Before each and every Nascar race we the fans are blessed with an often spirited rendition of the Star Spangled Banner before some Z-list celeb gives the command to “start your engines” and of course we are also treated to a local pastor reading a prayer. To European ears these pre-race rituals seem a little bizarre, though they add to the charm. On my visit to Daytona a Good Ol’ Boy sat within earshot declared at the end of the anthem, “every time I hear that song I get a lump in my throat” prompting those around him to nod sagely and give him some pats on the back. You have to see this passion to believe it, even if like me you struggle to feel it for yourself.
Like eating my annual sprout, at Christmas I’ll watch the Queen’s speech and my appetite for patriotic pageantry is abated for another 12 months, so you’ll excuse me if I struggle to keep a straight face when witnessing the manner in which US racing begins each and every week. Secretly I think most nationalities wish they were as proud of themselves as a great many Americans are. Sometimes even a sceptic such as myself can get into the spirit of things; the command to start the engines at the Indy 500 often brings tears to my eyes – skip to just over 5 minutes into this clip and watch how dramatic this moment can be, the TV direction is perfect. The sheer expectation of the spectacle ahead mingles in my mind with thoughts of all the drivers who have paid the ultimate price to be one of the 33 gladiators in the running at the Brickyard. As for Marvin Gaye singing the Star Spangled Banner, that is enough to make you crave a green card.
Last Saturday the Nascar Nationwide series was running in Nashville where Concrete Carl Edwards was the winning driver who took home the coveted Gibson guitar, but it wasn’t the Ford driver who got people talking. Instead it was Pastor Joe Nelms who stole the show with the hilarious invocation you can see above.
In a series with a car sponsored by Jesus a passionate prayer is not unusual, nor is thanking God for everything the France family has brought to us – but this appeal to a higher power was truly remarkable. I could scarcely believe my ears when I heard it on Saturday night, judging by the laughs from the crews and drivers it seems I wasn’t alone. Boogity, boogity, boogity – Amen!