I recently picked up a new paperback book that has just been released by Waldorf Publishing and authored by Brock Beard. The title is “J.D. The Life and Death of a forgotten NASCAR legend“. Although I enjoyed the book immensely (I read all 296 pages in two sittings) I have to take exception to the title. Among us who do remember J.D. racing in NASCAR is a legend but not forgotten!
He was an example of what racing and NASCAR racing was really like before big money took over.
I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in NASCAR racing. If you remember how it was in the early days you will enjoy it. If you are new to the sport, you will also enjoy reading about how it was around the time real stock cars were racing. Most of the book deals with the late 80s and early 90s before the sport matured into the corporate monster it is today.
The book is not a fictionalized glory story of some “Days of Thunder” pretty boy. It is the story of a common man who was loved by everyone. A man who loved racing and competition. He never won a CUP event in 653 starts. He was in independent racer, something that does not even exist today at the CUP level. For the most part he owned only one or two cars at a time; he worked on his car; he transported it on an open flat bed truck; he drove the transporter. It was even his “motel” when winnings were slim. If he wrecked it, he fixed it. When he got to the track he had to fill out his pit crew with local volunteers. He raced on used tires, not being able to afford new ones. The other competitors also loved J.D. and often gave him used parts from their race cars when they upgraded.
He knew winning was unlikely to ever happen for him at a CUP race. Back then there many other drivers on the track just like him. There were a few top name drivers who raced for the win and the rest raced among themselves for the other spots. These racers often drove harder than the leaders. The “back markers” as they are often called to day, lived on what ever they could win. They mostly raced without sponsors or only a local sponsor who might provide pizza or fuel money for having their name on the car.
J.D. lost his life on the track at Watkins Glenn in 1991. It is no secret that the cause of the accident has always been a topic of discussion and disagreement.
As I read the closing chapters of the book I will admit to having to stop on several occasions to wipe the tears from my eyes. By the end you feel like you know J.D. and what he was all about. If you are like me, you will be reminded why NASCAR is not nearly as much fun as it once was.
Yet, there is one more reason you need to read this book. Racing isn’t just about the driver’s or even their families. It includes the entire race team and the sponsors. A good friend of mine, Marty Burke plays a big part in this chapter of J.D.’s life and plays a big role in the book. Marty, at the time, was trying to enter the NASCAR arena as a driver. He became a very good friend of J.D. at times even providing sponsorship and serving on his pit crew. He and J.D. were very close and working on a plan to field two cars. One would provide Marty with a car to start his career as a driver in the support races. It would also be a back up car for J.D. if needed. Soon it would be a second CUP car for for the J.D. team. At the time of the Watkins Glen race that took J.D.’s life, Marty was the car owner.
For all practical purposes, Marty’s NASCAR career also ended at Watkins Glen that day.
You can find the book on Amazon or your favorite book store.