BEHIND THE WALL by Richard M. Huff


A Season on the NASCAR Circuit
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 The high-octane world of stock-car racing and the planning, preparation, and mechanical wizardry that go on behind the scenes are given a rather bland and repetitious treatment here by Daily Variety correspondent Huff. Huff follows owner Billy Hagan's team, including driver Terry Labonte, on the 1991 National Association for Stock Car Racing (NASCAR) tour. The circuit includes 30 races at speedways across the country as big-name drivers like Richard Perry, Darrell Waltrip, and Davey Allison vie for the Winston Cup in a season-long quest decided by total points won at individual races. Sponsored by Sunoco, Hagan's once-successful team experienced personnel and technical problems from the season-opening Daytona 500 (the ``Super Bowl'' of NASCAR) to the frustrating finale at the Hardee's 500 in Atlanta. As Huff repeatedly shows, Labonte, the 1984 Winston Cup champion, had little use for his crew or management. He complained at race after race that Hagan's cars were either `` the rear end...would lose contact with the track,'' too tight, too old and outmoded, or simply not ``set up'' properly to keep pace. With the almost weekly rule changes regarding the timing of pit stops and tire changes, and the usual problems of mechanics and accidents, the Hagan crew faced bitter dissension plus numerous equipment and design failures. Everyone from tire-changers to Sunoco's president had an opinion as to where to lay the blame for the team's mediocre performance (Labonte captured only one pole position all year and finished in the top five but once), culminating in crew chief Steve Loyd's replacement. While that change helped a little, it came too late, as Labonte, who found every excuse simply to park the car, finished 18th in the Winston Cup rankings. Stock-car racing would seem rich in dramatic possibilities, but Huff never gets this entry out of first gear. (Illustrations- -not seen.)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-929387-66-X
Page count: 240pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1992