They Were Opportune in Every Way

The captains played a big role: Sam Tiller (48), Titus Hood (36), Brooks Seawright (55), Cameron Nichols (10) played a role. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, October 6, 2018, 11:53 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

It’s been unusual this fall to feel upbeat on Saturday mornings.

Every high school football team in this county is 2-5. Fortunately, the one I watched last night was the one that won its Homecoming game, which all three had. It’s the one from which I graduated during better football times.

By the time Clinton had finished defeating Mid-Carolina 21-8, to borrow the term used occasionally in these parts, I was “’bout near wore out.”

I hurt my knee Wednesday doing nothing more strenuous than getting into my pickup. When I stepped up and pushed with my left left, I felt the knee buckle a little. It may have made a little click. It didn’t hurt at the time, but I knew it would, and the next time I sat down for a while – writers often sit down for a while – it would be hard to get out of the chair.

It doesn’t happen often. Both knees are bad. The left one is a freak with a demented sense of humor.

Homecoming meant I went out at 4 p.m. to shoot photos of the Homecoming Parade, which I really enjoyed in spite of the limp. Nothing enhances my mood like the vitality of kids.

All the time on the Wilder Stadium sidelines, shooting more photos in the old yard’s crummy lights, was a burden. By the time I got through writing about the game, processing many, many photos of pretty girls in sports cars, ballplayers occasionally unblurred by the conditions of light, and the shock of the beauty who found herself a queen, it was approximately oh-dark-30, but I felt better when I awakened, and I feel even better now.

I’ve spent an hour playing guitar, Texas and Oklahoma are playing, NASCAR is at Dover and the Red Sox staved off the Yankees last night.

As the Statler Brothers sang, “Uh, don’t tell me … I’ve nothing to do.”

Presbyterian College is likely doomed to defeat in Kennesaw, Georgia, near where Larry Woody and I once walked the Civil War battlefield. Laurens District High fell to Woodmont in a game I thought it would win. Richard Winn Academy spoiled Laurens Academy’s Homecoming.

The Red Devils, though. They won. I remembered how we used to sing the alma mater when we drove through the gates after a road victory. I remembered how a gully washer hit during warm-ups before our Homecoming game against Clover, and how, once the sun came out and the game began, the Blue Eagles ran back the opening kickoff for a touchdown … and then we hammered ’em.

Billy Joe Shaver wrote a song that said, “Was that only yesterday or was it over 20 years ago?”

Try 43. I’m Richard Pettyed away from playing high school football. Age 17 seems nicer now than it really was. It was good, though. Really good.

What I learned from my high school coach – and this was even when I was in high school – was that a key to success is never having to make up one’s mind about anything. Sometimes I couldn’t do it, but I always knew what to do. I have enough recollection of 17 that I still understand that if a kid of that age makes up his mind about anything, he will likely screw up.

My coach sometimes said, “If you must make a mistake, at least make it full speed.”

I’m still a full-speed mistake maker, one whose left knee likes to play tricks.

What didn’t change for Clinton was a penchant for disaster. The Red Devils, too, made a lot of full-speed mistakes.

“Sometimes I can’t believe what my eyes see,” said head coach Andrew Webb later.

A roughing-the-punter penalty elicited a strange sound from the home grandstands. I think it was the sound of several thousand people yelling, “Why? Why? Why?” at the same time.

It was sort of a flat version of George Jones singing, “Tell me why, baby, why baby, why, baby, why, you make me cry, baby, cry, baby, cry, baby, cry?”

I’ve never seen Webb so angry and frustrated on the sideline.

What did change was that, for every fumbled hand-off, silly penalty and turnover, Clinton made a clutch play.

Sam Tiller averted disaster when a low punt snap tumbled around at his feet, and by the time he secured it, the planned punt was no longer an option. As he sprinted toward me, down the sideline, he looked exactly like the soccer player that he also is, only he was carrying the ball. He picked up 16 yards on fourth-and-12.

