The best-told anecdotes need no additional spin

Book Review

April 11, 2006|By PETER BLAIR | PETER BLAIR,SUN REPORTER

"Then Junior Said to Jeff ... " The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told

David Poole and James McLaurin

Triumph Books/182 pages

With its roots in the South, stock car racing is a sport rich in oral tradition.

And a book title that begins with the words "Then Junior said" holds Talladega-size potential. After all, Junior Johnson is one of the sport's greatest personalities, winning 50 races as a driver in the 1950s and '60s and more than 100 as a car owner.

But the "Junior" in this title refers to Dale Earnhardt Jr., one of the most popular drivers of the 21st century, but at the age of 32, a winner of only 16 races and no championships in NASCAR's elite Nextel Cup series.

Fortunately, "Then Junior Said to Jeff ... " is a misnomer. Fans of racing's early days - from dirt tracks to drivers who bootlegged moonshine to make a living - will find plenty of tales from the sport's most memorable personalities, including Johnson.

In recounting one of the book's better anecdotes, Johnson explains why he didn't run every NASCAR race in a season (he would only participate in those he thought he had a chance to win).

" ... I wasn't committed, I was just involved," Johnson said. "It's like a chicken and a pig. If you're eating bacon and eggs for breakfast, the chicken is involved, but that pig is committed."

The authors, David Poole and James McLaurin, make no secret of their passion for the sport. They are often more than bystanders in the stories they recount.

The accompanying audio CD falls short. Only four drivers speak in the 42-minute recording, which drags on too long, contains previously recorded interviews and lacks new content. In a 15-minute interview, three-time Cup champion Darrell Waltrip has more to say about his broadcasting career than "what it takes [to win]," as the cover suggests the CD is about.

The anecdotes in the book, however, are easy to digest in small doses - a good thing because they're entertaining, but best enjoyed with a few pit stops in between.

peter.blair@baltsun.com

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