DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JANUARY 21: Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Dupont Chevrolet, signs an autograph for fan in the fan zone at Daytona International Speedway on January 21, 2011 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
For those of you who don't know, I live in Charlotte, North Carolina. Living in Charlotte, the next two weeks are better than Christmas for a NASCAR fan. All the shops are having fan days, and driver appearances are scheduled all over the greater Charlotte area. And if you're a collector of driver signatures, this is probably the best two weeks of the year to rack up a huge number of signatures.
But if you're going to go to signings, there are rules of etiquette that you should be aware of. There are a lot of people who just WILL NOT follow these rules, no matter how much they know better. So I'm going to go over some, so that if you are in Charlotte in line with me for an autograph, you don't have to deal with raging guy in a red Ford t-shirt.
RULE #1: 2 Items per trip through the line. This is the single most common rule of autograph lines. And yet so many people just choose to disregard it. When a driver is signing for an hour, and the line is a couple hundred deep, two items is more than enough. The most common offenders of this rule are the hero card eBayers. The guys who have made it so that you have to ask receptionist at the shops for hero cards because if they put the stacks out there where people could get them themselves, they'd lift the entire stack. As explained to me by Brendan Gaughan at one signing, drivers are most annoyed by these type because they take free items, get them autographed, and then sell them for 100% profit, with nothing coming back to the drivers. While with a diecast, a driver has already made a portion from the initial sale. If you have more than 2 items you want to get signed, move to the back of the line and go through again. There is no rule against it, and its the proper thing to do instead of throwing down a stack of cards a half inch thick, or a "diecast caddy" with a half dozen diecast and putting the driver on the spot.
RULE #2: If you see a driver not at a signing, please don't try to corner them. These guys are people. And who likes to be cornered by a stranger? I can understand maybe asking them for one or two things as they walk passed, but Jimmie Johnson doesn't want to sign your 12 cards, 4 diecast, the last five NEXTEL/Sprint Cup Yearbooks, all while he's trying to park his car.
RULE #3: Please know which driver you're seeing when you get there. David Ragan, and Regan Smith are two different guys. Just putting that out there.
RULE #4: If you're going through the line a second time, and someone is trying to go through the first time, let them ahead of you. This is just common courtesy. Nothing is worst than getting to a autograph signing with only a couple more minutes to go, having to watch the guys ahead of you shuffle through their stack trying to find separate the things they have gotten signed, and have not gotten signed, and not being able to get anything signed yourself. So please keep that in mind if you are going through a second time.
RULE #5: Don't pressure others to get something signed for you, or go through a second time if they don't want too. I typically only ever get one thing signed at a time. I don't collect hero cards, and the ones I get typically end up in Sophia, West Virginia. That said, if you're in line, and you have three things and ask me to take something of yours through the line when I get my one item, no problem. But if I don't feel like going through the line a second time, please let me go. Nothing is more awkward than going through a second time for someone else. Typically they will stick too you like glue because they want to make sure as soon as their items are signed, that they get them back. If someone offers to go through for you, by all means feel free to take them up on it. Just don't badger someone till they agree.
RULE #6: Don't take offense to a driver not having a conversation with you. There is a whole line of people behind you who want autographs, if the driver doesn't make a ton of eye contact, and talk to you about last weeks race, don't take it personally.
There are more rules, but these are some of the biggest, and most offended rules I see during the Charlotte speed week festivities. For the most part, please just use common sense if you go about autograph collecting, and be mindful of the fact that there are others out there who are just trying to collect as well.