After Mid-Carolina tied the score, Titus Hood made a 33-yard kickoff return that set up Cameron Nichols’ 20-yard touchdown pass to Elijah Campbell seven plays later.

Campbell made a splendid catch in a season full of catches that could have been splendid but weren’t quite.

Have they crossed a bar? Have they found that elusive knack for winning? Clinton will be hard-pressed to win any of the remaining three games: Newberry, Emerald, Woodruff.

Two of them are home, though, on Richardson Field, with a banner on the fence listing the seasons of glory.

Also, when I was in high school, I sang in a church chorus, and one of the songs we performed began, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going.”

Last night’s game may not turn the season around, but there’s got to be an effect. For a night, the Red Devils learned how to pull one out.

 

If you enjoy my insights about racing and other subjects, make a small pledge of support. Rewards are in place for pledges of $5 or more. If 1/10 of my followers and Facebook friends pledge $1 a month, I’ll be set. Read all about it here.

If you yearn for my writing in larger doses, I’ve written quite a few books. Most are available here.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Lightning in a Bottle, the first of my two motorsports novels, is now available in audio (Audible, Amazon, iTunes) with the extraordinary narration of Jay Harper.

Just out is my eighth novel, a political crime thriller called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s right up to date with the current political landscape in the country.

My writing on other topics that strike my fancy is posted here.

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It Was Worth a Shot, and the Bull’s Eye Was Close Enough

(Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, October 2, 2018, 2:08 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

Before the great experiment in NASCAR cross-breeding and language invention, I said on a radio show that the race at Charlotte Motor Speedway (revised) would either be won by a great adaptive talent or by a cool-headed driver of great judgment.

This view of mine would have been correct had it, in my estimation, been won by Brad Keselowski or Kyle Larson, who seemed destined to settle it between them or run out of gas trying, or by Kyle Busch, whom I picked, or by Jimmie Johnson, who ended up losing it because he wanted it too much in the final spring-loaded corner.

Ryan Blaney, bound for glory. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

All the while I was watching this human drama of athletic competition unfold, I was thinking of the words once told me by the late, great, larger than life Bud Moore.

“By God, your ass has got something to write about now.”

I wished I was there, but there is little market for my presence, and I could watch it in my living room without spending money I didn’t have to go.

It kept my interest. I was oblivious to professional football. I never even switched over during commercials. I knew that’s when the lead changes and wrecks would be.

Let the good times roll. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

It was great. I enjoyed it. I’m almost inclined to call it “a roval,” though it’s really just the kind of infield road course snaking through the infield that is attached to the high-banked oval (that really isn’t) on its perimeter. Lots of tracks have them. Many don’t use them anymore. Many will probably rethink that view.

I get it. Branding. In May, it’s Charlotte Motor Speedway. On the last day of September (previously early October), it’s Charlotte Motor Roval. Get a capital letter on that silly name. For God’s sake, don’t claim all those races are on the same track. Let’s not call it Charlotte Motor Property.

The TV ratings and the crowd were up a little. It’s a start. Now don’t squander it. This race was a rousing success. NASCAR shouldn’t do what it is prone to do, which is to take anything that works and order up a dozen just like it. The fall race has a niche to call its own, and that’s rare nowadays.

Ruh-roh. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Ryan Blaney wasn’t the driver I had in mind when I thought of cool judgment and appropriate caution in the face of the unknown, but that’s who he was. He played it smart all day and made the best of the car he had and the conditions in which he raced. In a mere 52 weeks, he can try to do it again.

Blaney seized the day. He carped the diem.

Terry Labonte must have approved. I’m sure Dave Blaney, a favorite of mine, did.

All hell broke loose at the end. Next year, at least part of hell will. Next year, when they climb into their cars, they won’t be staring into the unknown, but the view will still be murky.

