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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 NASCAR.com 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 thedaytheir 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.
"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.