Sunday, February 21, 2010

Finding My Mojo in La-La Land

This trip out west was slapped together quickly. First came the idea for a book signing at IMPULSE, the gift shop of Auto Club Speedway, in the Inland Valley due east of Los Angeles. Now I’d had a few private book signings with friends, which were an absolute blast. But I’m leery and wary and suspicious of the standard “book store signing.” The idea of sitting in a folding chair at a table stacked with your books, waiting for strangers to walk up and ask for your autograph seems terribly ostentatious. And cheesy. And a prescription for disaster.

Among various concerns, there is: Who the hell am I? And why would anyone want my signature?

Sure, I had signed a fan’s bare butt at Daytona. But that was on top of an RV in the infield during a crazy Daytona 500, in tight seamless context with the locale and race at hand.

When the track said they’d allow Barbie Robbins (a.k.a., Junior’s Baby88 Girl), along with Tava Miyata (the “Good Vibrations” chapter) to join the book signing, I was in. Sharing this experience – my first public signing – with fans featured in the book would very cool and entirely appropriate.

Barbie lives life out loud. Everyone at the track seems to know her. When the local ABC affiliate came to do their requisite “crazy NASCAR fan” story, they were the bee to her honey. Tape rolled and Junior's Baby88 Girl screamed and shouted about the book she’s in – my book. That just warms the cockels of my innards. Barbie is an absolute pisser who jumps up and down with joy every time Junior’s car passes. On Sunday, also known as Race Day, she is sad, because that means her time at the track is almost over.

Tava likes to have fun (she would show up at our book signing with Mexican coffee – your standard joe spiked with tequila and kaluha – as well as a Bud Light for Barbie). But outwardly, Tava is much more reserved. She’s a business owner and mother of twins who took over Wayne Miyata Surfboards when her dad passed away. A Giangola sandwich between slices of Barbie and Tava bread would be memorable. Plus, unlike most of the fans in The Weekend Starts on Wednesday, I’d only interviewed these ladies by phone; I desperately wanted to meet them in person. I was looking forward to the signing even if no one showed up.

The event was set for the morning of the Auto Club 500 race, and then, as we say in Brooklyn, bada bing, bada boom, Sirius invited me to be Mojo Nixon’s co-host for an hour of his national radio show. The Race Gods were saying, “Go west, young man.”

On the way to la-la land, because I’ve been a traveling fool, I was bumped to First Class. No better feeling in the world than to be a Chosen One. You’re jammed into one of those narrow lumpy seats in coach, and a Flight Attendant whisks open the curtain, marches toward the back of the plane, and asks, "Are you (YOUR NAME HERE)?" At first, panic sets in. Your stomach is in your throat as you’re realizing, “Oh Jeez, the FBI is at the door, all those emails joking about the bomb in my Converse high tops have finally caught up. I’m headed for Gitmo.” (Personally, I’m a poor swimmer; I can’t breathe during the crawl without feeling like I’m drowning. I will not be able to handle my face forced down into a flushing toilet.)

But, then, alas, then Flight Attendant is escorting you to First Class...and you can just FEEL the sharp dagger stares of hatred from 200 resentful people stuck in steerage.

That's life, right? Enjoy your bag of 5.2 peanuts, folks, and tip a toast to me in the front row with your 3.6 ounces of diet Coke in the short plastic cup. I will return your toast from the province of the rich folk with a tip of my Chardonnay.

Able to spread out without the proverbial fat guy in coach spilling into my seat, I made notes for the Mojo show. Arriving in LA, I felt hopelessly unprepared, fat, old and pale. In New York, I could not for the life of me find a place to get a spray-on tan. There were no appointments for botox. Avis was out of convertibles. But I was set on doing the best I could as co-host with Mojo, who was a cult figure on college campuses nationwide in the '80’s with songs like, “Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant with my Two-Headed Love Child,” “Don Henley Must Die,” and of course, “Elvis is Everywhere.”

