Monday, April 21, 2008

One Helluva Book

One Helluva Ride--How NASCAR Swept The Nation
By Liz Clarke (Random House 2008)

Dale Earnhardt called her "Little Higgins," after the veteran NASCAR reporter for the Charlotte Observer, Tom Higgins. As he got to know her better, she became "Liz." As a sports reporter for The Washington Post, USA Today, and The Charlotte Observer, Liz Clarke probably spent more time with The Intimidator than any other journalist.

In this book, she covers Earnhardt's entire career with many pages of anecdotes and racing accomplishments written in a descriptive style reminiscent of the sports writers of the day when NASCAR wasn't readily accessible on television. Her descriptions of notable moments in racing are written in a way that puts you trackside.

While much of the book is written from the point of view of a reporter covering Dale Earnhardt, it is not all about Earnhardt. Using a chronologically linear story line--beginning with Lee and Richard Petty--she effortlessly covers the entire history of NASCAR right up to the end of the 2007 season, segueing smoothly into flashbacks to historical people, events, and places. There is plenty of racing action, and a cornucopia of entertaining stories of drivers from Tim Flock to Carl Edwards. The narrative is as fast paced as the sport itself.

Here is an excerpt from the book describing the impact of both Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon had on NASCAR:

Despite their generational divide, Earnhardt and Gordon gave NASCAR a delicious pair of protagonists once again -- a contemporary Petty vs. Allison -- with starkly contrasting personalities and widely divergent appeal.

Earnhardt, just over six feet, loomed larger when riled. The 145-pound Gordon simply refused to grow. And when he got excited in a racecar, his chirpy voice seemed to jump an octave.

Outside of racing, Earnhardt loved nothing better than hunting and fishing. Gordon favored scuba diving and playing video games.

Earnhardt looked like a modern-day Samson in his open-faced helmet -- his bushy mustache obscuring everything from his nose down to his chin strap. Gordon's baby face totally disappeared behind his brightly painted, closed-faced helmet, which, when paired with his bright red-and-blue racing suit, made him look like a Ninja Turtle

One Helluva Ride is one helluva book, and it doesn't matter if you are a longtime NASCAR fan or a newcomer to the sport, you will find much to enjoy while reading it.

1 comment:

Amy said...

I bought this book while I was in Vegas for the races. I have read the introduction but that is it. I can't wait to actually get into the book!!