The gentleman pictured below has a special ministry to race car drivers in Michigan. (Perhaps he also enjoys a good game of checkers? Gotta love that stole.)

Check out — ha! — his story right here:

Before the big race on Sunday, Aug. 31, some of the drivers, pit crews and their families in town for the Detroit Grand Prix will gather for Mass on the upper floor of the Belle Isle Casino.

Celebrating the 11 a.m. Eucharist will be Fr. Phil De Rea, MSC, of IRL (Indy Racing League) Ministry, once dubbed the “racetrack reverend” by the Chicago Tribune.

“It’s for the racing community, but it’s open to the public,” Fr. De Rea says.

In his 37 years of ministering to the racing community, the 66-year-old Missionaries of the Sacred Heart priest has come to be a friend and spiritual adviser to many of those involved in motor sports.

“I’ve been doing this since 1971, when my long-time friend Mario Andretti got me to go with him to look at the new Pocono International Raceway (in Pennsylvania),” Fr. De Rea says.

Both Fr. De Rea and Andretti grew up in Nazareth, Pa.

Fr. De Rea’s ministry to the racing community was given a more formal shape with the founding of IRL Ministry in 1996. Besides going to the racing events to celebrate Mass, IRL also offers year-round Bible study programs.

And Fr. De Rea has become involved in other aspects of the lives of those in the racing community. “I’ve gained a lot of friends over the years I’ve been doing this. I’ve baptized a lot of their kids and presided at their marriages,” he says.

Gil De Ferran and Emerson Fittipaldi are among the well-known drivers at whose weddings Fr. De Rea has officiated. And this aspect of his ministry has sometimes taken him across the Atlantic Ocean, as when he conducted the 2001 wedding of driver Dario Franchetti to actress Ashley Judd in Scotland or this year’s wedding of Scott and Emma Dixon in England.

Check out the link for the rest, including some terrific pictures.

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