In the track’s media center, a good 20 yards away from his stuffy radio booth, you can hear Mojo Nixon’s loud voice. He’s a vibrating, pulsating, force field of energy, funny observations, semi-risque riffs, double entendre comments, and southern-fried colloquialisms.

Do you try to match Mojo’s energy? Or be the more placid straight guy? In the back of the room, listening to Mojo exorcise his mojo, I instinctively knew I’d have to get into fourth gear quickly and was glad I had the foresight to have consumed four cups of coffee earlier at Denny’s.

My notes would be useless. They were stuck together because I’d spilled the syrup from my first Grand Slam all over them. At two minutes to air time, Denny’s value meal and the Indian chef’s special from the previous night decided to have a food fight in my stomach. I was thinking this might not end very well.

Worse, than puking on Mojo’s console, what if he didn’t want me here? My appearance on his show for a full hour to yap about my book and NASCAR fans wasn’t his idea. I was worried the music and radio legend might wind up being dismissive or even resentful some schmucky guy from New York flew in to glom onto his show.

But Mojo is a man of the fans. He instantly welcomed me with a warm handshake. On air, he laughed at my silly jokes, and was genuinely interested in how I connected with those in The Weekend Starts on Wednesday. We took fan calls, including one from Tire Man, checking in from Alabama to explain the most photographed valve stem on the circuit.

The hour went fast. I wanted to say so much more. When we opened up the phones, I asked for a pscyhologist or psychiatrist -- or one who played one on TV to call in. Jimmie Johnson's wife was having a baby, and the talk among motorsports pundits was the new arrival could be a chink in Jimmie's armour. I went against the grain, explaining when I had Gaby -- or rather, when Viviane gave birth to our daughter, as I was off in the corner reading the newspaper -- it made my life better. I became a more complete human being. It rounded me and gave me important perspective. That makes me better at my job. Maybe Jimmie would be better at his. I asked for a psychologist to call in with a view.

Mojo looked at me like I had several heads. Jimmie is already otherwordly after winning four straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Championships. Are you looking for a psychologist or a psychotic, he asked. Mojo knows his audience a lot better than I do. My last long-form interview was with NPR. This was a different audience.

(Later, I'd get a note from fan who wanted me to know what I said about Gaby was the best part of the show.)

Trying to keep pace with Mojo felt like running a marathon as a sprint. “Come outside,” Mojo said when the hour was up, and in the cool California air, he gave me tips for engaging callers and moving in and out of commercials. You’ll be fine, he said.

You see, the show was a try-out of sorts for me; perhaps NASCAR and Sirius will work out a radio show all about the fans. I’m a PR guy, a sometime writer, a clueless New Yorker in NASCAR Country. I’m not sure radio is in my future. It’s in the hands of others, and will require sponsorship. If Sirius gives me the nod, I’ll give it a shot. As David Lee Roth said, “Sometimes you have to lead with your face.”

For one afternoon, I had a blast as co-host of a national radio show with an American icon. The entire hour with Mojo, I had this shit-eating grin on my face. (If Mojo heard that, he might say, Why is this type of smile called “shit eating”? If you actually ate feces, would you be SMILING? It has to be the dumbest expression coined since humans moved from grunts to spoken language. Yeah, that’s what he’d say.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Penn. School Confiscates My Book, But I Did Sign a Bare Butt

DAYTONA BEACH – Kenny Gregory, known to thousands of fans as “The Fathead Guy” for mounting his life-size driver cutouts in the turf at his campsite, is a proud grandfather and nearly as proud to be featured in The Weekend Starts on Wednesday: True Stories of Remarkable NASCAR Fans. Kenny gave his 14-year old grandson the book, and the boy enthusiastically shared his granddad’s chapter with the kids at school. That might have been okay in English class. But this was math. So my book was confiscated and has been effectively banned from a middle school in Sandy Lake, PA.

But that incident, putting me in the censored company of John Steinbeck and The Gay Sheikh, is no indication of the splendid week we had officially launching The Weekend Starts on Wednesday as NASCAR opened its season in frigid Daytona Beach.

