BRISTOL, Tenn. — NASCAR Cup Series driver Michael McDowell didn’t grow up going to church.
The 37-year-old man did not give his life to Jesus and became a Christian until he was 18 years old.
Easter Sunday is a special day for McDowell and all Christians. But the Front Row Motorsports driver said he feels he has a different perspective than some on Easter.
“There are a lot of mixed emotions about racing on Easter Sunday,” McDowell said. “I didn’t grow up in the church, so I didn’t become a believer until I was an adult later in life. So it wasn’t so much of a tradition for me. You know, this is what we do on Easter Sunday.”
McDowell said his Christian walk is a daily walk, including on Easter Sunday.
“I think when you don’t grow up in church, to me, Jesus is very real and it changed my life,” he said. “I celebrate the risen Christ every day. I don’t need a Sunday or an Easter Sunday to do it. But I also value the meaning of (Easter) because it is the most important day of humanity. I understand the meaning of this.”
CELEBRATION ON THE TRACK
It was McDowell’s faith and his understanding of the importance of Easter Sunday to that faith and all Christians that led the 2021 Daytona 500 winner to come together with other NASCAR drivers to start what became the Easter celebration at BMS.
“A lot of us haven’t run on Easter Sunday,” McDowell said. “It was kind of a surprise and we wanted to make sure that for us as drivers, our families, team members and all family members, we could still have an Easter service and have a proper celebration.
“It really started out as a conversation, and it all came together organically. There were a lot of moving parts to make it all fit together.”
McDowell’s positive outlook on life in general influenced how he received the Easter racing news.
“There are two ways of looking at every situation. You may be bummed out because we’re racing on Easter, but at the same time it’s a great opportunity,” McDowell said matter-of-factly. “It’s a great opportunity to share a message and the hope of the gospel of Christ and to be able to do it with the fans and to do it on television and to do it in a bigger way.”
The celebration was nationally televised on FS1.
WHAT A CELEBRATION
What an Easter celebration it was.
Putting all the pieces together fell primarily to officials from Speedway Motorsports and BMS.
Having an outdoor church service on Easter Sunday between the BMS and the Bristol Dragway is not something that happens every day.
But for the more than 1,000 spectators who attended the event, the location did not matter. Most left feeling blessed.
Max Lucado, renowned author and pastor of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, delivered the Easter message, and music was provided by Grammy Award-winning worship leader Chris Tomlin and Gary Levox, the former lead singer of Rascal Flatts.
Tomlin, one of the best contemporary Christian music artists in the business, rocked the crowd with some of his most popular songs like “Amazing Grace” and “Whom Shall I Fear.”
He also performed “How Great Is Our God” with Levox providing harmony on the song.
SMI and BMS officials were delighted with the event.
“We are so grateful to all of the fans who joined us in worship at our Easter celebration,” said Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith. “Jerry Caldwell and his team at Bristol Motor Speedway created another one-of-a-kind event.
“It was truly a blessing that Chris Tomlin, Max Lucado and so many hosts, their families and fans were able to come together to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. What an incredible addition to the history of Bristol Motor Speedway.”