Meet the Women Behind the Men of NASCAR

With its mix of high speed, high stress and high stakes, auto racing is like no other sport.

Big winners become multimillionnaries, fans worship their favorites, but nowhere else in sports do the players cheat death every time they get in the game.

Perhaps because the risks are so great, race-car driving is more than just a sport, it's a way of life — not just for drivers, but for their families, too.

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

On the upside, the rewards can be tremendous. "You have airplanes and you have big homes. And you have nice cars and the kids go to great schools," said Liz Allison, who married into the Allison racing dynasty 20 years ago.

She has lived in the kind of luxury most can only dream about. "In some cases you have nannies and chefs," Allison laughed. "You know the sky is the limit you know when you have big paychecks."

Paula Marlin is married to Sterling Marlin, a big name on the NASCAR circuit for nearly three decades. "He was already racing when we first started dating," she told Primetime Monday.

But life in the early years was tough. The couple and their two children drove hundreds of miles, 36 weeks a year, to make Sterling's races. "You live out of suitcases, number one," said Paula with a chuckle. "Never, never are they unpacked."

Sterling thrived, and now his career winnings so far total $24 million. The Marlins live on an 800-acre spread near Nashville, and though they still spend most of the year on the road, they travel in style .

"I think we've come quite a ways," Paula said. "[It's] nice to be able to get on that plane instead of driving around every place."

At the track, the Marlins become part of what might be called the wealthiest mobile community on Earth. They, along with other drivers' families, live in lavish RVs that cost $500,000 or more.

Living on the Edge of Disaster

The Marlins are part of a traveling neighborhood that can include up to 5,000 family members and support staff. It's an especially tight community, considering the danger that lurks around every turn.

Each week, Paula cooks on a giant outdoor barbecue for whoever wants to come by. It keeps her busy, connected — and "it just takes my mind off of it," she said.

The community also prays together. "God is a part of racing," said Liz Allison. "I think it's because it's a dangerous sport, and there are a lot of prayers that take place at that racetrack."

The threat of death is all too real for drivers and their families. Ten NASCAR drivers have been killed since 1989, including Adam Petty, the 18-year-old son of driver Kyle Petty and his wife, Pattie.

"I have seen what can happen. And yet somehow I would never keep Kyle from getting back in that car. Because," Pattie said, "that's what he chose to do."

Over the course of his career, Sterling Marlin has suffered several injuries, including a broken neck — and he was closely involved in the crash that killed racing legend Dale Earnhardt.

Now, Paula Marlin has two family members to worry about on the track: Her son Steadman has turned professional.

She remembers how she reacted when Steadman told him of her decision: "'No, you're not!' "

"I think that's every mother's thing. I love him to death, but when your son's in the car, it's a whole different ballgame," she said.

The Way It Is

Liz Allison lost her husband, Davey Allison, 10 years ago at the Talladega Speedway in Alabama.

"I felt like my life was shredded in a million pieces and thrown in front of a fan and blown out across the room," she said.

Despite her devastating loss, Allison chose to stay in the racing family. She became a TV and radio commentator.

On race days, Pattie Petty hangs out with the pit crews to watch her husband. Paula Marlin camps out at the motor coach, watching and listening to every move.

One Sunday in Alabama, as Primetime Monday watched, Sterling Marlin's radiator caught fire. He ended his race day early, and the Marlins headed back to Nashville.

"It sucks, but that's just racing," Paula said. "You just have to deal with it and look forward to next weekend and hope everything holds together."