NASCAR from a young fan's view: Life lessons gleaned from watching races

Kevin Harvick helped award scholarships at his former high school in Bakersfield, Calif. - Courtesy Kevin Harvick Inc.

Megan Leben is a 14-year-old middle school student from Georgia. The following is a commentary written from her perspective as a young, avid NASCAR fan.

When you are a kid, you are taught lessons that will help you throughout your life. But who knew they could show up in NASCAR, too?

Here are some things I've learned from NASCAR recently:

1. Never forget where you came from.

On Nov. 6, Kevin Harvick paid a visit to North High School in Bakersfield, Calif. – his alma mater. Harvick teamed up with apparel company TapouT to give $5,000 worth of uniforms and gear to the school's wrestling program, a team he was a part of while in high school. He also gave four scholarships totaling $11,000 to North High seniors who participated in an essay contest.

And when Hurricane Sandy devastated Martin Truex Jr.'s hometown of Mayetta, New Jersey, it didn't take long for Truex to organize a way to help. The Martin Truex Jr. Foundation began accepting monetary donations online and has a trailer outside of MTJ Motorsports in Mooresville, N.C. for donations of supplies. Those donations will then be distributed to citizens of Mayetta and surrounding areas.

Harvick and Truex are just two examples of how NASCAR's biggest stars demonstrate that no matter how famous you are or how much money you have, you should never forget the people who helped you get there.

2. The right choice isn't always easy.

When Dale Earnhardt Jr. told the world he would miss two races to heal from a concussion, everyone was shocked. He faced both praise and criticism for his decision – a decision that took away any hopes for a run at the championship.

Earnhardt Jr. knew if he raced with the concussion and took another hard hit, it could end his career. He chose his health over racing, which was not easy.

In doing this, he set a great example of this life lesson for young athletes. Lots of young athletes play in games when they should be healing their injuries. One day, a young athlete is going to make the decision to sit out of an important game because Earnhardt Jr. taught them the right choice isn't always easy – but it's always right.

3. It ain't over ‘til it's over!

NASCAR is the best example of "It ain't over ‘til it's over." Think of all the races where your favorite driver was leading on the last lap, but he didn't take the checkered. It could have been because of fuel mileage, a wreck or a mechanical problem. Remember last year? The Sprint Cup champion wasn't even decided until the last lap!

This lesson teaches us that you should persevere to the very end. No matter what the situation, don't assume the outcome until it is over. Why? Because the final result may be different than you expected.

4. There's no "I" in team.

Many may see NASCAR as an individual sport, but it's really made up of teams. From the engineers to the pit crew to the driver, one part couldn't function without the others. What's one of the first things you hear in a driver's Victory Lane interview? He thanks his team!

Speed's Michael Waltrip Racing: All-Access has shown it takes many people to put a car on the track on race day. The individuals are not working for themselves; they are working for the success of the team.

Whether on a sports team, in a family or at school, kids can apply this lesson. It's an important characteristic to do your part so that the team can be successful.

5. You can learn from every situation – even if it's what NOT to do!

While some may feel this past weekend's race at Phoenix had no good lessons to be learned because of the controversy, it still did. We can learn something from every situation, even if it is what not to be like.

Both teams showed bad sportsmanship by fighting, and throwing punches (or tires, as one crew member tried to do!) isn't the way to solve problems, unlike what happened on Sunday.

But what the crews showed through fighting was their loyalty to the team and their passion for NASCAR. Even though fighting isn't the right way to show it, sticking up for what you love or believe in is an excellent lesson to carry with you throughout your life.

Parents can make the Phoenix race a topic of discussion at the dinner table with their kids. Drivers represent the teams and sponsors just like children represent their families.

Kids can learn more than one lesson from this incident. Some lessons are what not to act like and some are how you should act or feel, but all of them are ones that should stick with you throughout your life.

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