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Eyes On The Prize: How These NASCAR Legends Found True Victory In Christ

Photo from Trevor Bayne’s Instagram

Eyes On The Prize: How These NASCAR Legends Found True Victory In Christ

By Movieguide® Staff

For some of NASCAR’s elite racers, past and present, their careers take a back seat to their identity in Christ.

In a recent I Am Second video “Racing for Second,” NASCAR legends Darrell Waltrip and Joe Gibbs, along with racers Michael McDowell, Trevor Bayne, David Starr, and Aric Almirola, all shared why their true victory is in their relationship with Jesus.

“I kind of found in life, the hardest things for us to handle is real adversity or real success. Those two things get us,” the 81-year-old sports icon said. “I’m one of those very average people that God has allowed to enjoy some of the most exciting things in life.”

Over his storied career, Gibbs earned 5x Cup series champion owner and won three NFL Super Bowls as a coach. Gibbs is the only person in sports history to be inducted into the NASCAR and Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Aric Almirola, 38, became the first Cuban descent to win a Nascar race. Almirola said that it was fellow racer Trevor Baynes that invited him to bible study.

“I was with Trevor Bayne, and he said, ‘Hey, man, we’re having, you know, our Bible study this afternoon, why don’t you come?'” Almirola recalled. “At this Bible study, you know, these guys were not the most successful guys of our sport. And yet, I was blown away at the amount of joy and love that just filled this room of drivers that honestly weren’t that successful.”

In 2011, Bayne made history and became the youngest NASCAR driver to win the esteemed Daytona 500 at 20 years old.

For Bayne, his friendship with McDowell led him to realize how his faith was the most important race in his life.

“I’m talking with my friend, Michael McDowell, in his motorhome,” he recalled. “We’re talking about reading books and studying. And finally, I’m just like, ‘Man, you know, I’m kind of tired to reading I don’t know if that’s right or wrong or what, but I’m tired of trying to learn who God is. I’m tired of trying to see what everybody else’s take on God is. I’m just ready to know Him.”

“I want to experience His power in some way and Him just say, ‘This is who I am,'” he continued. “I started realizing that it’s not about performance, it’s just kind of removing your veil.”

In 2008, McDowell suffered a career-altering crash. However, over a decade later, McDowell won the Daytona 500.

“You know, as men and as, you know, fathers and husbands and leaders, we want to control everything,” he said. “We want to control all the circumstances but, you know, we learn more and more. I’ve learned more and more that I really don’t have control of much of anything. And God is in, you know, the mix, even when it seems like it’s falling apart.”

Read More: NASCAR’s Michael McDowell On Daytona 500 Win: ‘God Was Walking With Me Through The Valleys’

After becoming a Christian, Almirola realized that his worth was in Christ and not in his performance.

“I try to make my life about serving others now. I don’t always get it right. I still am selfish at times, but I catch myself now where I didn’t before,” he said.

Read More: Driver Aric Almirola Trusts God As He Prepares for Final Daytona 500 Race

Starr, a six-time winner of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, said that his life changed when a man named Norman Miller asked a simple question: “How is your personal relationship with Christ?”

“It caught me off guard,” Starr said, adding that he and Miller prayed that same night. “We prayed and I asked Jesus to be my personal Savior.”

“I have a personal relationship with Christ,” Starr said. “I learn more from Him. He makes me a better person, a better competitor, and better husband, and makes me a better father.”

“People think, you get saved, you make a deal with the Lord,” Waltrip, a three-time Premier Series Champion, said. “Okay, now I’m going to win a lot of races ’cause I’m saved. I’m a Christian, I’m a good guy, and so now I’m going to win a lot of races. It doesn’t work that way. Your challenge, your walk, the journey just begins.”

“I didn’t win as many races, but people started to see a change in me,” Waltrip said. “That selfishness, that arrogance, that rudeness, that in-your-face attitude, I had started to soften, and that was that was important to me. It’s hard for an athlete, it’s hard for a movie star, it’s hard for anybody to put somebody above them. But this guy over here, Jesus Christ, He’s looking down on us. He wants to share His love with you, and He just asked you to share it with Him.”

McDowell concluded: “I always get this question, ‘Now that you won the Daytona 500 how has your life changed?’ I say, my career maybe changed, but my career is just what I do. It’s not who I am, it’s not what defines me. Being a follower of Christ is what defines me.”

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2