There have been several positive reviews and a flurry of interesting news stories about our fan book. George Vecsey of The New York Times said I write “very nicely” – high and flattering praise from the esteemed columnist. Sports radio personality Chris Mad Dog Russo, who has made his dislike for NASCAR quite clear, read Vecsey’s piece and had me on his show. Mad Dog opened up by calling the book “marvelous.” A Hollywood producer with credits ranging from Erin Brockovich to Pulp Fiction heard the Sirius interview and inquired about the book’s film rights. The next day, in Arctic-like Daytona, a place Al Gore was clearly avoiding, seven fans from The Weekend Starts on Wednesday joined me and the lovely, multi-talented Miss Sprint Cup Monica Palumbo for an entertaining Q&A at the Sprint Experience in the track’s corporate display area. It felt like ten below, yet Tire Man from the book (and Chelsea, AL in real life) was on stage in all his glory, naked except for his Goodyear Eagle and straw hat, just as he’d been when he and I went live on “Good Day Tampa” three days earlier. (Both the Orlando Sentinel and the Daytona Beach News Journal would run photos of Tire Man.) Plus, I signed a few dozen books, two hats, and one bare butt. It was a man’s ass. You have to start somewhere.

We haven't sold many copies, but all the publicity felt good. With that beehive of activity and the demands from the old day job put to rest, I was able to take in the Daytona 500 with the fans. Having never seen The Great American race from atop an RV, I gladly accepted Kenny Gregory’s offer to climb his hauler stationed off Turn 1. As fate had it, Sgt. Russ Friedman (namesake of the spring Richmond race and subject of the chapter “Toasting a Hero”) happened to pass by, and he and his dad, a dentist from Patchogue, LI, joined me and Kenny’s friend Bill Strope on the motor home’s roof.

If you’ve read Kenny’s story, you know he’ an amazing, generous, selfless man. He puts the Fatheads in front of his site to generate conversations, and most fans – strangers only minutes before – walk away with some sort of party favor: a flashing rubber bracelet or glowing necklace, maybe a string of glittering metallic beads. During the off-season, Kenny helped arrange for his friend Bill, who’s been sick but is valiantly battling back, to get two weeks off from work to accompany him to Speedweeks. This was Central Florida, but the track was nonetheless meat-locker cold; 180,000 people, right or wrong, were getting increasingly pissed at Sen. Gore as the temperature dropped. Kenny and Bill were offering Sgt. Friedman and me their jackets, and running Bloody Marys and tall cans of Guinness and Bill’s amazing roast pork to the top of the hauler. Before long, I was clad in beads and lighted jewelry. Before leaving Pennsylvania for Speedweeks in Florida, Kenny had spent $400 on a heap of twinkling party favors.

“I call him ‘Kenny Claus’ because he brings Christmas with him to every race,” Bill Strope said as he served plates of brosciotto wrapped in warm mozzarella and plates of scrumptious pork. Sgt. Freidman, who was hit with a rocket propelled grenade fired by Iraqi insurgents, was watching Bill being Bill, and Kenny being Kenny, and he said, “I look at these guys and it makes me feel good there are people like this. Humanity has hope.”

Hope we may have, but we still haven’t figured reliable on-schedule winter travel. Steve and Christine Deuker, featured in the chapter, “Ryan’s Hope,” called their trip to Daytona “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” The Deukers departed Minneapolis for a connection in Alanta. However, their jet was diverted to Nashville during an historic storm that had canceled 5,700 flights along the east coast. Christine, who has been active in bringing together the fans in The Weekend Starts on Wednesday was making this trip primarily to attend Saturday’s launch event at the Sprint Experience. She’d be missing that. As the plane banked away from its course to Atlanta, she had to try very hard not to cry.

