NASCAR history exists in a whole lot of places today, starting on your big-screen TV, and it’s happily often told in the words of those who lived it. Sometimes, that tends to pass up the more formative years of, say, 40 years ago, before the glitz of modern NASCAR became all-enveloping and when mere flesh-and-blood mortals could sweat and knuckle-scrape their way to stock car racing’s pinnacle and succeed there. Hearing those stories, from that age, is increasingly challenging given the passage of years. I know, because I helped to tell one person’s tale of that journey. So it’s gratifying when a name from the past, especially one you recognize, makes a determined effort to honestly tell the story of his or her personal journey in motorsport. This is one of those occasions, and one of those books.
The photo on the cover of Will Cronkrite’s life story tells a story nearly as effectively as his 600-plus pages of text, every sentence his very own. That’s what a NASCAR crewman looked like when he moved south from his native Michigan and entered the sport in the 1970s. The air wrench is the only thing, aside from the person, that isn’t primitive. Notice that there’s no radio headset. I Was a NASCAR Redneck is a warm, geniunely likable and amusing tale about when this was a pastime en route to becoming a deadly serious business enterprise. As a car owner – yep, Will did that, too – the author orchestrated one of the most consequential races in modern NASCAR history, when he stuck a young Dale Earnhardt in his car for the Daytona 500, catching the eye of rival car owner Rod Osterlund. We all know what happened after that. Will then went on to DiGard Racing, which turned Darrell Waltrip into a major star. The author credits technical geniuses as broad as Bud Moore and Mario Rossi as mentors. The book is highly personal, truly funny, a deep dive into both STEM and vehicle dynamics, and veers happily into the world of automotive restoration. Will also, we should add, holds the unofficial record for the fastest stock car lap ever turned at Daytona, and explains how it happened. This is a good book. The link will take you where to order it for 45 bucks. Try it on.