NASCAR racing, once considered no more than a regional circuit of moonshiners pounding around low-country dirt tracks in a cloud of red dust and cliché, has somehow become America's fastest-growing spectator sport. With 75 million ardent fans, it is a sports entertainment empire built at the very crossroads of pop culture, corporate commerce, and American mythology -- a platinum-plated, V-8 hero machine.
Smart, funny, and profane, Sunday Money is the kaleidoscopic account of a season on the NASCAR circuit. Driving 48,000 miles in a tiny motor home, Jeff MacGregor and his wife tracked the lives of superstar drivers like Junior Earnhardt and Tony Stewart, their crews, and their fans across the grinding reach of a 40-week season.
More than just a behind-the-scenes chronicle of America's loudest pastime, Sunday Money is the story of a hundred stories, of red states and blue, of splendid Rebels and Yankee hotshoes. It is a brilliant snapshot of American culture -- of race, religion, class, sex, money, and fame -- taken from the window of a moving car.
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Author Jeff MacGregor was committed to understanding NASCAR, so instead of merely dropping in on a race or two, he traveled the nearly yearlong season in an RV with his wife, photographer Olya Evanitsky. The result is many books in one. It's a vivid history of the sport's roots, as it grows from a rowdy way for Florida good ol' boys to blow off steam to being a titan of American culture with a fan base of 75 million. It also covers a broad swath of personalities within NASCAR--from the widely loved and even more widely loathed driver Jeff Gordon to the iconic Richard Petty to Dale Earnhardt, whose mythic power grew exponentially after his death at Daytona (death is never far from anyone’s mind in NASCAR). Finally, Sunday Money is a memoir--MacGregor chronicles exactly what life is like when a married couple blows their savings on a massive RV and logs 48,000 miles within the blasting radius of race after race after race.
MacGregor is funny, and it's interesting to watch how a man skeptical of the sport's allure at the beginning of the adventure is sucked in as the story goes along. As a writer, he's in no hurry, knocking off several paragraphs in the interest of a single whimsical analogy if he sees fit. Much of the time the diversions hit the mark, (sometimes they don't) and it's nice to see an editor let a talented writer like MacGregor run loose. NASCAR loyalists may enjoy the behind-the-scenes scoop even if they don't necessarily need to be introduced to who the drivers are. But non-fans who have been wondering why racing has become so huge so fast, may understand a little better after reading Sunday Money. It's a huge book, a massive sprawling narrative, but for a sport that is active nearly every weekend of the year and is growing ever larger and more successful, the length seems perfect. --John Moe
|Photos from the Sunday Money 2002 NASCAR Tour|
NASCAR star Jeff Gordon autographs for fans
Tony Stewart wins the NASCAR Winston Cup
Fans pack the stands for the Pepsi 400
NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Ward Burton's car pits mid-race during the NAPA 500
Cars race around the track in Charlotte
|Jeff MacGregor's Top Ten Tips for Your First NASCAR Race|
9. Night race? Bring ear plugs, hat, beer goggles.
8. At Daytona and Talladega, there’s no such thing as too much sunblock. SPF 45. Apply liberally. Repeat, as needed, until you slip from your seat like a watermelon seed.
7. Yes, NASCAR is expanding everywhere and very fast, but effortful puns on the word Madagascar will only lead to embarrassment.
6. Your copy of Sunday Money is an excellent conversation starter for making new friends at the track. Thanks to its quilted cover, it also doubles as a comfy seat-cushion and a stylish windshield sun-screen.
5. Drivers cannot hear you yelling encouragement from the 58th row when they’re actually lapping the track. This will not stop the high school kid behind you from doing so.
4. Like room service Eggs Benedict, the Jumbo Grilled Turkey Legs at any racetrack always sound far better than they are. Avoid them. Let them thrive in the happy hunger of your imagination, rather than deliver their sad reality to your somersaulting innards. Life bears enough disappointments.
3. Women, despite the signs you’ll see in the third turn campground, there’s no such thing as a "Free Trackside Mammogram." Don’t let the Mardi Gras beads fool you; there are shockingly few accredited radiologists working the infield on race weekend.
2. All-purpose, all-context catch phrase guaranteed to make a NASCAR newbie sound like an old hand? "Go, Junior!" Appropriate any time!
1. If your tailgate margarita machine doesn’t make at least ten horsepower on the blender-drink dyno, don’t bother. Go big, baby, or don’t go.
NASCAR racing, once considered no more than a regional circuit of moonshiners pounding around low-country dirt tracks in a cloud of red dust and cliché, has somehow become the fastest-growing spectator sport in America -- and the buxom, bumpkin darling of Madison Avenue. With 75 million fans and its popularity soaring in every corner of the country, NASCAR is a 200-mile-an-hour traveling tent-and-revival show, a platinum-plated, multibillion-dollar V-8 hero machine -- a sports entertainment empire built at the very crossroads of pop culture, corporate commerce, and American mythology.
Smart, funny, and profane, Sunday Money is the kaleidoscopic account of an entire season on the NASCAR circuit. Driving 48,000 miles in a tiny motorhome, writer Jeff MacGregor and his wife, an award-winning photographer, covered 36 races at 23 tracks in 18 states, from Daytona to Darlington, New Hampshire to California, from the Wal-Mart to the Waldorf, profiling the lives of superstar drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart, their crews, and their fans, across the grinding reach of a 40-week season.
But this is not just a behind-the-scenes chronicle of America's loudest pastime. It is the story of a hundred stories; of red states and blue, of splendid Rebel lizards and golden Yankee hotshoes, of mystic true believers and their holy roll of honored ghosts. In the tradition of On the Road, Travels with Charley, and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Sunday Money is a snapshot of American culture -- of race, religion, class, sex, money, politics, and fame -- taken from the window of a moving car, a brilliantly observed, keenly rendered, and darkly comic portrait of America.
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