Driving a red hot 1968 AMC Javelin dragster with a trunkload of Bibles, auto mechanic Keith Callaway wants to bring God to the racetrack.
The Torrance mechanic has been busy for the last three years building his first race car. When the racing season begins in February, he plans to make his debut at the tracks, both as a novice racer and as a messenger of religion.
His plan is to load the trunk of his car with Bibles donated by a South Bay religious group to hand out to other drivers and track people.
"I see so many race car drivers out there like I was, obsessed with the car," said Callaway, 34. "You can't look at just one aspect of your life. I want to tell them, 'Remember your maker, man.' "
Originally from Corpus Christi, Texas, Callaway was raised by a Baptist mother and a father who belonged to the Church of Christ.
In 1985, he graduated from Texas A & M University with an accounting degree and began working as a beverage salesman. After struggling to make the most of an unfulfilling career and a frustrating relationship, Callaway turned to religion. In 1990, he moved to California, where he discovered a way to bring together his love of cars and church.
With the help of some friends at Hermosa Beach's Hope Chapel, Callaway started what he called the Alpha Omega Motorsports Ministry. People with car problems gathered in the chapel's backyard the first Saturday of every month. And when he went under their hoods, Callaway the mechanic anointed the sick in his own way.
"It was a real blessing for some of the less fortunate in the church who were tired of getting ripped off by mechanics," said Gary Marshall, who was a maintenance worker at Hope Chapel at the time. "Pretty soon, word got around that he was available and more people came."
Two years later, with donations and gifts from South Bay churches and local businesses, Callaway opened his own auto repair business, also named Alpha Omega Motorsports. He explains that Alpha, the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and Omega, the last letter, are used to express the eternity of God.
"When people come in my shop, I think, 'Welcome to God's fraternity, man.' Alpha Omega means God is saying, 'I am the beginning and the end. And don't worry about anything in between, dude, because I've seen it all.' "
Near a toolbox in his garage, a sacred heart of Jesus statue watches over his work, and the music of rock group Nirvana blasts in the background.
At the racetrack, Callaway will be working with "Racers for Christ" to spread his message. The San Dimas-based nondenominational ministry works the racing circuit, organizing pre-race trackside chapel services.
Ken Owen, group president and official chaplain of the National Hot Rod Assn., said drivers tend to fall into a mechanized existence.
"Keith is a perfect example of someone who looks at racing as a platform to share his message," Owen said. "His race car is his personal pulpit."
"In the Scriptures, God said go out into the highways and byways and tell them to come," Owen said. "Well, we just add the speedway."