Been Reading Issue 15

This Month I Have Mostly Been Reading….

I can’t say I’m a massive NASCAR fan, but anything that involves V8s in “stock” bodies howling around an oval at about 200mph can’t be all bad… Anyway, this story is a tale of one of the sport’s best-loved competitors, Dale Earnhardt Sr. Everybody knows Number 3, ‘The Intimidator’, the hard-charging, paint-tradin’, wall-rubbin’ racer’s racer who won as many NASCAR championships as Richard Petty and wore that moustache without a trace of irony. He won hundreds of races and made it look easy…

… almost. The season-opening Daytona 500 was his Everest, his Kryptonite, his Eleanor, his Great White Whale. He could win any race in the season, he could win all the races in the week leading up to the 500, but come race day, victory eluded him. From his first attempt as a rookie in 1979, as the man himself is quoted as saying, “I’ve found every way there is to NOT win the Daytona 500.”

This book is a beautiful story of Dale’s pursuit of the Daytona trophy. It’s not a full biography or anything like that; just the tale of his trials at Daytona Speedway. The author’s love of the subject shines through, and he’s interviewed many of the key players – behind the wheel and behind the scenes – to give us the full story. Unfortunately, he’s written their interviews verbatim, and anybody who’s ever watched a NASCAR post-race interview knows that they generally spout indecipherable high-speed redneck gibberish, so it takes a little interpretation, but otherwise this is a tremendous book that I could (and did) read from cover to cover. There are three superb sections of period-perfect photographs in there, too.

Earnhardt did, of course, win the Daytona 500 … once. It’s also the race that took his life, on the very last lap, while running third behind his team’s other two cars, one of which was driven by his son. It’s almost poetically tragic.

Dale Vs Daytona, The Intimidator’s Quest To Win The Great American Race, by Rick Houston, is published in hardback by CarTech, with a RRP of £21.99.