The Deukers would unfortunately miss the book launch with their so-called “chapter buddies” but nothing was going to keep them from the Daytona 500. Steve was first to rush off the courtesy bus to rent a car. In a straight shot, they drove 700 miles to Daytona Beach. “We remembered the story in your book about Miss Sprint Cup,” Christine told me. “Her plane was cancelled so she jumped in a rental car and drove to the appearance. We were inspired. If Anne Marie could do it, so could we.”

With tens of thousands of fans already in town for the Daytona 500, the couple’s lodging choices were slim. They settled for a motel called “The Value Place” in Sanford. Sure, the name didn’t indicate brass-buttoned bellhops and turn-down truffles on the pillow, but how bad could it be? “We walked in behind four farting Chinamen and were then told we’d have to purchase toilet paper for a dollar a roll,” Steve explained.

The Deukers’ 757 was too big to unload at the airport in Nashville so they were also without luggage. When we finally met on pit road on Sunday right before the National Anthem, they were wearing three-day old shirts made specially for the race. On the front was a picture of their departed son, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and the brick they’d inscribed for Ryan Newman, who bears a striking resemblance to Joseph. On the back was their photo with Ryan from the book, and below it the title, “The Weekend Starts on Wednesday.” It was sad to see my good friends and loyal supporters without their other clothes. However, if they had to wear any shirt the rest of their stay in Florida, or maybe the rest of the winter season, there was no better garment.

“It was the trip from hell but well worth it; we’re meeting our chapter buddies here at the Daytona 500,” Steve said with a smile.

When I spotted the Deukers and their brilliant shirts, I’d been with CPL. John Hyland (“A Purple Heart and a Titanium Leg”). We’d gotten John a pace car ride with NASCAR’s Brett Bodine earlier, and he nearly met Gov. Sarah Palin at pre-race; so the soldier who’d lost a leg was choosing to bear the discomfort of hoofing it all over this massive 2.5-mile track. The Deukers were especially excited to finally meet John, who’s been through so much after suffering his injuries and enduring dozens of operations, and now has many good things cooking with a singing career cranking up.

Last season, John and I genuinely hit it off at the race in Texas. But our bond was not the typical way you’d meet someone, find common interests and share laughs. I asked questions and CPL. Hyland talked his experiences in Iraq, the dozens of operations after the roadside bomb, the difficult transition to a new life. He talked for nearly 12 hours without a break. As a writer, it was one of the most intense and exhausting days of my life.

And now John told me a very special story about his son, Hunter. He didn’t intend for the 10-year old to look at The Weekend Starts on Wednesday. But the book was found and his father’s story read. “I went home and my boy had tears in his eyes,” CPL. Hyland explained. “Hunter said, ‘Daddy I never knew what you went through.’” CPL. Hyland confessed that when we met in Texas, he told me things he’d never said before.

Before we got to pit road, a TV crew from NASCAR Media Group was beginning work on what we hope will be a documentary on the book. This time, in front of a camera in a dramatically lit room off Daytona International Speedway’s media center, John was again pouring his heart out about September 11 (the date he was blown up), God, country and sacrifice. While this was happening, Tire Man was taking pictures with delighted ladies and laughing guys in the infield. As I ran from CPL. Hyland’s intense soul-baring interview to Tire Man’s hooting jaunt through the infield – in itself an exercise in examining the modern day female libido, social mores, and sexual puns – the juxtaposition of the serious and absurd was confusing. And then I realized this may be the best, most distinctive thing about our fan book. It uncovers all sides of the NASCAR experience.

“The tire is the boundary,” Tire Man told me. “There have been times when a cold hand comes up the rear quarter panel, and I wonder if I should take these gloves off to show my wedding band.”

This was my seventh Daytona 500. I’d seen amazing finishes, triumphs of popular drivers like Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr., and the historic 50th running of the Great American Race. But this edition, sharing it with the fans in my book, seeing their joyous faces when close to the racecars and drivers, was shaping up to be the best one by far. I ran over to check on Mike Wright, who’s been to more than 250 races and has met Richard Petty nearly 200 times.
Mike was standing about as close as you can get to a racecar without touching it. The car was revving its engine to test their spark plugs. You feel that in your intestines. When the revving stopped, the six foot four truck driver from Virginia looked at me and deadpanned, “I’m like a pig in shit.”

