Swerve or Die: Life at My Speed in the First Family of NASCAR Racing

St. Martin’s. Aug. 2022. 288p. ISBN 9781250277817. $29.99. SPORTS
As a member of NASCAR’s “First Family,” Petty grew up on the racetracks with his grandfather Lee (one of the sport’s pioneers), father Richard (winner of 200 races), and uncle Maurice (crew chief and engine builder). In this entertaining autobiography, Petty recalls growing up in small-town North Carolina, where his father wouldn’t let him drive go-karts because they were “too dangerous”—so he rode motorcycles instead. The book focuses on Petty’s own racing career but also discusses songwriting, his role as an NBC NASCAR commentator, and learning to fly a plane, and there’s a heartfelt tribute to his son Adam, a rising racer killed in a crash in 2000. Interestingly, Petty expounds on social issues and their echoes in NASCAR: homophobia (like that faced by driver Tim Richmond when he announced he had AIDS); racism (discussing driver Bubba Wallace’s 2020 movement to ban Confederate flags from NASCAR venues); and diversity in team ownership (NASCAR team owners now include Michael Jordan and Pitbull).
VERDICT A fast-paced read about one of the most famous families in auto racing; even casual fans will want to ride along.
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