NASCAR legend Waltrip (DW: A Lifetime Going Around in Circles, 2004) takes us onto the track, into the pits and behind the scenes of his racing career.
The author—a three-time winner of the NASCAR Series Cup and winner of the 1989 Daytona 500, a race he describes as NASCAR’s “Super Bowl”—was in the broadcast booth for the 2001 edition, cheering on his younger brother Michael, the eventual victor. That victory was overshadowed, however, by the death of driver Dale Earnhardt in a final-lap crash, and Waltrip’s chilling description of the race and its aftermath are the entry point into an exploration of the author’s life behind the wheel. The majority of the book covers ground familiar to readers of his previously published autobiography, including youthful car chases with the police, triumphs and failures on the track and his discovery of religious faith. Waltrip pays particular attention to his relationships with other drivers including Earnhardt, Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough, and how their battles on the track often spilled into their personal lives. The author also provides some fascinating background history on racing at Daytona, again emphasizing the dangers faced by the drivers, and the many injuries and fatalities that have taken place there and elsewhere on the racing circuit. In the end, Waltrip argues that only the death of the sport’s greatest star, Earnhardt, led to changes in NASCAR’s attitude to safety, and even then it took strong pressure from him and others to force the adoption of stronger measures by a culture that prizes the recklessness of its heroes.
An absorbing exploration of one of America’s most popular, and dangerous, sports that will be most appealing to NASCAR fans.