By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
Carole Townsend enjoys pre-race track access at Talladega Super Speedway, May 2013

Buckle up and enjoy the ride
By Auveed Bagheri Cawthon and Beth Volpert 

Lawrenceville, GA (July 7, 2014) - What does a suburban empty nester mother of four do when she finds herself bored and looking for something new to do and out of her comfort zone? There are as many responses to an empty nest as there are stars in the sky. Some women buy a new car, others get a total makeover, and some take a seriously long vacation.

Carole Townsend chose to tackle what the NASCAR phenomenon is all about and chronicle it in her new book “Magnolias, Sweet Tea and Exhaust.” After all NASCAR has 75 million fans... so there has to be something to it right?

Carole really didn't know a lot about NASCAR but did have some stereotypical thoughts that included cars just racing around a track, scary wrecks, rednecks, and lots of beer drinking. But why the real passion for NASCAR - there has to be a reason? And there is - a good one.

Carole is a true proper Southern lady in her fifties and her subject matter takes her and her husband Marc on an 8 month journey throughout the southeast, where NASCAR is a religion to many. NASCAR is a national and international sport, but we southerners have a special flair with sporting events and are very passionate fans; just take a look at college football fans. There’s the sport itself, but part of the fun is the rich history, the fan base, the traditions, and of course tailgating.

Envision a middle age woman doing a little research into NASCAR, with that research including watching some old NASCAR-themed movies. Remember Days of Thunder with Nicole Kidman, who as Tom Cruise’s girlfriend wore a white linen suit and high heels to a NASCAR race? Suffice it to say Carole took it to heart... Ouch. Don’t believe everything you see in the movies...

But how would she know until she went to her first race, all dolled up like she was going to the Kentucky Derby, complete with front row seats? And she went alone. Yes, Carole was a brave and fashionable newbie fan at her first NASCAR race in Daytona. Thank heaven two women helped her straighten out her wardrobe.

Trading in her trendy “Kentucky Derby” look for a more sporty look would prove to be a bit harder than Carole thought it ought to be. Figuring that she needed to look the part in order to fit in and gather information, Carole added some NASCAR accessories (hat, glasses, mug, etc) to her ensemble purchased at the many available NASCAR vendor booths to better blend in. “After I showed up in a hodgepodge of NASCAR clothing, I was booed by the fans,” says Carole.

“I was schooled by two women in the bathroom who told me that I could not wear something from every driver. I had to pick one.”

With her attire lesson under her belt, Carole took stock of the racing teams, settled on Clint Boyer and was soon sporting a black tank top with wings declaring her a “Racing Diva”. “I learned that I could not be Switzerland,” says Carole. “I picked Clint Boyer and got outfitted.”

Suffice it to say Carole went to the school of hard knocks at her first NASCAR race in Daytona and realized she had much to learn and wasn’t totally revved up as a fan yet.

Her love and excitement for the true sport took place when she actually got to ride as a passenger in one of the cars going 165 mph at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The personalized sporty part for Carole was getting into the car and it wasn’t by opening a door.

There’s always a story behind the story and this one is funny and relatable when you read “Magnolia’s, Sweet Tea, and Exhaust.”

It’s no secret NASCAR and stock car racing evolved from running moonshine during prohibition. What you may be surprised at are the local characters and politicians who have played roles, from as far back as the 1940s to just a few years ago.

Make no mistake, just as football is a sport, it’s also a business. A very lucrative business. NASCAR is a league and each driver is part of a team. You can liken the driver to the quarterback of a football team.

NASCAR includes camping. Yes, camping for the die hards and a possible bucket list item - either in tents, cars, or million dollar RVs. 

These camping stories are priceless and told by a woman who only really drinks merlot for its heart healthy purposes, and whose version of camping is the nearest hotel with room service - until she becomes a NASCAR fan!
Carole with Tim White from Discovery' Channel's show 'Moonshiners'
Carole with Tim Smith from Discovery' Channel's show 'Moonshiners'

carole frances 190 2Now the tailgating experiences described in her book are one of a kind. NASCAR fans love to eat, drink and share. Carole’s accounts of corn hole and other pre-race entertainment activities are a must-read. We’re not sure you would see some of them at a college or pro ballgame, but you might if that generation tailgates at a NASCAR event.

The characters and sources for her book range from friendly fans to NASCAR’s rising stars, legends, team owners, pit crews, and fans including: David Ragan, winner, Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, 2013; NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Rex White (1960 NASCAR Grand National Champion); Ragan’s pit crew chief Jay Guy; driver Marcos Ambrose; Ed Clark, President and General Manager, Atlanta Motor Speedway; twenty-year-old Nationwide Series phenomenon Johanna Long; team owner Michael Waltrip, sixteen-year-old rising star Mason Massey from Georgia, and many others.

