Many pit crews are huddled, but they're not having a pep talk. They're gathered in prayer.
On Christmas Eve, as families all over the world gather to mark the birth of Christ, I'm reminded of an organization that exists to minister to the motorsports community. That group is Motor Racing Outreach, known to many fans simply as MRO.
Founded in 1988 to serve the Sprint Cup racing community, MRO directs its resources toward at-track ministry, fan outreach, race-shop and in-home discipleship and expansion of the organization's message to other forms of motorsports. Examples of typical MRO activities are hospital visits to those who are sick or injured, race-shop visits, weddings and track-side support to individual teams.
Faith is not something openly discussed on televised sporting events very often, but for members of the "NASCAR family," it's something openly discussed before every race all season long. How?
Die-hard fans are well aware of the drivers' meeting held a few hours before the drop of the green flag at every track. Attendance is taken and timely attendance is required of all drivers and crew chiefs, with penalties for anyone breaking the rules. Fans are not admitted, unless they're lucky enough to have a garage pass, but even then they're only allowed if there's enough room for them.
Since drivers' meetings are the only times during the Sprint Cup season where all the drivers and all the crew chiefs are together at the same time, fans who can get in are thrilled to see so many of their favorites together in the same room (or tent, as the case frequently is).
What many fans don't know is that immediately following every drivers' meeting is an MRO service, open to fans in the infield. I've had the opportunity to attend many MRO services over the past few years, and frankly, some of them have been more interesting than the race that followed.
While most drivers and crew chiefs leave the drivers' meetings for last-minute race preparations, some remain, while additional team members flow in just for the services. Drivers who regularly attend include Joey Logano, Kurt Busch and Sam Hornish, among others.
A visit to the MRO Web site at www.Go2MRO.com reveals a long list of NASCAR personalities who have provided testimonies of their spiritual journeys, including Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Darrell Waltrip, Joe Gibbs and Dale Jarrett.
"It is my faith in the Lord that has gotten me through the loss of Dale Earnhardt," wrote Jarrett. "I believe Dale is in a better place, we are all going to that better place when you have Christ in your life."
In the spirit of the season, have a Merry and Blessed Christmas.
Ellen Siska writes about NASCAR for The York Dispatch. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.