Wide Open: Days and Nights on the NASCAR Tour

Overview

Wide Open looks at one full year on the NASCAR circuit as it's never been examined before. This book explores the life, the loves, the blood feuds of the stars, the grunts, the drivers, the mechanics, the wives, the girlfriends, the moneymen - everyone and anyone who makes things happen. Assael chronicles the travels of three particular racers - Bobby Hamilton, Dave Marcis, and Brett Bodine - as they struggle through a thirty-one race season. He takes us on the political campaign trail with Richard Petty, into ...
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Overview

Wide Open looks at one full year on the NASCAR circuit as it's never been examined before. This book explores the life, the loves, the blood feuds of the stars, the grunts, the drivers, the mechanics, the wives, the girlfriends, the moneymen - everyone and anyone who makes things happen. Assael chronicles the travels of three particular racers - Bobby Hamilton, Dave Marcis, and Brett Bodine - as they struggle through a thirty-one race season. He takes us on the political campaign trail with Richard Petty, into Flossie Johnson's kitchen where she tells what it was like to live with and be left by the legendary Junior Johnson, and into the fascinating and heartrending realm of Bobby Allison's broken dreams.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With its roots in the moonshine country of the Carolina hills, NASCAR racing has evolved into a multimillion-dollar business with an annual awards ceremony held at the Waldorf-Astoria and offices in New York City. NASCAR traces its beginning to 1947 when William France Sr. invited 35 race-track promoters to a meeting in Daytona Beach, Fla., and formed the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. As described by Assael, a writer for ESPN magazine, the sport grew steadily over the next several decades and was propelled into the big time in the early 1980s when the broadcast networks and various cable channels began to air stock-car racing on a regular basis. In his look at the world of NASCAR, Assael focuses on the 1996 Winston Cup tour and gives a vivid account of the brutal toll racing takes on drivers, crews and their families. The author gives a race-by-race account of the 1996 tour and notes that nearly every event features a "wreck" that injures at least one driver. In addition to the physical demands of the sport, Assael shows the pressures team owners face in trying to find sponsors who have the resources to back these expensive operations. Far from being a gossipy tell-all, this is a solid, exciting account of what is one of the most popular and fastest-growing sports in the country. Photos not seen by PW. (Feb.)
Library Journal
The author, a senior writer for ESPN Magazine, follows three racersBrett Bodine ("the businessman"), Dave Marcis ("the old-timer"), and Bobby Hamilton ("the hungry racer")as they compete in a season of NASCAR Winston Cup races. Though finely tuned engines, aerodynamic designs, fast tracks, and violent collisions are chronicled at length, it is the business side of the sport that dominates the discussion. Like the family farm, local racing teams have fallen victim to the corporate takeover trend. Thus, when NASCAR opened its Manhattan office, it signaled a shift in its image as a regional mecca for redneck recreation to a national pastime on a par with major league baseball, the National Basketball Association, and the National Football League. This work is similar in scope to Richard Huff's Behind the Wall (Bonus, 1992) and as thorough as Peter Golenbock's American Zoom (LJ 7/93). Recommended for hardcore fans.William H. Hoffman, Ft. Myers-Lee Cty. P.L., Fla.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780756777500
  • Publisher: DIANE Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 6/28/2004
  • Pages: 335
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Shaun Assael, a former New York City criminal justice reporter, is a senior writer for ESPN Magazine. His work has appeared in such places as Esquire, the Village Voice, New York magazine, and Smart Money.
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Read an Excerpt

The Daytona International Speedway is quiet when the caravan of trailers start arriving. Without people to bother them, seagulls nest in the infield grass. The air is clean; the overpowering smell of seared rubber hasn't yet settled in. There are no low-hanging clouds, mixing car exhaust with the smoke from a thousand greasy grills.

The arrival of the eighteen-wheelers, in a carnival of color-drenched logos, marks the unofficial start of the season. For the next eleven months they'll be traveling around the country together like a giant medicine revival, selling speed as the salvation for all that ails. Unlike other sports, which put down roots in a place then live there over long seasons, the speed people don't stay in one place for long. Every week they're somewhere else, trying to solve the mystery of how to bleed two-hundredths of a second more out of a car....

Because it is a sport of old lineage and trades passed from one generation to the next, sons follow fathers and brothers follow one another. Among the dozens of multicolored cars spilling out onto the speedway for the first Winston Cup practice of the 1996 season, two were piloted by Bodines. For Brett Bodine, the baby-faced, thirty-seven-year-old middle brother of the upstate New York racing clan, it was more than the start of a new season. It was the start of a new life. Over the winter, he'd bought the last pieces of Junior Johnson's faded empire, allowing the white-haired legend to retire to the North Carolina mountains that made him famous. Every penny Brett had was riding on the gamble that he could make it on his own.

Feeling out the track, he veered down from the edge of the front stretch, takingan arc that resembled the flying patterns of the seagulls looping over the grandstands, until he was inside the first turn. It rose over him like an asphalt tidal wave, but to keep from getting lost in it, Brett stayed low, waiting for the mouth of the backstretch to appear so he could go throttle-down. When it's for real, it's called going WFO: wide fuckin' open. But this was just practice, so he dove back up and eased into the backstretch, letting it disappear beneath him at a calm 170 mph.

Then, quite suddenly and unexpectedly, Brett felt his legs beginning to bake. His heart tightened when he saw the source: flames snaking out from under the engine. Racers can walk away from catapulting crashes, but if there's one thing that scares them to death, it's fire. It's the one thing they can't outrun. Going into the fourth turn, he leaned hard into the brake, but it did no good because the flames had burned through the lines.

"I got a fire, I got a fire," he radioed, measuring his panic as the flames, being fed by the speed, began eating through the floorboard. He needed time to think, a way to get the car stopped. That's when he reached for the red lever by the driver's seat and sent fire-retardant dust spraying through the cockpit.

Coughing and blinded and still traveling at three times the normal speed limit, Brett threw his Ford into reverse in the hope it might lock the brakes, but nothing happened. That's when he realized he'd have to crash the damn thing to stop it.
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