Race car driver Jon Denning isn’t your usual redneck speed freak that you see trading rubber on the NASCAR circuit. Much like Jeff Gordon & Jimmy Johnson, he hails from a completely different part of America. He’s a Jew from New Jersey who is finding it difficult to rise to the top in a sport that is dominated by Bible Thumping White Christian Males.
From YNET News:
The cars are all lined up, revving their engines, sending the RPM gauge into the red zone – ready to take off once the flags start waving. The driver of car 46, Jon Denning, takes out a small notecard as he waits for the go-signal and begins quietly uttering the Hebrew lyrics of the Traveler’s Prayer: “May it be Your will, Lord, My God and God of my ancestors, to lead me, to direct my steps, and to support me in peace. Lead me in life, tranquil and serene, until I arrive at where I am going.”
Seconds later, the signal is given, Denning slams on the gas pedal and his adrenaline goes into overdrive as the race gets off to a start.
Denning, a 20-year-old Jewish-American from New Jersey, stands out from the crowd of NASCAR drivers by virtue of his religious orientation. Although he doesn’t label himself “religious,” he is very proud of being Jewish and claims that his connection to Judaism is only becoming stronger with time.
NASCAR racing has become very popular in the American South, which is mostly inhabited by devout evangelical Christians. Denning is the only Jewish driver in the competitions.
Denning says he isn’t ashamed of his religious identity and doesn’t hide it from fellow drivers – but it often makes him feel like an outsider.
For the past three years, Denning has left his home in New Jersey during the NASCAR season, which lasts from March to November, to go to Virginia in order to compete.
Northern pretty boy Jeff Gordon broke through several barriers as the California kid who crashed the party and has won 4 NASCAR Championships and surpassed NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Sr with a total of 81 career wins. But then again, Jeff Gordon is a born again Christian.
I have been a huge NASCAR Fan for years and I have been a huge fan of #24 Jeff Gordon since he came into the big league of the Sprint Cup which then was the Winston Cup. I am openly disappointed by such reports and I am torn about my loyalty to a sport that wants to include minorities, except of course the Jews.
Denning stated that people in the sport have tried to convert him to Christianity saying he would have better luck if he would just believe in Jesus Christ. But, “I’m a Jew and I will remain a Jew,” Denning proclaims.
“I try to gently respond to those who try to convert me and change subject. They don’t’ always understand that they’re doing something that is not OK — aggressive. They think they’re doing a good thing.”
Denning started 15 races and finished in the top five three times and in the top 10 seven times. According to NASCAR.com, he finished 498th among 500 racers in last year’s standings.
He said he has had trouble finding corporate sponsorship and acknowledges that he wonders occasionally if it is because he is an outsider — as a Northerner and a Jew.
Hey Jon, here are some ideas for sponsorship on your car.