Before this weekend, our fourth together at a race, Mike would call me “Lucky Dog,” since my job takes me to the races. Now he’s started calling me, “Crack Dealer.” I ran back to tend to CPL. Hyland’s interview, and over the course of the next few hours, Mike would text me a half dozen times. Just two words: “Crack Dealer.” I could picture him out there next to the pit boxes, in the garages, near the flag stand, dragging his good-sport wife Karen all over the track. Yeah, Mike even met up with the King.

It turned out to be one of the longest Daytona 500 races in history. Due to global cooling, at least this month, the track developed a deep pot hole on the turn not too far from Kenny Gregory’s trailer (and where fans have wheelbarrow races at night.) The delay in fixing the asphalt in the unseasonable conditions was a bummer for the TV audience, but near the Fatheads, with Bill Strope mixing up gallons of tangy Bloody Marys, no one at Kenny’s place was heard complaining. Seeing on his rooftop TV the close-up shots of the hole in the asphalt, I was wondering if most New Yorkers might finally “get” NASCAR.

When the action resumed, Jamie McMurray won a thriller featuring 21 different leaders. Crowd favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. charged through the field in the final laps, but McMurray, with only three previous victories in his seven year NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career and now driving for a brand new team, held on to become the ninth Daytona 500 winner in the past nine years.

Before leaving the track, I stopped by Club 3, a fun bar several fans construct each year amid the RVs and converted school buses. Club 3 has its own logo, ample supplies of Alabama slammers, serious wattage in its sound system, and a gravel-voice DJ who wears a thick bushy black wig and a prosthetic bare buttocks sticking from his pants. The country and rock and roll music is played so loud, I can never find a way to ask about the point of the costume. Last year at Club 3, I’d met “The Imitator,” a Dale Earnhardt lookalike, and wanted to see if he’d be there again.

I walk into the club, and who do I encounter but none other than Tire Man, posing for pictures with Dale. It must have been 40 degrees outside, and Chris was holding his ubiquitous Coors Light, wearing nothing but Joe Nemechek’s right front qualifying tire, his red gloves, and that straw hat. I sensed it was going to be an interesting night.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Patti Rodisch just posted this review on The Bleacher Report --

The Bleacher Report

"The Weekend Starts On Wednesday" Takes The Checkers
by Patti Rodisch

Written on February 13, 2010

NASCAR fans come from all around the country. Fans go to extreme lengths to show their loyalty to their driver(s).

Every race fan has a story, a reason why they tune in on any given Sunday to watch a race, or pay to attend a race.

NASCAR fans stories are one of a kind. They represent the core ideals of this sport and its fans.
Andrew Giangola’s new book, The Weekend Starts on Wednesday, is just a snap shot of NASCAR fans. Their devotion and sometimes borderline obsession with the No. 1 spectator sport in the U.S. TWSW is a collection of NASCAR fans stories. From the infields of Talladega to victory lane, Giangola spoke with NASCAR fans from all walks of life.

Movie stars, college students, retired veterans, media veterans, and fans from all walks of life. In reading this book, with every story you can relate to some part of it.

For some it may be attending the race with your dad or entire family. Or it could meeting your favorite driver on pit road. It could be your annual trek to a race with friends that leaves you wanting more. Giangola is able to capture the true essence of a NASCAR fan.

Every story seems to flow into the next leaving you engaged the entire time. There are a lot of NASCAR books out there, some about the technical side of the sport, others about the fans.I have read many of them, none of them though truly capture NASCAR fans like TWSW.

There is the NASCAR and Jeff Gordon fan that climbed Mt. Everest. Dr. Pat Hickey climbed to the top of the summit and planted a NASCAR flag at the top of the world. The climb up the summit was for a cause, to promote nursing and to help support the education of nursing students at USC. Hickey got his NASCAR fix as he climbed when fans from around the world would give him updates on what was going on back at the track.

