Why do NASCAR cars only turn left?
J.B. Morris, motorsports editor, ESPN The Magazine:
Probably because that's how they do it at Indy.
Donald Davidson, historian, Indianapolis Motor Speedway:
Racing counterclockwise definitely predates Indy. [Ed.'s note: Its inaugural race was on May 30, 1911.] The first oval event was at Narragansett Trotting Park in 1896. Electric cars racing on a horse track made left turns, like the horses did.
So why do horses turn left?
Buz McKim, NASCAR historian:
It's because horses ran clockwise in England.
You lost me, Buz.
From the beginning, our horse races were run counterclockwise, as an act of defiance against the British.
Up the rebels!
When NASCAR built its speedways, they kept the tradition.
And why do the Brits go the other way?
Owen Byrne, communications officer, British Horse Racing Authority:
We have tracks with a variety of shapes and sizes. They don't all run clockwise.
Don't the horses get confused?
I wouldn't know.
Allan Carter, historian, National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame:
There does seem to be a link between our going one way and the Brits the other.
Like that whole monarchy thing.
In fact, when August Belmont Jr., a big Anglophile, opened Belmont Park in 1905, he ran races clockwise. But there were so many protests he had to change it back.
Democracy in action!
Come to think of it, we run everything here counterclockwise: horse racing, motorsports, track, baseball. Even the earth turns left.
Why are clocks contrarian?
Nancy Dyer, librarian, National Watch & Clock Museum:
People first started keeping track of time in ancient Mesopotamia, which is in the northern hemisphere.
Will this be on the test?
In the north, the shadow on a sundial moves from left to right. Clockmakers followed suit.
So if clocks had been invented in Australia, Jimmie Johnson would be turning right?
I'm not sure how to respond.
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