By Susan Mires
ST. JOSEPH – More than 1,500 NASCAR fans learned how to get on the true Path to Victory.
Building on the excitement with the race at nearby Kansas Speedway, Frederick Boulevard Baptist Church sponsored a racing and car show event Oct. 1 at the church in St. Joseph.
The Path to Victory drew a wide cross section of people to the church parking lot to look at stock cars and dragsters, show off classic vehicles and hear from NASCAR drivers.
“We want to reach out to people who are disconnected from the Gospel,” said Harold Arnold, team organizer from Frederick Boulevard.
Many of those drawn to the cars had no connection to Frederick Boulevard or any local church.
“They can come and have a good time with their race car buddies,” Arnold said. “Maybe they are somebody they’ll listen to rather than the preacher.”
This was the fourth year the church has hosted the racing event. Pastor Micah Fries said total attendance was between 1,500 and 2,000 people.
“It brings out a lot of men, especially dads and sons,” Fries said. “I think that’s a neat thing if we can facilitate that any way we can.”
This year, Frederick Boulevard teamed up with Finish a Winner, a new ministry led by former race car driver and current owner Randy McDonald. McDonald shared with the crowd the message of salvation. Just as drivers have to qualify for a race, McDonald shared, each person has to qualify for heaven.
During the evening, one woman made a profession of faith.
Michael McDowell, a rookie in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, shared how he grew up without any exposure to faith, but after he began racing, he met some genuine Christian men. Attending church one Sunday morning, he learned about forgiveness.
“No matter how much crud you have in your life, you could start a new life today. I thought how cool that would be,” McDowell said.
Trusting Christ changed not only his personal life, but also his career, McDowell told the crowd.
“With my faith, I don’t feel like I’m out there by myself. I know God’s got a plan for me here and for eternal life,” he said.
Other drivers at the event were Blake Koch, who drives in the NASCAR Camping World Series West in a car sponsored by God Speaks; and Eric McClure, who drives the Hefty car in the Nationwide Series. Driver Agent Doug Barnett also attended and shared a brief testimony.
The classic car show was open to anyone who wanted to bring a car to display. More than 150 owners brought their cars, some from as far as 60 miles away. Racers also brought their dragsters.
In previous years, follow-up has been a challenge because of the sheer volume of people who attended. Fries said they previously tried to contact everyone who attended, but the reception was usually not positive, so the church decided to focus its efforts.
Each person who attended was encouraged to register, with the tickets drawn for prizes. The top prize was a pair of tickets to the upcoming NASCAR race; others were for jackets and player memorabilia.
This year, participants were asked to check a box if they wanted to learn more about the church. About 100 people did so.
“We know that all 100 of those people are not attached to a church and are interested in information about our faith,” Fries said.