Carole chronicles traveling through southern towns in Florida, Alabama, North Carolina, and Kentucky. Small towns in the southeast can be an adventure in themselves. Scenic routes through small towns give view to interesting billboard messages, homemade signs, and down home diners/restaurants that can be both entertaining and serve up some great vittles and warm hospitality.

Reading the book alone for the dining experiences and scenic views will take many southern readers down memory lane and possibly inspire you to either travel or revisit some old dishes.

carole ups 190Carole describes with much humor her journey into another world she refers to “as out there as Mars” that will make you laugh out loud and understand her first gaffes and journey to becoming a better educated and true fan.

Carole traveled to six NASCAR races and each has its own character and culture which she vibrantly describes. For you Georgia history buffs, you may be surprised how Georgia played a large role in the evolution of NASCAR with decades steeped in traditions and lore. Great local nuggets and true stories are in the book.

NASCAR has recently incorporated a special family area and very much wants to attract a new generation of families who want to start a new family tradition. This is a sport of current fans who are multigenerational, and it goes back for decades, steeped in traditions and lore. It’s also affordable; you can even pack a cooler and take it into the venue.

NASCAR and its fans are very patriotic, faith based, and giving. Carole shares a few blessings in the book before the engines start, and they are heartfelt and unique.

Carole hopes that her book will inspire new NASCAR fans - especially women - and perhaps encourage women with an “empty nest” to venture out into something completely out of the norm for them. “Change your life and don’t say ‘No’ to anything,” advises Carole. “Put it on your Bucket List.”

When asked to compare her perceptions of NASCAR before and after her research, Carole smiles and says, “Before I went to the races, I thought it was all hours of beer and left-hand turns. Now, I understand the science, money, tradition and love of a party.” Carole was pleasantly surprised by the openness and graciousness of everyone she met. “From the owners, drivers, mechanics and pit crew, everyone was willing to talk to me.”

While the sport is keeping true to its roots, it is also evolving to attract new fans and make incredible technological advances - the best is yet to come.

“Magnolias, Sweet Tea, and Exhaust” is available wherever books are sold.

Carole-TownsendJuly 1, 2014 kicked off an 8-week promotional tour, which will end with a live interview on the Fan Zone stage during this Labor Day’s NASCAR race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and a book signing at AMS that same weekend.

For more information, readers can visit www.caroletownsend.com.

*** Carole is having a local book signing on Saturday, July 12, 2014 from 11-2pm at Books for Less at the Mall of Georgia.

Carole Townsend is an author, reporter and journalist for the Gwinnett Daily Post, and has been published in Ladies’ Home Journal.  She has appeared on national news and talk shows. When she started writing this book, Townsend began accepting invitations to be a guest on various NASCAR racing radio shows. As a journalist and advocate for the health and well-being of women and children, she also tours throughout the Southeast and speaks on the topics of becoming an author, making career changes, and living in the South.

book 190“Magnolias, Sweet Tea and Exhaust is the perfect book for those who who didn't know they could be interested in NASCAR, true fans, southern history buffs, and anyone that enjoys a good southern adventure with humor. You will walk away with a better understanding and respect for NASCAR and all those affiliated, while learning something new about the south - and for some of us - bringing back great southern memories. Carole Townsend can weave an adventure and educate while making you laugh out loud! Reading “Magnolias, Sweet Tea, and Exhaust” has put attending a NASCAR race on my bucket list - something I had never considered. Never say never!" ~ Auveed Bagheri Cawthon, Co-Editor, Gwinnett Citizen

What others are saying:

Magnolias, Sweet Tea, and Exhaust is a highly entertaining account of a ‘properly raised’ Southern lady’s indoctrination into the high-speed arena of fast cars, racetrack culture, and the extremely interesting people who participate and those who come to watch. . . . This is a must-read for those who may have been hesitant to personally experience what the buzz about NASCAR is all about.” ~ Ed Clark, President and General Manager, Atlanta Motor Speedway

“The book is a great read for any die-hard fan, or the new fan with an interest in NASCAR.” ~ David Ragan, Winner, Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, 2013

“Townsend’s venture into the male-dominated sport of NASCAR is immensely entertaining and informative.” ~ Gregg Loomis, former race car driver and author of the Lang Reilly Thrillers

carole nationwiderace atlan
Carole with the Grit Chips pace car, before the Nationwide race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Labor Day Weekend 2013