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He Crashed Me So I Crashed Him Back    by Mark Bechtel order for
He Crashed Me So I Crashed Him Back
by Mark Bechtel
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

You have to wonder why such a good book has such an unwieldy title. And, quite honestly, you don't know the half of it! The rest reads, 'The True Story of the Year The King, Jaws, Earnhardt, And the Rest of NASCAR's Feudin', Fightin' Good Ol' Boys Put Stock Car Racing On the Map'! Wowee, that's a mouthful! Maybe a title like this is a southern thang? Who knows?

But, regardless of the jawbreaking title, this book easily gets the checkered flag when it comes to describing how a single event, over three decades ago, catapulted NASCAR into the national media limelight. A senior editor at Sports Illustrated, Mark Bechtel has covered NASCAR for nine seasons and in this book he focuses on the 1979 NASCAR season that changed the auto racing sport forever.

On a chilly February day 31 years ago, a snowed in nation watched on TV one of the wildest and certainly one of the most bizarre finishes in auto racing history. A big crash on the final lap, followed by even a bigger fistfight between the drivers, marked the beginning of a season that would eventually move auto racing into the position of the second most popular sport in America. (Some would argue it is really Number One, but that's another story!)

After NASCAR got the nation's attention with the televised donnybrook, there was plenty of interest in the personalities, rivalries, and races that unfolded at tracks from Bristol, Tennessee, and Talladega, Alabama, to Ontario, California.

This was to be 'the most significant year in the history of stock car racing,' writes Bechtel. 'When it was over, the sport had taken its first steps on the journey from regional curiosity to national phenomenon.'

Where the iconic 1979 Daytona 500 drew 10 million viewers, today that number has easily doubled. The key drivers and family racing dynasties are now familiar names, and NASCAR souvenirs from clothing to Southern-style culinary items can be found all over the country. NASCAR has even inspired a series of bodice-rippers published by Harlequin!

Highly entertaining, this overview of the 1979 season and how it changed NASCAR forever is a must read for racing fans as well as those just curious about the inner workings of the sport. Eight pages of photos are included. You won't want to miss the fisticuffs shot of Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough rolling around like two kids on a schoolyard playground.

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