Author & Falls Church Driver Take Readers ‘Once Around the Track’

Sharyn McCrumb’s new auto racing novel, “Once Around the Track,” owes its existence to not only the New York Times best-selling author, but also to Adam Edwards, an ARCA RE/MAX Series racecar driver. Edwards, whose hometown is Falls Church, contributed to the development of the novel, serving as a resource for McCrumb’s racing-related questions. The book was published June 1 and chronicles the adventures of an all-female NASCAR team and their male driver. On August 7, McCrumb and Edwards came through Falls Church for a book signing and discussion at Don Beyer Volvo on West Broad Street.

“[‘Once Around the Track’] is a great story. It uses NASCAR and racing as a backdrop, [but] it can be enjoyed by everyone, really,” Edwards said, who first met McCrumb in April 2005 at the author’s book signing of “St. Dale,” an award-winning novel in memory of NASCAR champion Dale Earnheart. He was drawn to the book because Earnheart was his favorite driver.

They maintained correspondence over e-mail, as McCrumb went to work on “Once Around the Track,” and Edwards finished a master’s in business at Virginia Tech and continued his budding racing career. When McCrumb, who usually writes ballad novels about history and folklore, had questions about a racing scene, practices or technical details, she would direct them to Edwards or her other racer friend, Ward Burton, a NASCAR Nextel Cup driver and winner of the 2002 Daytona 500.

Edwards replied with comprehensive emails, looked over drafts, and “[tried] to describe racing in a way that everyone would understand.” He invited her to Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., where he teaches performance driving, to experience the real deal: a spin in a racecar. They rode at a speed of 160 mph, almost reaching typical racing speeds of 180 to 190 mph.

“[Writing about] NASCAR was a real departure,” said McCrumb, who had never set foot in a racecar previously, but found the subject “really interesting.” She wasn’t planning to write a second NASCAR novel, as her publishers were worried that a wide audience wouldn’t be able to relate to a book premised on racing.

With Burton as her inspiration, McCrumb started writing about an out-of-work racecar driver. Her publishers surprised her with their full support. The novel then grew out of a theme of the “duality of celebrity,” in which people have a need for heroes and “build souls” for them, never knowing what they’re really like.

McCrumb knows from experience that her racing friends are not simply what their fans make them out to be. Edwards, who began racing when he was 21 and has been doing so for six seasons, chose racing over working toward a private pilot’s license.

“After Dale Earnheart passed away, watching races lost a lot of interest for me. There was no one to root for,” Edwards said. “It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to go out and do it myself.”

Although his favorite part of his career is the driving, Edwards calls himself an “oddball” because he enjoys the business aspect of racing as well. True to his business degree, he likes working with sponsors (some of his include Don Beyer Volvo in Falls Church and the Falls Church City Sunoco), advertising products and “getting people involved in different causes.”

As Edwards competes in about five to eight of a total 23 races in a season, he searches for a full-time sponsor. He drives as often as he can on a weekly basis — racing or instructing at different tracks up and down the east coast — stays in shape physically and performs duties as the tire changer and gas man for other team cars. His goal, ultimately, is to make it to the Nextel Cup, NASCAR’s top racing series.

McCrumb plans to leave the world of racing and is presently working on a new book set in the Appalachian Mountains.