Raceway Ministry Stays on Track

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By Sharon Mager

DOVER, De. — Delaware Raceway Ministry (DRM) is running strong after 31 years, said Jim McBride, Jr., DRM director. Volunteers from at least seven Maryland/Delaware churches, along with a few local community churches, worked together to serve the raceway staff and thousands of NASCAR enthusiasts who camped around the track earlier this month, giving out homemade cookies with New Testaments and Bible tracts, providing golf cart rides to those who needed assistance, and hosting a worship service. The ministry techniques have changed and evolved, said McBride Jr., but the emphasis remains the same: sowing seeds, building relationships, and sharing Jesus.

The ministry started nearly 33 years ago when Jim McBride Jr., then a self-proclaimed “cocky college kid,” was riding past the racetrack with his dad, Jim McBride Sr., then the Delaware Baptist Association (DBA) director of missions.

“I did one of those things you do when you’re in college. You want to catch your parents in something and sort of set them up,” Jim Jr. said, laughing. “I said, ‘Dad, what do you have going on at the racetrack?’ He said, ‘Nothing, why?’ “I said, ‘This is something that happens (then) twice a year, and you don’t have to pay a penny. You don’t have to market it. You don’t have to ask them to come. The race track is doing that for you. There are over 100,000 people at each race in your backyard that you can reach out to!”

BCM/D Executive Director Tom Stolle (front row, third from left) visited volunteers with Delaware Raceway Ministry at Dover Motor Speedway. (Photo submitted)

The godly lightbulb went off.

They began with a few volunteers at a tented area near the rear entrance to the field and gave away cookies, lemonade, and some tracts with race car driver testimonies to race fans as they entered the track area. The following year they began handing out free ham or sausage biscuits and having a short traditional church service.

Later, Covid put an end to camping temporarily and serving food, but other doors opened. Jim Jr. called the racetrack management and offered to serve, asking where they were needed. The ministry then shifted and included providing golf cart rides for the ministry to help those who are elderly or who have disabilities.

“This was the best year yet,” said Jimmy Mariner, the outreach leader at Lynnhaven Baptist Church. He brought two people on Saturday and four others on Sunday. Mariner’s team worked with the golf cart transport. “We saw higher attendance and people who really needed the ministry,” he said, including amputees and others who would not have been able to get to the track without the help of the DRM volunteers.

McBride Jr. said the transport team often has opportunities to pray for people affected by disability, ill, or struggling.

Last year, the speedway invited Jim Jr. to help start an ambassador program, which he is especially excited about. Ambassadors and their teams serve a role similar to consignors at hotels, Jim Jr. explained, with ambassadors answering questions, providing directions, giving out water, and generally helping them in any way they could. The best part of being an ambassador, said Jim Jr., is being able to set up ministry tents next to the ambassador tent. The ministry has two sites. Ambassadors and volunteers can do what they’d like at their ministry tents within certain perimeters.

Maryland Volunteers Minister to NASCAR Fans Nationwide
Long-time volunteers Rick and Barbara Matney, members of Greensboro Baptist Church, were two of the first ambassadors. In addition to giving away ministry literature and Bibles, they also have a clown with balloons at their tent. Walter and Darla (AKA Emerald the Clown) Lewis have also been serving at the ministry for decades, and Darla loves entertaining the children.

(l-r)Raceway Ministry Volunteers Robin Gleokler, Jim McBride Sr., Jim McBride Jr., and Barbara Matney. (Photo submitted)

“What Rick and Barbara do at their site differs from Marianne and Jerry Teague’s site, where they provide face painting and Bible materials,” Jim Jr. says.

Barbara stressed that they are primarily spiritual seed planting, and she and Rick have been spreading those seeds along the East Coast and beyond.

The Matneys had served in Moldova through the BCM/D’s partnership missions initiatives, but that had come to a close. They were looking for a new ministry they could do together, and God opened a door for Raceway Ministry.

