From NASCAR’s founding in 1948 to the present day, the sport of professional auto racing has churned out countless drivers who have made important impacts on the sport in one way or another. Just think back to some of the best and most iconic drivers from over the years who saw that checkered flag wave again and again. Bobby Allison. Richard Petty. Bill Elliott. Dale Earnhardt Sr. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jeff Gordon. Tony Stewart. Jimmie Johnson. Kyle Busch. We could go on and on.
As you can probably imagine, there are so many NASCAR drivers, both past and present, who have incredible and fascinating stories to tell. Fortunately, some of those stories have been written down and published for us to read. Here, we’ll just look at five NASCAR driver biographies that you absolutely need to add to your wishlist.
Having made the move from the driver’s seat to the NBC Sports broadcaster’s booth, former NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. has more stories to tell than your average racer.
In his second autobiographical book, the North Carolina native (who wrote Driver #8 back in 2001) offers a candid reflection that focuses on the last year of his challenging race career and his subsequent retirement in Racing to the Finish: My Story. Published in 2018, the book also focuses heavily on the physical implications caused by constant head injuries and the emotional struggles that followed during Dale Jr.’s time as a NASCAR driver.
Junior writes about how, despite the trying concussion symptoms his wife Amy stood by him through his slow recovery process as he worked back to being a healthy man and left the full-time professional stock car racing life behind on his own terms.
It’s a great read for anyone who never realized how seriously concussions can lead to escalating symptoms and truly impact the day-to-day life of a race car driver.
In this first-ever biography of Jeff “Wonder Boy” Gordon, we get a deep look into both his life outside of racing as well as the rivalries and relationships he formed throughout his career.
Published in 2016, Jeff Gordon: His Dream, Drive & Destiny is the culmination of more than a year’s work on the part of Joe Garner, who observed and interviewed Gordon during a number of races and events about his own experience. Garner also spoke with dozens of family members, friends, competitors, and colleagues to get a full picture of who Jeff Gordon was both on and off the track.
According to Gordon himself (who just so happens to be a New York Times best seller, by the way), “People are going to be able to read about me like they’ve never read about me before.”
Most NASCAR fans these days may be more familiar with Chase Elliott than his dad Bill, but the NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee was very much part of NASCAR’s old guard and was instrumental in making the sport what it is today.
In his autobiography, Awesome Bill from Dawsonville: My Life in NASCAR, the former driver and team owner chronicles everything from growing up in Dawsonville, Georgia to what he sees as the future of NASCAR. Of course, there’s a whole lot packed in between there, such as Elliott’s rivalries with the likes of Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Darrell Waltrip and his hard-fought battle for the Winston Cup championship.
A must-read for race fans, especially anyone who’s interested in the old school days of NASCAR.
At the Altar of Speed: The Fast Life and Tragic Death of Dale Earnhardt is a cradle-to-grave look at the iconic NASCAR driver simply known as “The Intimidator,” examining everything from his humble beginnings as a ninth grade dropout to his eventual seven Winston Cup championships to his final year of racing to his untimely death at the 2001 Daytona 500.
Author Leigh Montville looks at Dale Earnhardt’s failures and successes and, with the help of a section of full-color photographs, paints a full picture of the motorsports legend who was taken from us far too soon.
John Delphus “J.D.” McDuffie Jr. may not be as recognizable a name as Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, or Bill Elliott, but he has one of the most interesting stories in NASCAR history, despite having never won a race.
Killed following an intense wreck at the 1991 Budweiser at The Glen, J.D. began as a car mechanic and worked his way up to racing against such legends as Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. In J. D.: The Life and Death of a Forgotten NASCAR Legend, Brock Beard looks as McDuffie’s NASCAR racing career, while also offering insight into J.D.’s legacy following his tragic death.
This post was originally published on November 19, 2018.