If you’ve seen the 2006 movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (and, if you haven’t, stop reading this right now and go watch it), then you probably remember the classic scene where Ricky Bobby, played by Will Ferrell, leads a hilarious prayer before dinner.
“Dear Lord baby Jesus, we thank you so much for this bountiful harvest of Dominos, KFC, and the always-delicious Taco Bell. I just want to take time to say thank you for my family. My two sons, Walker, and Texas Ranger, or TR as we call him. And, of course, my red-hot smokin’ wife Carley, who is a stone-cold fox.”
Five years after the movie’s release, Pastor Joe Nelms from Family Baptist Church in Lebanon, Tennessee showed up to the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Nashville Speedway with that same Ricky Bobby energy and delivered a rousing pre-race prayer that is still iconic to this day.
The way that Nelms exuberantly thanks God for everything from the car manufacturers to the sponsors is enough to elicit a couple smirks from the folks with bowed heads, but it all crescendos to that hilarious Ricky Bobby moment that had everyone cracking up.
“Lord, I want to thank you for my smokin’ hot wife tonight, Lisa, my two children, Eli and Emma, or as we like to call them, the Little E’s.”
The ending, channeling Darrell Waltrip‘s iconic send-off, is the ultimate icing on the cake.
In Jesus’ name. Boogity, boogity, boogity. Amen.”
Now, Nelms probably didn’t expect his NASCAR prayer to go as viral as it did on social media, but during an interview on Sirius Radio’s Tradin’ Paint, he described the motivation behind the outlandish prayer.
“I don’t want to do the cookie-cutter prayer, not that we don’t need to thank God for our military men and women. Absolutely, we wouldn’t be here without them. Not that we don’t desire safety for all of the officials, workers and drivers. We certainly don’t want anything to happen to anybody out there. We need a safe race.Advertisement
“But it’s the same prayer week in and week out, and I’m not sure anybody is even listening to it anymore. So I said, ‘I want to get somebody’s attention,’ try to make an impact on the fans and give them something they’ll remember and maybe they’ll go home on a Friday night or a Saturday night and say, ‘Maybe I ought to get up and go to church in the morning.'”
Not everyone was a fan of Nelms’ pre-race invocation. In an article for ESPN, David Newton wrote, “As funny as it was, it was another black eye for a sport trying to distance itself from the hillbilly image that Talladega Nights played to the hilt.”
For all the things that NASCAR may have gotten wrong over the years as far image is concerned, I don’t think a pastor channeling a Will Ferrell character is among them. But, hey, to each their own.