“Outside the track, between turn one and two, God saved my life,” Kevin Kent, 48, of Napoleon, Ohio, said as he stood in front of his red colored 1960 school bus. “God transformed my life — Praise God.”
Kent said he remembers that day, Oct. 7, 2007, like it was yesterday.
It was Wes Clark, a member of a Christian rock ’n’ roll band sponsored by Motor Racing Outreach Ministry, who helped turned everything around for the Buckeye state iron worker.
Clark was a member of a band playing at a Talladega Superspeedway campground, outside the 2.66-mile track between turns one and two.
Clark insisted that the Ohio man take his own personal Bible.
“Clark said, ‘God wanted me to give you my Bible,’” Kent recalled.
It was an emotional moment for the avid race fan who once drank and partied with the best of the best.
“I took it with tears in my eyes,” Kent said. “Jesus forgave my sins and changed my life at that moment. He changed my life in a flash. Now instead of booze, I have God.”
Jason Lickert, 39, of Pell City, remembers returning to the Talladega Superspeedway and seeing the sudden transformation of the Ohio native.
The two men belonged to the same iron workers’ union in Ohio and met on a job there. They shared a common interest — NASCAR racing. Both are avid race fans.
“I told Kevin, I was going to be moving 10 miles away from the Talladega Superspeedway and he would have to come down some time,” said Lickert, who was already a devout Christian.
“He had to put up with my foul mouth and anger during one summer,” Kent said of his past relationship with Lickert, before he found religion.
But, Kent took up Lickert’s offer in 2007.
“It was pretty awesome,” said Lickert, who is a volunteer for the Motor Racing Outreach Ministry. “When I came back to the track the next day, I knew something had happened. I don’t know how to explain it. He was so different. He was happy, excited. It was so neat.”
Lickert later realized what had happened and learned of Kent’s sudden transformation.
“He was so fired up,” Lickert said. “After the race, he would call me once a week saying, ‘God changed my life. I’m reading the Bible every day, and I’m going to church. I can’t believe this.’”
Lickert says Motor Racing Outreach Ministry volunteers do not push religion on race fans.
“We don’t push God down their throats, but we aren’t ashamed to be Christians,” Lickert said.
He said the rowdy crowds at the racetrack do not bother him.
“I don’t judge you, condemn you — I accept you,” he said.
Kent stopped by Lickert’s home on his way to the Talladega Superspeedway this week. He parked his eye-catching bus, both inside and out, at Lickert’s residence.
“I made it here in record time last night — 12 hours,” he said.
Kent said he arrived at his friend’s Pell City home about 5:30 a.m. Friday.
Kent’s school bus, “Bob’s Party Bus,” named after his late friend and former owner, who died of cancer, is covered with stickers.
“Racing with Jesus,” “God answers knee-mail,” and “No Jesus, No peace; Know Jesus, Know Peace,” are just a few of sayings printed on stickers that cover the bus.
“Let me turn on my generator,” Kent said, preparing to show the inside of his home away from home.
Stepping inside the vehicle is like entering the twilight zone.
ChromaDepth 3-D glasses, provided by Kent, bring the neon, fluorescent drawings of stars, planets and galaxies to life. With 3-D glasses, the inside of the bus looks like the animated world of outer space — the heavens above.
He said people who enter the bus are speechless and can only say, “Wow.”
“They think it’s amazing,” Kent said. “The response is unbelievable. At night, it glows in the dark. You ought to see it at the racetrack.”
Kent places fluorescent painted furniture outside the bus, and spray-paints the grass around the large vehicle — so it glows all around the bus at night.
Kent said he uses the unique bus to advance his ministry.
“At the April 2008 race, I was able to baptize someone in Talladega Creek,” said Kent, who was also celebrating his April birthday at the time. “That was the best present God could give me.”
Kent witnesses to some people who tour his bus, others he doesn’t.
“If it feels right, the mood strikes, I’ll give them my testimony and show them the love of God. I will let them know we all have one thing in common … I will plant a seed.”
Kent said the focus of his trips to NASCAR races, including his trip to the Talladega Superspeedway, has changed for him in the past two years.
“It’s more about the ministry,” he said. “I look at my life now and what I have — God has figured it all out for me.… There is no more anger.”
And last night, again, Kent baptized another follower in Talladega Creek, next to the place where he says he found God — at The Talladega Superspeedway.
Contact David Atchison at email@example.com