What Did You Do When the Rains Washed Out the Racing In Martinsville?

Mary Jo BuchananSenior Writer IMarch 29, 2009

There is nothing sadder than a race track in the rain. But even more traumatic is when the track finally succumbs to the rain and a race is called for weather.

That happened Saturday with the Camping World Truck race at Martinsville Speedway. Rain had been in the area for most of the early part of the weekend, cancelling Cup qualifying as well as the Truck race, rescheduled now for Monday.

So, what was there to do on a miserable day without racing? This race fan decided that the racing need must be satisfied and popped in the recently purchased DVD, "The Ride Of Their Lives".

I had actually purchased this DVD as an after thought. I had generously received a nascar.com gift certificate from my niece for the holidays.

With it, I had ordered a really cool Jeff Gordon race back pack and a good-looking new JG T-shirt. When they arrived, I loved the back pack, but the shirt was just a tad tight for this mature, curvy Gordon fanatic.

So, back went the T-shirt in the prepaid mailing package. And back to the computer I went to find another item of similar value to take the shirt's place.

The only problem was that I could not find anything that I liked in the same price range in the NASCAR super store. But then, my mouse alighted on the DVD "The Ride of Their Lives".

Having heard some fans tout this as a great piece on NASCAR history, I decided to go ahead and add it to my shopping cart. It arrived a few short days later.

But for some reason, I just never got around to watching it. Work was busy and just keeping up with that, volunteer activities at the church, life with a freshman in college, and the regular NASCAR racing season, kept the DVD languishing on the video shelf.

With racing cancelled and a nasty cold brewing, however, it was time to curl up on the couch and finally watch this show.

And what a show it was.

The CMT production, narrated by NASCAR day star Kevin Costner, was a wonderful look back on the world, and the stars, of NASCAR.

From the sands of Daytona and the germ of the notion of stock car racing as an organized sport by Bill France, Sr., the DVD chronicled the journey that NASCAR has made through the years.

But even more poignant were the stories of the many stars of NASCAR, including the most storied drivers that have made the sport what it is today.

I have always known Richard Petty as the retired "King" of NASCAR racing, traveling with the show as its best ambassador and fan favorite. 

I've even seen him many times at races, strolling the lengths of pit lane, stopping to meet and greet with any fan seeking his autograph or a picture of the man, his sunglasses and his ever present hat.

But it was a real treat to see Richard Petty, the young man eagerly following in his most famous father's footsteps. 

You could just see the love of racing that was passed down to Richard from his dad Lee, and ultimately landing on the shoulders of Richard's son Kyle.

There were also incredibly poignant moments in the movie, documenting the many losses that have occurred in the sport. So many NASCAR dads lost so many of their sons to the sport. 

The DVD powerfully showed the losses experienced by Bobby Allison, who lost two sons to accidents associated with racing. There was also the loss of Adam Petty, the heir apparent to Petty Motorsports.

The most famous racing losses, however, forged one of the most powerful bonds ever, the bond between Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Rick Hendrick. 

The pain was still palpable as I watched Dale Junior relive the horror of that Daytona crash of the No. 3 car and the dad who would be forever lost in this young man's life.

And the pain continued as Hendrick relived the loss of his beloved son Ricky when the team plane crashed at the very race track where the race was cancelled today, Martinsville Speedway.

Their tragedies formed a bond that was intense, yet brought these two together last year when Hendrick offered Earnhardt, Jr. the opportunity to realize a dream, racing for Hendrick Motorsports.

As a Gordon fan, watching this DVD was especially fascinating. Here all these years, I had thought Gordon was the first NASCAR driver to be more "Hollywood" than country.

This was just not true. As chronicled in "The Ride Of Their Lives", the first true "Hollywood" driver was really Tim Richmond, who was 10 times more flamboyant than Gordon could ever hope to be.

Having never known much about Richmond, including that he too had raced for Mr. Hendrick, I was surprised to learn about his great career and his rivalry with the Intimidator.

Even more interesting was watching his health decline, with most everyone thinking he was struggling with pneumonia and other respiratory ailments. He later succumbed and we all learned then that he really died of AIDS.

I was also intrigued to learn that my favorite driver Gordon really had been pushed from the earliest age, in fact at age five, to be a race car driver. 

Again, it was poignant to see his step-father John Bickford encourage others not to push their young racers so hard and to let them have a little bit of their childhood.

There was also an interesting section on Wendell Scott, NASCAR's first African American stock car driver.

This driver endured racism of all sorts, from fans threatening his family to NASCAR's taking away his win until the fans had gone, apparently so he would not be seen in Victory Lane.

All in all, "The Ride Of Their Lives" was a wonderful treat on a rain cancelled race day. It was a great look back on NASCAR's history, as well as the drivers who have made the sport the phenomenon that it is today.

That's what I did on my day without racing due to the Martinsville rains. So, what did you do on your rain day without racing?


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