By John Leaf Special to Published Nov 12, 2011 at 12:13 PM

Have you ever wondered, or wanted to know, what the acronym NASCAR stands for? Perhaps you should. Why? Because for years, NASCAR racing has been the largest single spectator sport in America. And depending on who you talk to, NASCAR either stands for "Non Athletic Sport Centered Around Rednecks" or "National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing." I'm inclined to prefer the former.

For years, and after NASCAR began in 1948, its popularity generally resided south of the Mason Dixon line. More recently, and thanks in large part to Will Ferrell, a.k.a. Ricky "El Diablo" Bobby, and the 2006 movie "Talladega Nights," NASCAR is now a part of the vocabulary of wealthy suburban teenagers, who otherwise wouldn't know a fuel pump from a fist pump. And, as Ricky Bobby says in the movie about his nickname El Diablo, "It's like, Spanish for, like, a fighting chicken."

Now if that explanation doesn't pop your clutch, I don't know what would.

If there was ever a sport and fan base that was the perfect medium for nicknames, the NASCAR scene has always been well ahead of the pack. What's not to love about a sport that can easily generate a list of nicknames like this?

Here are a few of my favorites. Some of these really wrap me around the axle, and they all deserve a wave of the checkered flag:

Joey "Sliced Bread" Logano
Ernie "Swervin Irvan" Irvan
Rusty "Rubberhead" Wallace
Ned "Gentleman Ed" Jarrett
Edwin "Banjo" Matthews
Curtis "Crawfish" Crider
Doug "Duffle Bag Doug" Richert
Matt "Matt the Bratt" Kenseth
Kenny "Herman the German" Wallace
Mike "Magic Shoes" McLaughlin
Ricky "Rooster" Rudd

In the world of NASCAR, the nickname game doesn't end at the finish line. Heck, they even nickname the racetracks. The racetrack at Darlington is nicknamed "The Lady in Black" and "The Track too Tough to Tame." They run the Daytona 500 at "The Big D." And of course the racetrack in Indianapolis is called "The Brickyard."

The car owners run a few nickname laps themselves. Roger Penske is nicknamed "The Captain." Then there's Jack "The Cat in the Hat" Roush. And owner Henry Yunick is nicknamed "Smokey."

Even the pit crews are willing to blow a few trannys in the nickname race. Jeff Gordon's pit crew is nicknamed "The Rainbow Warriors." Over in Matt Kenseth's helmet, his pit crew is nicknamed "The Killer Bees." And Greg Biffle's tire jockeys are nicknamed "The Pit Bulls."

Yep, when it comes to the crash and burn, and the shake n' bake world of NASCAR nicknames, nothing is sacred. Ricky Bobby says in Talladega Nights, "If you ain't first, you're last."

Perhaps in life, there's a reason the windshield is larger than the rear view mirror. So what's the last pit stop in all of this NASCAR nickname nonsense? As they are also found of saying in the sunburned racetrack bleachers, "If you ain't rubbin, you ain't runnin."

John Leaf Special to

John Leaf was born in western Illinois, a mile east of the Mississippi. College in Chicago. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Leaf was goalie on the soccer team and captain of the golf team in college. He cut class to ride the "L" to see Cubs games, hung out for hours at the Art Institute and bent the brain doing graduate school in Theology.

He spent three mind-blowing summers in coastal British Columbia, as a resort photographer. He worked and lived in Minneapolis. He did hard time at a bank on LaSalle Street in Chicago and learned about PR, working at big firm a block off Michigan Avenue, while living in Evanston.

Now Leaf is just living the dream, under the radar, in Cedarburg. He's passionate about nicknames and launched his website three years ago.

He dabbles in yoga and cycling. Fishtailing as always, and taking a whack at life, like everyone else.