NASCAR Videos 'Golden' For Troops

December 17th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: NASCAR Videos 'Golden' For Troops

Washington Times
December 17, 2006
Pg. 1

Sen. Warner's son donates 10,000 DVDs of his documentary to deployed U.S. forces.
By Jenna Fryer, Associated Press
CHARLOTTE, N.C.-- John Warner set out to make a simple movie about NASCAR driver Wendell Scott.
By the time Mr. Warner was finished, the filmmaker had spent $3 million of his own money to create a four-part DVD documentary that traces the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing from its early days through the 1960s.
Mr. Warner knew "The Golden Era of NASCAR" was a film of which he could be proud. Narrated by his father, Virginia Sen. John W. Warner, the film is truly a labor of love.
But when he received a thank-you letter from a U.S. soldier serving in Afghanistan who used the film to fill his idle time, the younger Mr. Warner realized just how special it was.
Now he's donating 10,000 copies of the set -- which retails for $79.95 -- to Operation Gratitude. The nonprofit will include the DVD in Christmas packages it sends to deployed U.S. troops.
"Documentaries by nature are very passion driven, and to get the whole story on film is a very powerful thing," Mr. Warner said. "And then I got this letter from the brother of a friend of mine who really enjoyed the story, and it really touches you to know that something you have done can bring joy to other people."
Mr. Warner enlisted help from his stepmother, Elizabeth Taylor, who penned a letter that will be included with the DVD sets. She also included one handwritten letter to commemorate the 200,000th care package that Operation Gratitude will mail out.
"Millions of people around the world are remembering you each day in their prayers. I want you to know that I am one of them," Miss Taylor wrote in the three-paragraph letter.
"Please believe that as you travel through harm's way, you are valiant, loved and respected. I wish you safety in the days ahead and a warm reunion with those you love."
Getting Miss Taylor to contribute to the gift "only took a phone call," Mr. Warner said, as the actress was pleased to help.
"This was something that is important to me, especially since the films touch on all the World War II veterans who helped create NASCAR," Mr. Warner said. "This is just one way that a civilian like myself can give back."
A Virginia native, Mr. Warner was introduced to NASCAR when his father stumped for votes at stock car races with Miss Taylor, the elder Mr. Warner's second wife.
The racing interested the young Mr. Warner, who launched a career of modest success racing sports cars. But when he retired four years ago, he needed a new project and turned his attention to telling the story of Mr. Scott, the first black driver to win a NASCAR race.
"There was no book written on him -- there still isn't -- which is very unusual for a man who is the Jackie Robinson of racing," Mr. Warner said. "So I called up his daughter, and we talked for hours, and it really became a passion of mine to tell his story."
But in researching Mr. Scott, Mr. Warner uncovered story upon story of other NASCAR pioneers. He interviewed more than 50 old-timers and their families and interspersed it throughout the film with his father's narration, which is done in a perfect Southern drawl.
Mr. Warner didn't make "Golden Era" to get rich, and with a willingness to give copies of the set to any deployed serviceman who asks, his profits are continually shrinking. But that won't shy him away from another project -- he would like to focus on NASCAR through the 1970s next -- and it won't spoil the joy "Golden Era" brought him.
"The one thing that was amazing is that Southern people by nature like to tell tall tales, and a lot of them are what had gotten me interested in the project," Mr. Warner said. "And they all turned out to be true. That was the amazing thing -- every one of them was true. I was just astounded."

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