That was just a preview of Hickey’s story. There are over a dozen more stories like it. These are stories of everyday people and their love for NASCAR.

Giangola’s witty commentary only enhances the visual that the fans are painting.

If you are a NASCAR fan, this is the book for you. I wish we got more in this book. I wish every fan had the chance to tell their story. Giangola just touches on the passion and the devotion fan have for NASCAR.

You can get the book online at the superstore,, or your local bookstore.

Mike Wright, a diehard Richard Petty fan, I think said it best, “I love the fires and the steaks and the cans of beer and the people. This is my lazy boy chair. I’m home here. When I sit and hear the ‘Gentlemen, start your engines,’ I forget everything. Nothing else matters. I’m a kid again. My heart starts pounding, and I can’t sit still. By the second pace lap, when you can smell the fumes of the gas and the rubber coming off the tires, oh man, it is instant adrenaline. If that smell could go into my alarm

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sports Business Daily's Author Q&A


Catching Up With NASCAR Exec And Author Andrew Giangola

NASCAR Dir of Business Communications ANDREW GIANGOLA this week debuts his new fan-friendly NASCAR book, "The Weekend Starts On Wednesday." The 300-page book, with a foreword from TONY STEWART and an afterword from KYLE BUSCH, includes stories about the sport's fans and a plethora of photos.

Giangola took time recently to chat with Staff Writer Jessica Collins about his first published book and how his encounters with fans have blossomed into lifelong friendships.

Favorite NASCAR track: It doesn't get any better than Talladega and Bristol.

Car you drive: Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

Last time you got a traffic ticket: I was going zero miles an hour while "blocking the box" in a traffic jam getting into the Holland Tunnel (in N.Y.) this past summer.

Favorite NASCAR book (besides your own): LIZ CLARKE's "One Helluva Ride;" JEFF MACGREGOR's "Sunday Money;" DAVID POOLE's "Tim Richmond: The Fast Life and Remarkable Times of NASCAR's Top Gun."

Gadget you couldn't live without: BlackBerry.

Q: Where did the idea for the book come from?

Giangola: I joined NASCAR in 2003 and fan loyalty is obviously such a big thing in the sport -- it's what we sell the sponsors on, it is really the glue that keeps the sport going. In my PR job I've always been talking about NASCAR fans … and as the years passed by I got frustrated with "Who are these fans? Why are they so devoted?" I was thinking about them in platitudes, and I wanted to go explore their fandom and loyalty. I was also hearing great stories, spectacular stories. … So I went to (NASCAR VP/Corporate Communications) JIM HUNTER and said, "Why don't we do a book, and I'm happy to write it." Jim immediately embraced the concept, so I kept collecting stories.

Q: What was the biggest challenge in writing the book?

Giangola: Time. I'm one of those authors who doesn't have the luxury of retiring to the beach house and be able to tap it out with the surf crashing in the background. … While I was working races and once the media center closed down for the day I would go out to the campgrounds and the infield and I had a camera and I would take pictures. I got some really good stories that way. … It took about two years (to write the book). I would try to do as many stories as they came in or I got the idea. I would go to my hotel room and write at night and I actually wrote a few of the chapters on my BlackBerry.

Q: If someone could only read one chapter of the book, which one would you want them to read?

Giangola: "A Purple Heart and a Titanium Leg" because, for one, the military never gets enough attention and acknowledgment and exposure. The second reason is John's story is so amazing and his attitude is so amazing. If you read that chapter, he's literally imploded and his body was shattered from his heels to his shoulder blades. The fact that he survived and then RICK HENDRICK -- who didn't publicize what he did at all -- comes in and reads his story in the newspaper and gives John the homecoming he never had and gets him home for Christmas. … These stories (in the book) are of sorrow and heartbreak but also of redemption and jubilation, so I think what's unique about the book is that through NASCAR and fans you do see a slice of America. Hopefully we can illuminate some truths about the sport and its place in America and a cross section of NASCAR nation.

