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Friday, July 29, 2011

They Call Him Cale: The Life and Career of NASCAR Legend Cale Yarborough by Joe McGinnis

a NASCAR legend deserves better

Cale Yarborough's famed 28 car in the 1980s
Cale Yarborough is a living symbol of NASCAR from its beginnings to the very creation of the dizzying heights that it has achieved nowadays. Sadly, most of the Johnny-Come-Lately fans have no idea, or at best, only a very dim idea who he is.

Sadly, this biography of Cale Yarborough, They Call Him Cale: The Life and Career of NASCAR Legend Cale Yarborough, only covers half of his career. Indeed, most of the book covers his life before NASCAR. There are only 203 pages in this biography and he joins NASCAR full-time on page 169. Considering that the last 11 pages discusses his retirement years, that leaves 23 pages to discuss his amazing run of 3 championships in a row, the famous fistfight at the 1979 Daytona 500, his decision to run a partial schedule for more than 7 years and his 11 year stint as team owner (just 5 pages for that).

The book could have been tremendously improved if the author had bothered to interview a few people. After all, his stable of drivers include a bevy of current and recently-retired drivers, including Dale Jarrett and John Andretti (his only win as a car owner came with Andretti). All of these drivers are media friendly. I've heard Andretti speak about Yarborough with nothing but praise.

The author should have included commentary about how Yarborough was able to field competitive cars running a partial schedule (nearly impossible to do today). How about Yarborough's willingness to have in-car cameras when most did not want them? How about Yarborough's involvement in a group that tried to set up an alternative to NASCAR after he sold his race team? Nope. None of that.

The lack of depth is not too surprising, really. The author's notes (p. 261) say that he got "many" of the stories in his book from Cale's autobiography and most of the rest came from 7 internet sites.

A nice feature of the book is the inclusion of more than 50 pages of tables that detail Yarborough's NASCAR and IROC career and his Indy 500 runs.

A disturbing feature is the naming of each of his children, grandchildren and the little towns in which they live in South Carolina. Jeez. There are weirdos out there, McGinnis. Why give out this sort of detailed info?

I give it two stars. The pre-NASCAR part of the book is interesting. It's just too bad the rest of the book couldn't follow up.

I rate this book 2 stars out of 5.

Reviewed on May 9, 2008.

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