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Prayer Warrior

Kentucky Speedway minister North
provides spiritual pit stop

Pre-race invocation, comfort to
injured are part of his duties

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

SPARTA, Ky. (August 2004) – Military bases have them, hospitals have them, and yes, race tracks have them. They are chaplains, beacons of faith who offer spiritual guidance. And to many of those in motorsports who put their lives on the line for both glory and entertainment, their presence is indispensable.

Marshall North

Photo by Don Ward

North prays with Truck Series driver
Carl Edwards and his family
before the race.

“It’s a good thing to know that Christ is sitting there next to you,” said the Kentucky Speedway’s track chaplain Marshall North.
It may seem to those in attendance at the speedway for any given race that North’s duties end when the opening prayer is over. Nothing could be further from the truth. There may not be a lot of preaching to do when a race is in progress, but that doesn’t mean North, 58, sits around and twiddles his thumbs. Always vigilant, perpetually watchful, he treads the grounds of the Sparta track ready to lend a hand or offer comfort to those in need.
Following the customary invocation, North spends most of his time during the race in the infield medical care center, where drivers in need of immediate medical attention are taken. Sometimes, family members come by, and North is always there to reassure them and, if they like, to pray.
North also spends time with the drivers themselves. When Buckshot Jones’ No. 1 Yellow Transpor-tation Dodge crashed and caught fire during June’s NASCAR Busch Series race, North was right there with the driver during the two hours he spent afterward under observation in the medical center. “(Jones) was just as cool as a cucumber to have gone through what he had gone through,” North recalled of the driver, who amazingly walked away from the crash after being treated for smoke inhalation.
At other times, North accompanies family members to area hospitals, where drivers who need medical attention beyond the track’s services are transported. “Should something happen – we always pray it doesn’t – we drive the families to the hospital,” he said.
When he is able, North ventures to the track’s grandstand area medical center. On one such occasion, a mother and her son who were attending a race were taken there when the child mysteriously lapsed into a coma. North reassured the child’s mother and gave her one of the small wooden crosses, which he carries for such occasions. The small gesture seemed to comfort the worried woman, recalled North. He later found out that the child had fully recovered.
North also works closely with the speedway’s fire and safety team, which he thinks of as barrier-wall angels. “They really put their life on the line out there on the track. They do an incredible job,” he said.
Although not a motorsports aficionado before becoming Kentucky Speedway’s track chaplain, North has since picked up an affection for the sport. This affection comes in part from meeting and sharing a common faith with some of its competitors. He readily rattled off a list of names of those he has met – Matt Kenseth, Elliott Saddler and Bobby Hamilton Jr. among them. “All Christians,” he said.
And within the context of motorsports, North has found an essence not completely alien to the spirituality he professes. “All of those people are working toward one end. There’s a real metaphor there for living,” he said.
Of course, North, whose duties lie beyond the physical realm of the motorsports industry, can still appreciate the man-made machines that propel drivers at breath-taking speeds around Kentucky’s 1.5-mile tri-oval track. Last year he, his wife and youngest daughter all had the opportunity to take a ride-along around the track in a replica of the Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 8 car. “This year I’d like to finally get behind the wheel of one,” he said.

Marshall North

Photo by Don Ward

North poses at the
Kentucky Speedway
before the July race.

North, who has been the chaplain at Kentucky Speedway since mid-season last year, lives with wife, Helen, in Erlanger, Ky. In addition to his speedway duties, he also pastors Drurys Chapel United Methodist Church, which meets in a circa 1867 chapel in Sanders, Ky., near Sparta.crosses, which he carries for such occasions. The small gesture seemed to comfort the worried woman, recalled North. He later found out that the child had fully recovered.
North also works closely with the speedway’s fire and safety team, which he thinks of as barrier-wall angels. “They really put their life on the line out there on the track. They do an incredible job,” he said.
Although not a motorsports aficionado before becoming Kentucky Speedway’s track chaplain, North has since picked up an affection for the sport. This affection comes in part from meeting and sharing a common faith with some of its competitors. He readily rattled off a list of names of those he has met – Matt Kenseth, Elliott Saddler and Bobby Hamilton Jr. among them. “All Christians,” he said.
And within the context of motorsports, North has found an essence not completely alien to the spirituality he professes. “All of those people are working toward one end. There’s a real metaphor there for living,” he said.
Of course, North, whose duties lie beyond the physical realm of the motorsports industry, can still appreciate the man-made machines that propel drivers at breath-taking speeds around Kentucky’s 1.5-mile tri-oval track. Last year he, his wife and youngest daughter all had the opportunity to take a ride-along around the track in a replica of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 8 car. “This year I’d like to finally get behind the wheel of one,” he said.
North, who has been the chaplain at Kentucky Speedway since mid-season last year, lives with wife, Helen, in Erlanger, Ky. He pastors Drurys Chapel United Methodist Church, which meets in a circa 1867 chapel in Sanders, Ky., near Sparta.

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