Aside from the death of prominent racer Dale Earnhardt, there have been numerous other fatalities in motorsports that were less publicized.
With the possibility of injury or death that accompanies each race, legendary NASCAR driver Darrell Waltrip founded Motor Racing Outreach (MRO) in 1988 as a national ministry for drivers, their spouses, kids and pit crews.
Also known as the church of NASCAR, MRO offers formal religious services to the extended NASCAR family before each race throughout the season, from February to November.
While services often take place in media rooms or garages, it’s definitely a step up from a time when Waltrip recalls ministers preaching from the back of a pick up truck.
Motor Racing Outreach is now lead by motorsports lover Max Helton, an ordained minister from South Carolina. MRO also has two full-time and two part-time ministers on the current staff.
With a respected outreach now intact, it’s safe to say that Darrell Waltrip has reached his goal of providing NASCAR with a “credible ministry.”
As the son of a pastor myself, I understand the importance of having faith and a strong belief in your religion. At times, I find myself praying for safe travels through the snow or slick weather conditions, so I can only imagine the type of faith and prayers it takes to give a NASCAR driver a clear head when pushing speeds near 200 mph in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
NASCAR drivers are typically on the road 36 weekends out of the year. For this reason, MRO is the primary church for many drivers on the tour.
The services usually draw between 150 and 200 members of the motorsports community. Yet, it’s not uncommon for drivers to seek out counseling from MRO ministers on non-race days about conflict resolutions with other drivers and the struggle drivers face trying to keep their families together through a 10-month race season.
Recently, the introduction of Hans protective neck gear and soft walls, or SAFER barriers, has decreased the amount of motorsport-related fatalities. Yet in reality, race car drivers understand that NASCAR is a life or death sport.
Today however, with the help of Darrell Waltrip and Motor Racing Outreach, NASCAR now has a credible ministry where drivers can take in God’s word, pray, and gain faith before they race.
To read more about the church of NASCAR, head over to CNN Religion.