Two for the Road is a hangout for mystery writers Tammy Kaehler and Simon Wood to chat, reminisce, gossip, speculate and argue about all things motorsport.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Why of NASCAR

by Tammy

(I picked up this book recently, to read it for, I don't know, the third time? And I still love it. Partly it's his writing style, partly it's the reminder of why fans are they way they are. So I'm rerunning my review, hoping to prompt other people to check it out.)

Long, holiday weekends … perfect for overeating and, when you’ve worked up a sweat from outdoor fun and games, perfect for sitting in the shade with a book. In honor of the long weekend, and our nation itself, I wanted to share one of my favorite racing books, and the best thing I’ve ever read about NASCAR.

The book is Sunday Money: Speed! Lust! Madness! Death! A Hot Lap Around America With NASCAR, written by Jeff MacGregor, a senior writer with ESPN. The basic facts are that MacGregor and his wife got themselves a small motorhome and cris-crossed the U.S., following the NASCAR season, trying to understand how and why the sport has become so popular and pervasive.

The time was 2002. The nation was reeling from the September 11 attacks, and a certain subset of the nation was reeling also from another blow: the death of Dale Earnhardt. MacGregor is a man who gets how sports tap into our collective human psyche, but he doesn’t really yet understand NASCAR, so he sets out in search of enlightenment. The journey I took with him gave me a new level of insight into racing and the fan experience.

All of this makes it sounds hifalutin and boring—which it most definitely is not. In fact, the book is freaking hilarious. MacGregor is a great writer, regardless of topic or genre. I've read the book three times, and I laughed out loud at a couple scenes every single time. And then again when my husband read them. (I’ll pay you a dollar if you don’t laugh at his description of driving the motorhome for the first time.)

So if you're curious why more than 75 million Americans have joined "NASCAR Nation" or why you see race car drivers emblazoned across  commercial product packaging, read Sunday Money. You'll be entertained and enlightened ... about NASCAR, of all things. I’d like to hear what you think.

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