This isn't the sort of book I would expect myself to read. Not because women can't enjoy NASCAR, but because I thought I'd had enough of NASCAR to last a lifetime. My brother, who is 5 years younger than me, spent a few years, a decade and more ago, obsessed with the sport. He could name every driver's stats, and not just NASCAR, but Formula 1 and IndyCar as well. There was always a race on TV, and so the names and locations found their way into my world as well. Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson were household names. While I would occasionally watch with him, and had my favourite (Jeff Gordon), NASCAR was not my favourite thing in the world. It may have had something to do with the fact that the Daytona 500 often fell on my birthday, and there was no way my brother was missing the Daytona 500.
As I began to read Racing to the Finish, it felt like I was going back in time and back to my childhood, as names and places I'd forgotten were in the forefront of the story. But you don't have to be a fan of NASCAR to enjoy this book. This is Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s story of injury and recovery, and the resilience it takes to be a racecar driver. Rather than being an account of his entire life - although he does reminisce about his father and grandfather, and discusses the beginnings and evolution of his racing career - Racing to the Finish is the story of Earnhardt's concussions, recovery, and subsequent retirement. His injuries and recovery happened at the same time the NFL was finally beginning to talk about the affects of concussions, and Earnhardt's journey shaped the way concussions and other injuries are viewed in the racing world.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s story of resilience and healing - and the perseverance required for both - is inspiring, no matter what your own life looks like. I found it a fascinating book, and I was also delighted to find that Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a gift for writing as well as racing; he has proven himself an insightful and skilled author, with a style both entertaining and honest.
Earnhardt wrote this book not only to tell the story of why he was off the track for so long, but to help others who have concussions and other head injuries to understand what is happening in the brain, and know that help is available and recovery possible. As NASCAR's unofficial spokesperson for concussions, and thanks to his fame and fan base, he is in the perfect position to help raise awareness for the prevention and treatment of concussions. For me, this book also gave me a new appreciation of the racing world that I had long forgotten. The often wistful combination of nostalgia and glory which Earnhardt has woven into Racing to the Finish has made me fall in love with NASCAR again.
While this looks like a man's book - it's a sports and medical autobiography written by a racecar driver, after all - I firmly believe books should not be marketed as "men's books" and "women's books." I am a woman in my mid-twenties and I loved it. I believe it would interest anyone with a taste for sports, medicine and psychology, or biographies. Or, like me, give it - or another book outside your comfort zone - a chance. You may be pleasantly surprised.
For more information on Racing to the Finish by Dale Earnhardt Jr., visit our website here.