My Brain on NASCAR: Tax season

Cathy Elliott

Cathy Elliott

By Cathy Elliott

Wouldn’t it be great if the IRS operated more like NASCAR?

When expending a certain amount of angst, effort, or both, it seems only right and natural to expect some sort of a payoff in return. This is never more evident than during (and before, and after) tax season, which for most of us has already concluded its annual fusillade of frustration.

I once read somewhere that from January 1 through May 10 – just a little more than four months — we work for the IRS. The rest of the year, we work for ourselves, meaning that about 30 percent of our $30,000, which is roughly the average individual American’s income, goes to the government.

From May 11 through the end of the year, you are generously allowed to keep what you earn for yourself. We all work just as hard from January 1 through May 10 as we do from May 11 until the end of the year. But where’s the reward for crossing the finish line? Where’s the dessert at the end of the meal?

In the best example of “getting what’s coming to you,” some Americans do receive refund checks from the IRS. In most cases, however, all that hard-earned money just keeps on headed in the wrong direction–away from the folks who worked so hard to earn it in the first place.

I consider this unfair. Don’t you want some reward to follow your labor? This is not a political statement. Someone has to pay the bills and make it possible to keep the government up and running, and I guess that job falls to you and me. Still, I can’t help myself; I continue to wait for my year-end party, my well-defined triceps after all those sweaty hours at the gym. I want my payoff.

NASCAR gives me all these things.

It is human nature to invest oneself wholeheartedly into things that we consider necessary, important or interesting. The definition of these categories may vary from person to person, but they usually boil down to work, family and fun.

Many people take their fun just as seriously as they take their work, if not more so. NASCAR fans are a stellar example of this principle in action. Very fast action.

The Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays provide a diversion during the weeks when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck series are not actually competing. A statement like, “It’ll be nice to have a little break” uttered in mid-November, however, quickly evolves into a question in early January: How many more weeks until Daytona?

On January 1, the new year fires up its engines in earnest as we start focusing our time and attention on the upcoming season. In other words, we go to work. The sport provides us with plenty of information on drivers, teams, sponsors and paint schemes. We give back our part — sometimes a sizable one — in the form of things like race tickets, travel arrangements and new merchandise purchases.

This outflow of support extends far beyond the first four months of the season. It literally never ends. As with governmental military spending or foreign trade policies, we may not always be completely happy with the result of our expenditures (i.e. the “wrong” guy wins the race), but prevailing opinion holds that the end can justify the means. Conduct a straw poll if a certain car sporting the No. 88 concludes the day in Victory Lane this season if you don’t believe me.

After reaping the benefits of all these cool bonuses along the way, the generous refund check at the end, of course, is the Chase for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition and the ultimate crowning of a champion.

NASCAR goes to work, and we pay them to do it. In essence, we also go to work for them, and in the end they give us exactly what we want and pay us back many times over. With very rare exceptions, we consider our expenditures, of time or money or whatever they may be, worth every penny. We feel rewarded. We are happy.

What a concept. Maybe the government should consider it.

Cathy Elliott is the former director of public relations for Darlington Raceway and author of the books Chicken Soup for the Soul: NASCAR; Desktop 500; and Darlington Raceway: Too Tough to Tame. Contact her at

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