Read an Excerpt
Speed, Guts, & Glory100 Unforgettable Moments in NASCAR History
By Joe Garner
WARNER BOOKSCopyright © 2006 Garner Creative Concepts, Inc.
All right reserved.
IntroductionEver since my first book, We Interrupt This Broadcast, in 1998, I have been exploring the historical pop-culture landscape of America. In that book, and in the eight that have followed, I have chronicled the nation's landmark events in broadcast news, sports, television, famous films, and comedy, employing a multimedia approach that brings together text and photographs with archival audio, video, and film. It has been gratifying that these books have done well on the shelves, but more gratifying still to hear from hundreds of readers, teachers, and librarians who have told me that my work has managed to "bring history to life." I'm lucky enough to have been able to turn a genuine passion into a career and to share that passion with others.
So why NASCAR?
The story of NASCAR racing is little more than six decades old. It's a homegrown American sport that had its modest beginnings, just after World War II, in the rural Southeast, where bootleggers and farmers dueled each other in souped-up jalopies on dirt tracks for nothing but bragging rights and pocket money. Today, those backwoods tracks have become mammoth superspeedways, the rambling wrecks have given way to technologically advanced, custom-built monster machines, and daredevil drivers now risk their lives at speeds of more than 200 mph in pursuit of billionsin sponsorship, merchandising, and prize money. By any measure, NASCAR's growth has been phenomenal.
Yet the sport remains steeped in the traditions, values, and ideals of its origins. Among the hundreds of thousands that pack the grandstands on race weekends are scores of families, sometimes two and three generations' worth, for whom racing is as much a tradition as church on Sunday. Ask yourself, what other professional sport begins each event with a prayer before the national anthem? NASCAR is a major cultural phenomenon no matter how you cut it.
There is nothing quite like the experience of a NASCAR race. It's a total assault on the senses. If you're lucky enough to have attended one, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you haven't, there's really no way to adequately describe it.
As my friend and long-time NASCAR enthusiast Lynnsey Guerrero pointed out, it's difficult to make the experience sound the least bit enjoyable. The crowds are enormous. Parking is impossible. You have to get to the track long before the race begins or you run the risk of missing the start altogether. If you don't leave before the checkered flag falls, you'll be stuck in traffic for hours. And of course, it's chest-rattlingly, earsplittingly loud! But no first-timer leaves the track unchanged. Once you've been baptized in sweat and the smell of gasoline and the thunder of forty-three 800-horsepower engines, you're a fan for life.
And simply put, there's no fan like a NASCAR fan. Unique in professional sports is the almost familial bond between NASCAR's stars and the folks in the stands. To the fans, these drivers are bona fide American heroes, but they aren't a breed apart; often they seem as familiar as a brother, an uncle, or a neighbor down the street. Why? Because they're approachable. From the moment they step out of their luxury motor homes until they climb into their cars, NASCAR drivers are mingling with the crowd, shaking hands and chatting with well-wishers, posing for pictures, signing autographs. There are no crowd barriers to scale, no security details to breach. Every fan can rub elbows with the greats. Imagine standing at the free-throw line at the Staples Center before a big game, walking up to Kobe Bryant, and saying, "Hey, Kobe, when you're done shooting, would you mind signing my ball?" It would never happen. But it happens all the time in NASCAR. And the fans repay the favor in unswerving loyalty-to their favorite drivers and to the sport as a whole. Such unfettered access is a huge part of NASCAR's success, and everyone associated with the sport knows it, accepts it, and embraces it.
So, "why NASCAR?" Because the sport is now woven into our pop culture. With its rich history and colorful characters, its grand traditions and thrilling moments, NASCAR has become part of our national mythology. And if you are among the NASCAR faithful who regularly attend the races or those who are grateful for the television coverage, this book is for you.
From the moment I began working on Speed, Guts, and Glory, you, the fans, were foremost in my mind. I wanted to create a book that put you trackside to relive some of the greatest moments in NASCAR history. I wanted to make it fun to read and to illustrate it with compelling and dramatic photographs. I also wanted you to be able to experience the sights, sounds, and thrills of NASCAR by including race footage on the DVD. Not only will you read about Richard Petty and David Pearson colliding at the 1976 Daytona 500, the razor-thin door-to-door finish of Kurt Busch and Ricky Craven at Darlington in 2003, and the biggest of the bone-jarring "Big Ones" at Talladega in 2005, you'll also be able to watch them, along with many other high-speed, fender-bending, metal-swapping, second-splitting thrills from NASCAR's glorious history.
Selecting the moments to include in Speed, Guts, and Glory wasn't easy. There are 100 stories here, the most I have ever included in any of my books. I chose them based on what I believe fans hope for in a race: exciting door-to-door finishes; unexpected come- from-behind victories; daring performances by racing's dominant drivers; and crashes, as long as everybody walks away. NASCAR and many stock car racing publications have compiled lists season after season of what they consider to be the most significant moments of each year. After culling through those lists, aided by the expert opinions of NASCAR archivist Don Smyle, writer Ryan McGee, and others, I settled on these stories. I hope you'll find some of your favorites among them. I also decided to include tribute sections dedicated to the pioneers of the sport, the Daytona 500, and Dale Earnhardt.
NASCAR Images was also instrumental in helping me select the best broadcast footage for the featured story of each chapter on the DVD.
As important as finding the right material was choosing the right host to present the ten moments highlighted on the DVD. I am thrilled that four-time NASCAR Cup champion and driver of the number 24 DuPont Chevy, Jeff Gordon, accepted my invitation. What impressed me from the start about Jeff was his genuine interest in the history of the sport. His amazing accomplishments, coupled with his knowledge, talent, and warm personality, made him the perfect choice to host the DVD. It has been an honor and a pleasure working with Jeff, his stepfather John Bickford, Jeanette Eaves, and everyone at Jeff Gordon Incorporated.
I hope this book and DVD provide you with hours of entertainment as you relive six full decades of NASCAR's legends and legendary moments-a remarkable history of speed, guts, and glory.
Enjoy the ride.
Excerpted from Speed, Guts, & Glory by Joe Garner Copyright © 2006 by Garner Creative Concepts, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
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