PHOTO: Giangola (l), With Miss USA Kristen Dalton (r),Who Is Featured In His New Book
(TOO BAD YOU CAN'T SEE THIS. Gaby says I was "leering" which I hope is an SAT word to make the insult at least personally worth it.)

Q: Was there anything you wanted to add to the book that you thought twice about because of your role with NASCAR?

Giangola: I certainly needed to be careful. The infield is a place that gets very crazy at night and sure you could write a caricature of what the infield is like, but I tried not to get very tabloid-ish there. I wanted to tell it like it was and NASCAR didn't put any restrictions on me. I think one thing that I did, and they approved it, is that we tackled some sensitive issues like how fans felt about moving races to different parts of the country. … This is not a 300-page press release. It is not a book that reads like corporate speak or like it came from some PR guy, and I am so grateful to NASCAR for letting me do that -- for letting me use my sense of humor and unique way of looking at things.

Q: Do you want to write another book?

Giangola: Absolutely. The question will be how will I find the time? I have a few ideas for books in motorsports and if NASCAR supports the topics I definitely would love to write another.

Q: What advice do you have for anyone looking to write a book?

Giangola: To find and use your voice on a topic that you are passionate about. Readers can just smell anyone going through the motions, but passion for the topic can jump off the page. Putting your words on paper can make some people feel very vulnerable and exposed, but you got to take a chance.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Chapter Buddies in the News

I know, this is late notice. I could have been a heckuva lot smarter, but no one's accusing me these days of being particularly intelligent. I should have let you know last week, not now, that Chris MacNicol (a.k.a., Tire Man) and CPL. John Hyland ("A Purple Heart and a Titanium Leg") were to be on Sirius NASCAR Radio last Friday night discussing their stories.

There was no time to get out a note. With NASCAR about to launch the season, I'm busier than Michael Jackson locked in a secure underground pre-school after a neutron bomb has wiped out all adults above. Yeah, I'm more slammed than Lindsay Lohan at an open bar the night before she goes away to prison for DUI. I'm more tied up than Madonna after visiting a hardware store for rope on a kinky Friday night. I've got more on my plate than Kirstie Alley. Too busy to write this blog, but here I am, coffee from the corner cart guy drizzling onto the keyboard, apologizing for not giving sufficient advance word that two of our Chapter Buddies made a stunning debut on "Dialed in with Claire B. Lange" on Sirius Satellite Radio.

CPL. Hyland shared some very exciting news. Those who have read THE WEEKEND STARTS ON WEDNESDAY know he sang opera before managing a Hooters then joining the Army. (A real Rennaissance Man.) Well, John is now on the verge of getting a recording contract. I don't want to give him a kunahara; enough said for now. We'll share more details on this site when things are locked down.

CPL. Hyland and Tire Man are not the only chapter buddies in the news. Today, The New York Times talks to Jack Hege, our opening chapter, who has been to every single Daytona 500, and returns to Daytona Beach this week for the 52nd consecutive year.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune is set to run a story (possibly as soon as Wednesday) on Steve and Christine Deuker ("Ryan's Hope"). They'll tell their story about losing their dear son Joseph, then finding comfort in Ryan Newman, who is strikingly similar to Joe. (The Deukers have taken it upon themselves to rally the "Chapter Buddies" on a facebook page, which is very cool. I can't wait for several of the fans in the book to meet this Saturday at Daytona Int'l Speedway at the Sprint Experience -- NOON SHARP. Yeah, the Deukers will be joined by Tire Man in his Goodyear Eagle, Right Turn Ryan, The Fathead Guy Ken Gregory, Mike Wright, Sgt. Russ Friedman, CPL. Hyland, and hopefully Jack Hege and others. We'll launch The Weekend Starts on Wednesday officially to our fans, do some trivia, and give away a few copies.)

