I don't read many books about sports. When I read, I like to escape. So I almost always choose fiction, fiction or anything written by Pete Dexter.
Many people I know and respect have written books about sports, and I approach them warily. Because I like the author, I want to like his or her work. So I was nervous about reading Growing Up NASCAR: Racing's Most Outrageous Promoter Tells All.
The author is Humpy Wheeler (with Peter Golenbock). And I respect Humpy as much as anybody I've written about.
So I put it off. I let the book sit.
I'm a fool. Humpy has always been a master story-teller, and he wouldn't have written his story if it weren't good. And it is good. It is excellent. It's not simply the story of racing or the story of Humpy. It's the story of mill towns and small-town boys and fast cars and fistfights. It's the story of the piece of the South from which Humpy comes.
I went to bed Tuesday reading Growing Up NASCAR and picked it up again Wednesday morning at 6 a.m. The book is like a race, a good race, a race from story to story, character to character, warm and insightful and true, a race I don't want to end.
I'd recommend it even if I didn't know the author. And we all know Humpy, or feel as if we do, through his work as president and general manager and promoter extraordinaire at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Humpy will be at the Books A Million at Concord Mills Mall tonight from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Stories will be told and books will be signed and sold.