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Sunday MoneySpeed! Lust! Madness! Death! A Hot Lap Around America with Nascar
By Jeff MacGregor
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Jeff MacGregor
All right reserved.
This is a book about our year on the road, my wife and me, chasing NASCAR. In a motorhome.
No matter which quiet corner of America you inhabit, you've heard of NASCAR by now, and of its meteoric rise to sporting and economic prominence; hottest show on the continent, The Great Inescapable, the 200-mile-an-hour platinum-plated V-8-powered Stars and Stripes hero machine. The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing: a multibillion-dollar crossover sports entertainment empire set suddenly and squarely at the confluence of popular culture and politics and commerce and mythology.
For longtime fans of stock-car racing this wild success comes as no surprise. It was only a matter of time before everybody caught on to how sensational this whole million-horsepower traveling tent and revival deal really is, a boom sport in a bad time. And once television got hold of it, well, its coast-to-coast and border-to-border and top-tobottom-line triumph became almost inevitable.
The casual fan, though, the nonfan, the anti-fan, thinks: How did this happen? It's the dullest thing I've ever seen! Cars driving in a circle! For four hours! It's barely a sport! Thedrivers aren't even athletes!
So you go to bed one night confident in your convictions and certain that everything's as it's always been in this stick-and-ball world. Next morning you wake up and while you're blowing the hot off that first cup of coffee, some statistician, some sportscaster, some condescending pop-cult socioanthropology stooge is online or on the air or on the front page telling you that NASCAR now has 75 million fans; ardent, ravenous fans, a quarter of our entire national population, more fans than Turkey has Turks or Great Britain Brits, and that no sport anywhere in the entire unhappy history of the world has ever grown so far so fast and that if there's a higher per-event attendance figure anywhere in the sports universe he/she hasn't found it yet, and that this year alone Americans are going to spend something close to $2 billion-with-a-B dollars on NASCAR-licensed gear like hats and jackets and souvenir shot glasses that read "Drive it like you stole it!"
A circle! Four hours! On top of which, NASCAR Dad gets to elect the president.
While you were sleeping, stock-car racing became America's national pastime and baseball crawled up under the house to die.
No matter where in America you try to hide from it, there it is, NASCAR, spooling out its story, making its case, thumping its tub, selling itself 24/7/365 on every flat surface in America.
Athletes or not, there are the drivers, the clear-eyed heroes, Rushmore-jawed and implacable, giving you the gunfighter squint from the magazine rack at the checkout stand. They glare down from those billboards out on the bypass, stare out from the weekly four-color insert in your local paper, smile back at you from a thousand boxes of three-for-a-buck mac-and-cheese on aisle 7. From the 10-foot 12-pack sudsweiser pyramid at the Pump 'n Run to the PS2 on your JVC to the bestseller stacks of your big-box bookstore, they are everywhere.
The cars, too, all that sleek Dee-troit iron, sculpted and sexy and not so vaguely threatening, tattooing your candy bars and your condiments, your waterproof grout and your frozen waffles.
And every one of us, from Maine to Mission Beach, is in on it, whether we chose to be or not. You can't opt out, even if you want to, even if you're stuck in neutral, even if you're among that handful of benighted citizens not yet in receipt of the glorious message of NASCAR's commercial and cultural revelations, even if you're one of those people who by God think it's all just noxious monotony and hillbilly cliche and hayseed blood sport. Fine by me, brother, but you're still a paying customer. Go to your kitchen cabinets right now, your refrigerator, your medicine chest, your nightstand, your garage, your cluttered hall closet and find a dozen dozen products proudly branded and cross-pollinated with that NASCAR stamp. Your batteries and your beer, your cookies and your corn flakes are probably running the low groove in this week's race. Your last oil change or pack of smokes or dip of chew paid for some racer's shocks or valve springs or cylinder head. You bought someone an illegal magnesium intake manifold last week when you signed up for broadband. That last 'scrip the urologist scribbled for your, um, "erectile dysfunction" meds paid a portion of Mark Martin's qualifying run at New Hampshire or Richmond or Vegas. How'd Mark Martin do this weekend? How'd you do? You're part of a hard-charging All-American NASCAR race team now, mister! Or at least a part of that hard-charging All-American hard-on ad budget.
So this is a book about NASCAR. Stories about cars and heroes and money and fame. Stories about racing, of course, and about brilliant machines and solid men and splendid women and noise and speed and glory and death. Stories about how the sport died that day with Dale Earnhardt and was born again in the very same instant. This is the story of a hundred stories, long and short, comic and tragic, sacred and profane.
It is the story of what my wife the Beep (Brilliant, Beautiful Partner) and I saw and heard on a hot lap of America, the year we crossed the breadth of the country 10 times in 10 months, shuttled up and down the East Coast for entire calendar pages and drew smooth arcs and sawteeth across every battered roadmap we had -- 47,649 miles by the time we got back. More than three hundred nights on the road. Nearly a hundred auto races big and small ...
Excerpted from Sunday Money by Jeff MacGregor Copyright © 2006 by Jeff MacGregor. Excerpted by permission.
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