Here's the kind of people Steve and Christine are. When they heard Jack Hege (who is in his 80's and has sore knees) would be at the Daytona 500, they started to arrange for an electric wheelchair for this man they've never met. (Jack isn't sure he'll use it; to show the kind of guy he is, he doesn't want to "slow down" his friends at track.)

Finally, if you saw Saturday Night Live this weekend, S.E. Cupp ("A NASCAR Alien in NY") took a shot in a skit making fun of attractive women on consevative cable news shows. Here is S.E. reaction to the SNL Fox parody, "Attractive Blonde Lady:"

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Our First Book Review

Amy's Bad Groove ran a nice review of our book.

Here it is:

I have three major shopping vices: Book stores, office supply stores (so yey for Tony being the Office Depot driver now because I frequent Office Depot much more than I ever did Home Depot) and Dooney purses. I love to read. I have always loved to read. I love the feel of books in my hand and the smell of the paper and glue. No matter where I am I have a book with me…often tucked into my previously mentioned Dooney.

You will not find me with one of those digital book reader thingies until they stop making real paper books. Much like my tastes in music my tastes in books are fairly various and wide (for instance the second to last book I read was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies- told you I have odd tastes).

Anyway several years ago I decided to combine two of my loves and started a collection of books about NASCAR. I started out with a couple of coffee table type books…and slowly expanded my collection.

My newest book in that collection just happens to be the last book that I finished- a book I wanted to tell you about.

The Weekend Starts on Wednesday: True Stories of Remarkable NASCAR Fans by Andrew Giangola is just what you would expect it be from the title and much more. I admit that when I read the testimonials on the jacket I was a little leary. Specifically Janet Evanovich’s “I laughed, I cried, I wanted to jump in my car and drive really fast.” Um okay…that seemed a little cliche to me but whatever. It didn’t stop me from reading the book and it is now one of my favorite books on my NASCAR shelf. The book really is an honest to goodness salute to the people who help make the sport go round (get it? I made a joke!) and round (and another one- I am on it tonight)- The FANS.

This book weaves part of the beautiful quilt that is NASCAR fandom. The book is divided into several sections including sections for: Lifetime NASCAR fans (aptly titled Fans for Life), Dale Earnhardt Sr Fans (Remembering Dale), Fans of the sport who are famous in their own right (Famous Faces including Tom Cruise and Mario Batali to name a few), Fans who are “well known” in the NASCAR community (Flirting with Fame), Female fans (Ladies Loving NASCAR) and other sections I just can’t remember off the top of my head.

The author strives very hard to make sure that NASCAR fans are NOT perceived as stereotypes. This book shows that fans of one of the greatest sports out there, come from all walks of life and backgrounds, and come together over the love of speed and personality and community. This book sheds light on the community aspect of the sport and not the driver / personality aspect with the point being there is no stereotypical NASCAR fan.

I loved reading this book- and I must say I did laugh (the Tire guy? He cracked me up), and I did cry (Lucky Penny Girl- if it doesn’t make you cry you are a robot I tell you), and well I always seem to want to drive fast anyway so I guess the Janet Evanovich testimonial wasn’t so cliche after all. I also have a new respect for news anchor Brian Williams and will be keeping my eye open for his 3 stickers on the rental fleet of America.

Author Giangola has quite the knack for adding in just enough flavor to set the scene without peppering the stew too much (which in my opinion can bring about the “stereotypical” NASCAR fan). Of course it doesn’t hurt that my favorite two drivers wrote the foreword (TONY) and the afterword (KYLE). Both prove that despite their hard driving ways they too not only appreciate NASCAR fans, but are both articulate as well (despite what Tony says).

I recommend this book to not just the ardent NASCAR fan but to the on-the-fence line fan, the sometimes fan, and the curious onlooker. You may just see yourself mirrored in the stories presented in this book or see the neighbor down the street, the news anchor on your nightly news, or the quiet tech support girl in the office upstairs. This book makes me proud to be a NASCAR fan…(not that I needed much encouragement there).

The link to the site is --