Bronson Speedway hosted the annual Daytona Antique Auto Racing Association’s national event. David Axelrod was there with his book, The SPEED Way, which is the first and only book of poetry devoted entirely to NASCAR, stock cars and growing up around cars and racing. Gainesville Television Network, GTN’s Joanna Wise put together this video piece to feature “the sights and sounds of what drivers call their childhood dream.”
The SPEED Way: Poems about NASCAR and Growing Up with Cars and Racing
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Hello to fans of NASCAR and lovers of poetry. I’m Dave Axelrod and I’m here to entertain you with the images and emotions that go with being a NASCAR fan and a lover of cars and racing. So, okay, I never raced and, honestly, at best I’m barely an auto mechanic. But I’m not new to auto racing. My father, Sam, owned an auto parts store and was a truly talented mechanic who built and owned stockcars that raced at the old West Peabody Speedway in Massachusetts. We spent Saturday evenings at that track. I spent endless hours making wooden soapbox derby racers. And well before NASCAR was so popular, we spent every Memorial Day weekend glued to the radio and later the TV to hear the Indy.
In 1953, when I was just ten, my father built the first “micro-midget” racecar in our hometown of Beverly. That’s me in the car with my father and brother, Don, standing behind me. Then, to the great annoyance of the neighbors and local police, I raced all over town. On a straightaway at the Beverly Airport, we pushed it up toward 30—about the same speed the first racecars hit when Olds brought his racer to Ormond Beach, Florida, for the first-ever auto race in 1903.
Who would have thought an auto mechanic’s son would become a dedicated poet? But that’s what happened, and a later-life moment provided the inspiration for this new book of poems. In a conversation not long before my father passed away (at the age of 89) he confessed to me, “I never understood your poetry!” That set me on a project to write a book of short pieces—of poetry—that would appeal to everyone, particularly auto racing fans.
The book is based on my researching a lot of racing history, interviews with fans, drivers, crews, and lots of time at NASCAR events. I suppose I should also admit that I indulged myself and spent way too much money fixing up a 1968 Olds Cutlass 442 convertible with a re-worked 451 engine in it. Who cares if the numbers didn’t match. Just take your foot off the brake at a stoplight and you’d get whiplash leaving rubber. (It went away in a divorce…) So, I’ve also put in some of my own personal experiences because fast cars, racing, love and friendships are all intertwined as an important part of my life. (That’s me with Bobby Allison at the Legacy of Speed Banquet.)
I hope these poems make an easy and enjoyable read. These poems mean what you think. There are no deep, hidden meanings here, and no, there will be no test at the end of the book! Just enjoy the sights, sounds and emotions at the heart of one of America’s most popular sports.
WANT TO TAKE PART IN THE BOOK OR BE IN TOUCH? I’d be happy to hear from you. I’d be happy to meet folks who have NASCAR stories. For advanced review copy of the book, contact TotalRecall Publications, Inc., 1103 Middlecreek, Friendswood, TX 77546. 281-992-3131 http://www.totalrecallpress.com
Look for events to launch the book beginning in January at locations like the Living Legends of Auto Racing Museum in South Daytona Beach; the Living Legends Banquet during race week; Barnes and Noble bookstore on International Speedway Blvd., Daytona Beach; the Casements in Ormond Beach–the birthplace of autoracing. Mostly, you can find me in Daytona Beach. Contact me! I’m happy to exchange chat and facts with anyone associated with NASCAR or just a lover of cars and racing.
Play “Where’s Dave!” If you see me at a NASCAR event, do come up and say hello. I may yet be there in a kiosk, dressed in NASCAR driver’s colors, peddling what else? Poetry!