places, and they make for some fun banter on social media. What is your favorite NASCAR meme?

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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