The Frontstretch: Speed Reads: An Inside Look at Earnhardt Sr. in New Chicken Soup Book by Becca Gladden -- Thursday April 15, 2010

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Becca’s Book Review: “Chicken Soup for the Soul: NASCAR – 101 Stories of Family, Fortitude, and Fast Cars”

Authors: Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Cathy Elliott

In the forward to his book — the second NASCAR anthology under the Chicken Soup for the Soul label — Darrell Waltrip says, “the people who read the stories shared in this book will be impacted in some way.” I believe that to be true for all readers, but particularly for diehard NASCAR fans who will value this amazing collection of personal reminiscences from some of the biggest names in the sport.

The anthology is 370 pages long, divided into 12 chapters such as “Lessons Learned,” “Never Give Up,” and “The Secrets to Success.” In keeping with the brand’s overall message, the stories are intended to be uplifting, often with a healthy dose of humor, and to provide inspiration and motivation in dealing with life’s many challenges.

Numerous current and former NASCAR drivers are among the contributors, including: Darrell and Michael Waltrip, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Buddy Baker, Bobby Labonte, and Kerry Earnhardt. Fans will also recognize the names of NASCAR media members like Ryan McGee, Cathy Elliott, Godwin Kelly, Marty Smith, and more. Even NASCAR CEO Brian France is a contributor, recalling how he unintentionally held his first “press conference” in the garage at age 16, much to his father’s chagrin.

Among the many current and former NASCAR drivers, Bobby Labonte made a contribution to the new NASCAR Chicken Soup book.

Dale Earnhardt fans will be especially pleased with Chapter Two, simply titled “Dale” – a collection of stories about the late NASCAR legend. The behind-the-scenes glimpses of Earnhardt are funny, moving, and intimate but, most of all, paint a very clear picture of an enigmatic man as seen through the eyes of those who knew him away from the camera’s glare.

A particularly compelling story comes from NASCAR Managing Director of Corporate Communications Ramsey Poston, who takes readers “Behind the Scenes of the Earnhardt Investigation” in the chapter entitled “The Business of Speed.” Mr. Poston was not involved in NASCAR at the time of the Earnhardt tragedy, but worked for a Washington, D.C. PR firm that was hired by NASCAR to help manage the fallout from a spate of recent driver deaths, including Earnhardt’s. Poston describes how the firm took a systematic approach to the investigation of the accident and, at the same time, helped usher in a new era of public and media relations for the sanctioning body.

The chapter entitled “The Best Medicine” contains some of the book’s more lighthearted anecdotes. In one short tale, contributor Steve Post describes an incident where Kenny Wallace breaks into an impromptu Aretha Franklin impression while in line at a Subway restaurant. Fans who know Wallace will be able to picture it happening and will likely laugh along. As the writer observes, “A driver doesn’t always need a race car to make a lasting impression.”

The only criticism I have of the book – and it’s a minor one – is that the name of each contributor is listed only at the end of the story, not at the beginning where it would be more helpful. So, as you turn the page to the next anecdote, you won’t know who wrote it unless you flip to the end of the story first, see the author’s name, and then flip back to read it. Additionally, if you don’t recognize the name of the contributor, you have to flip back to the “Meet Our Contributors” section on page 372 to read more about the background of a particular author. For the sake of convenience, it would be nice to have the author’s name at the beginning of each story and a brief bio at the end.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I, too, have a story in this Chicken Soup anthology entitled, “My Own Victory Lane.” It’s in the “On (and Off) Track” chapter, which also features submissions by Martin Truex, Jr. and Jim Hunter.

Overall, I consider Chicken Soup for the Soul: NASCAR an absolute must-read for the sport’s fans and even participants. Sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, the stories are always engaging. I have given several copies of the book to friends, and all have thanked me for introducing them to it.

Once you start reading it, I guarantee you will have trouble putting it down.

Connect with Becca!

Becca Gladden wrote for Frontstretch from 2006 through 2008, and is a weekly columnist for Insider Racing News. She also runs a PR business called Limelight Writing; check it out! Contact Becca through Twitter (click above) or her email address at NscrWriter@aol.com.

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Becca Gladden is no longer a contributor to the Frontstretch, but you can see all her past articles on herbiography and archive page.