Barbara says, “We’ve always been NASCAR fans, so when Jim and Patti McBride, then members of Greensboro Church, said, ‘Hey, would you like to help out at Raceway Ministry?’ We said ‘yes.’ We now go to six or seven tracks. While we were working, we used vacation time to serve. Now we’re both retired and can expand what we do, as long as the Lord allows us to do that physically, emotionally, and financially,”

“We hit Dover, Richmond, Martinsville, Nashville, North Wilkesboro, Bristol, and Darlington,’ added Rick. Each race ministry is unique, and the couple has different duties, which Barbara said makes it fun.

“But we call Dover our home track,” Barbara said.

In the early years, they borrowed campers to cover the Dover NASCAR races, which used to run twice a year. Unfortunately, there were times when the loan didn’t work out. “After sleeping in the car three or four times, we decided to buy one, and we dedicated it to the Lord,” shared Barbara.

One of the ministry’s many blessings is the relationships volunteers have built. Each year, visitors stop by the raceway tents excited to catch up and share news. It’s like a reunion, Barbara said.

“It’s amazing what people will share with you, a stranger, because you won’t be judgmental with them. That’s important. We’re not there to judge.” Barbara stressed that being a listening ear and having compassion are needed to be successful in this ministry.

Rick recalls a man named Bill, who was one of the first people they met while camping. For ten years, Bill would stop by their tent for coffee and to chat. Rick fondly remembers the man with an announcer type voice and a big smile.

Greensboro Baptist Church Pastor Kevin Randolph with his wife Terri.

“We talked, laughed, and shared our lives. Once, he came to us and said his wife was very sick. So right there, we prayed for his wife and family and for him. Winter set in, and we didn’t see him until the spring race. He came running and hugged me really tight. Your prayers worked! My wife is doing great, really good. I had to step back and tell him, ‘All I do is lift your prayer up to God; He answered your prayer.’”

Planting and Harvesting
Jim Jr. said his teams do what they can to share Jesus. Southern Gospel Singer Chip Headley, who, with his wife Nikki, drove from Tennessee to provide music, slipped a tiny model of Jesus into Jim Jr.’s hand when they greeted one another. “Everyone needs a little Jesus,” Chip said with a smile as Jim opened his hand. Although it came with a chuckle; Jim Jr. saw it as a great door opener, and the team began to give out the little figures, which became popular. When they weren’t singing, Chip and Nikki lent a hand with the work of the ministry.

Jim McBride Sr., looking back, said, “Years ago, when we first started our raceway ministry, one of the race fans who camped right behind our site, began to attend our Sunday morning chapel service.

Over the years, we developed a strong relationship with him. He would loan us tools or assist us in putting up our tent. During one race weekend, his wife told me it would be their last trip to Dover because her husband had cancer. Over the next few races, we no longer saw him.

One day I received a call from his wife. She told me he was dying and in a comatose state. She asked me if I would talk to him over the phone. I told her I would be happy to do so. Once she got the phone in place, I shared a few encouraging words and prayed with him.

The next day, she called me and asked me if I would do his funeral. I drove to Altoona, Pennsylvania, and conducted his funeral. While there, his son told me that the first time he ever saw his dad sing from a hymn book was in our raceway ministry tent. He was happy to share with me that his dad had given his life to Christ. I like to think we had planted the seed, God had watered it, and his son got to reap the harvest of seeing his dad become saved. Many of his racing buddies were at the funeral, and I was privileged to preach a gospel message to them.”

Churches that helped at this year’s raceway ministry, either providing help at the track or cookies and prayer, are: First Baptist Church, Elkton; Lynnhaven Baptist Church; New Harvest Baptist Church, Dover; North Valley Church, Myersville; Greensboro Baptist Church; First Baptist Church, Lavale; and Dunkirk Baptist Church.

The field is still white for harvest. There is plenty of room for more volunteers and ambassadors — for Christ.

For more information, email [email protected].