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The Great American Gamble: How the 1979 Daytona 500 Gave Birth to a NASCAR Nation Hardcover – January 1, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (January 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470228695
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470228692
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,210,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Without live television, without one of the most dramatic finishes in auto racing history,without The Fight, it might have been justanother running of what has become known as the Great American Race. Instead, all of these elements combined with a perfectwinter storm to make the 1979 Daytona 500 a watershed event that transformed NASCAR from a regionally popular stock car racing tour into a national phenomenon.

In The Great American Gamble, award-winning journalist and lead writer Joe Menzer takes you to the infield to witness this pivotal moment in NASCAR history through the eyes of those who made it happen. You'll get the thrilling inside story of that bannerday from the likes of Richard Petty, CaleYarborough, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip,Junior Johnson, Buddy Baker, A. J. Foyt,Benny Parsons, and many more.

Waltrip reveals how he helped convincedoubting CBS executives and affiliates togamble that viewers would tune in to watch a live, flag-to-flag broadcast of the nation'spremier stock car race. He also recounts how an intense prerace downpour threatened to delay the green flag and turn the entire day into a fiasco.

Allison and Yarborough give colorful accountsof their final-lap crash, which put both coleadersout of the running and triggered the mostmemorable and talked-about moment of theday—their fistfight on the infield after therace. It was the press coverage of thisfight, both immediately after the race and for days to follow, that elevated the airing of the1979 Daytona 500 from an exciting andsuccessful sports broadcast to a turning pointfor NASCAR.

Another great hero of that memorable day leftthe speedway hours before the race. Therainstorm that had threatened to ruin everythingbecame a massive blizzard as it moved north,canceling scheduled sports broadcasts on theother networks and leaving millions ofsnowbound fans with nothing to watch butthe most electrifying stock car race anyonehad ever seen. Their enthusiastic response ledNASCAR to a multiyear, multibillion-dollartelevision contract and skyrocketing attendanceat all NASCAR events that has continued for three decades.

Complete with dramatic photos from the race and lively comments from spectators bothat the speedway and on live television,The Great American Gamble, like the race itself,is a breathtaking green-flag run for anyonewho loves great sports stories, auto racing, and, especially, NASCAR.

From the Back Cover

"One of NASCAR's greatest stories is brought to life in this meticulous, highly entertaining replay of the day that changed everything for the sport."
—Lars Anderson, Sports Illustrated

"Joe Menzer has done an excellent job in telling the story of one ofNASCAR's most important races, a tale that includes the vibrant storiesof the cast of characters who participated."
—Mike Hembree, NASCAR Scene

"A magnificent book, one that should be in the library of every diehard race fan."
—Jerry Bonkowski, National NASCAR columnist, Yahoo! Sports and on-air personality, Sirius NASCAR Radio

It could so easilyhave been a disaster . . .

Everyone knew it, from CBS executives and owners of local CBS affiliates to NASCAR founder Big Bill French to driver and NASCAR booster Darrell Waltrip. If anything went wrong with the first-ever live, start-to-finishbroadcast of America's premier stock car race, a lot of people were going to lose a lot of money. It would also be the last-ever live broadcast of a NASCAR event. The Great American Gamble tells the gripping tale of the event that instead made NASCAR the multibillion dollar powerhouse it is today: the 1979 Daytona 500.

Based on new interviews with all the major drivers in the race andothers involved, including Richard Petty, crew chief Dale Inman andKyle Petty, Bobby Allison and Donnie Allison, Cale Yarborough, BennyParsons, Junior Johnson, Buddy Baker, Darrell Waltrip, A. J. Foyt, Ned Jarrett, Humpy Wheeler, Ken Squier, Richard Childress, Jim Hunter, David Pearson, Doug Rice, Ricky Rudd, Geoffrey Bodine, Sterling Marlin, Marvin Panch, Leonard Wood, Eddie Wood, Larry McClure, and Michael Waltrip,this is the ultimate, high-octane account of the most important race inNASCAR history.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By William J. Eichelberger on February 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This could have been such a great book, but as I read I realized that I'd already read a lot of the stories in it. Almost word for word. A quick look at the bookshelf and I came up with The Wildest Ride: A History of NASCAR (or How a Bunch of Good Ol' Boys Built a Billion-Dollar Industry out of Wrecking Cars) by Joe Menzer, a great book on its own, but not good enough for the author to quote from his own work. I was among those who was snowed in and watched the 1979 Daytona 500, flag to flag, so the subject is one that I have an admitted interest in. The stories new to this book are fantastic, especially those with Kyle Petty, who helped crew the 43 car to the victory. It's the stories that have been rehashed from the old notes that drag down my rating. That's just lazy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JohnBuford on July 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While NASCAR considers 1972 the start of its "modern era" an argument can be made that the 1979 Daytona 500 really does begin the modern era. Why ? Television.Pure and simple.NASCAR finally convinced a network that having green flag to checkered flag live coverage was the way to go.With the official NASCAR logo on the cover you know going in there will be nary a word of criticism or controversy.Not a lot of "heavy lifting" here,I knocked this out in a plane ride from Boston to Billings Montana.Joe Menzer does a nice job interviewing the key people.Regrettably,"Big Bill" and "Little Bill" France are both deceased and were unable to talk about the dealings that made all this happen. The interviews with Richard and Kyle Petty were especially good.The Allisons,Buddy Baker (1980 winner and my all-time favorite driver),Cale Yarbrough,AJ Foyt and Darell Waltrip also shared their stories.Reading about Dale and Benny Parsons was bittersweet.There is one very curious error.The author states that Geoff Bodine is from Bellingham Massachusetts. Huh ? The Bodines are from Chemung New York. Overall this is a good read that even a casual NASCAR fan will enjoy.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I first heard about this book I wondered why we needed another book about Daytona. But since I have them all I went ahead and bought it the first week it was available. I am so glad I did! Being able to see the 1979 Daytona 500 from so many points of view demonstrates for the first time on the printed page all of the reasons why this race was so important in NASCAR's and racing's history. The story-telling style makes it a pleasant and easy read. Every racing fan should make this book required reading.
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