 

If you enjoy my insights about racing and other subjects, make a small pledge of support. Rewards are in place for pledges of $5 or more. If 1/10 of my followers and Facebook friends pledge $1 a month, I’ll be set. Read all about it here.

If you yearn for my writing in larger doses, I’ve written quite a few books. Most are available here.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Lightning in a Bottle, the first of my two motorsports novels, is now available in audio (Audible, Amazon, iTunes) with the extraordinary narration of Jay Harper.

Just out is my eighth novel, a political crime thriller called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s right up to date with the current political landscape in the country.

My writing on other topics that strike my fancy is posted here.

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They’re Off to See the Roval …

Daniel Hemric practices for the Xfinity race on the “roval.” (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, September 28, 2018, 12:55 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

NASCAR is looking for a shiny object. The latest is called “a roval.”

The word doesn’t sound shiny. It sounds like a dyslexic nickname for Uncle Orville.

I understand the need to “try something!”

A some point – opinions may vary – the governing body of major league stock car racing gave away the keys to its kingdom, and doors have been unlocking ever since.

It has caused some interest. I’ve heard more talk about NASCAR around town this week. A high school classmate told me he was excited. I think he’s already there, camping out in the infield. Last night at a football game – Presbyterian College 10, Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) 0 – I had a conversation in the press box with a young man who was happy the Blue Hose were playing on Thursday so that he could go see the roval. He said he had tickets across the track from the location where the course leads from and exits out of the infield portion. He said he had concluded this was the best vantage point, and I told him that, in my considered opinion, he was right.

Elliott Sadler (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

I can’t remember the last time more than one person around the county said he was going to any track other than Darlington.

I’ve been watching practice for a while, ever since I got done building roundups of local football, volleyball, tennis, cross country and golf. The roval, it appears, is quite the challenge. This might be a grand success. This might be a parody.

I’m looking forward to the races, particularly the Xfinity Series race on Saturday.

Hey, kids, shake it loose together / The spotlight’s hitting something that’s been known to change the weather / We’ll kill the fatted calf tonight so stick around / Yeah, yeah, yeah / You’re gonna hear electric music, solid walls of sound.

I haven’t decided yet whether I’m rooting for Bennie or the Jets.

As a certain Mr. Taggart once said, “What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on here?”

 

If you enjoy my insights about racing and other subjects, make a small pledge of support. Rewards are in place for pledges of $5 or more. If 1/10 of my followers and Facebook friends pledge $1 a month, I’ll be set. Read all about it here.

If you yearn for my writing in larger doses, I’ve written quite a few books. Most are available here.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Lightning in a Bottle, the first of my two motorsports novels, is now available in audio (Audible, Amazon, iTunes) with the extraordinary narration of Jay Harper.

Just out is my eighth novel, a political crime thriller called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s right up to date with the current political landscape in the country.

My writing on other topics that strike my fancy is posted here.

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The Latest from the Home Office in Clinton, South Carolina

The fans file in at RIR. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, September 22, 2018, 7:01 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

I’m really looking forward to watching tonight’s Monster Energy Cup race from Richmond. I’m sort of going into it fresh. It’s been such a busy week, for a variety of unusual reasons, that I haven’t had much time for the day-to-day operations of NASCAR. Now I’m ready to sit back and watch the race.

What has made this week unusually hectic?

Oh, I lost a tooth. Few, I think, have had a tooth drop off while eating soggy raisin bran. Maybe there was this one little raisin that acted as a suction cup.

And I had jury duty. I wasn’t selected. I don’t think a guy who spends part of every day compiling and writing about those who got arrested is particularly appealing to the lawyer class. It was mainly boring, sitting around in a courtroom for parts of a couple days, where I tried to be the pool comedian, then going home and doing all night what I would have been doing all day.

Clinton High School played football about an hour and a half’s drive away, and that’s a long way to drive to watch the alma mater get hammered. My job is to write what happens, but I like writing about encouraging wins more than discouraging losses. Readers like those stories, too, where the home team is concerned. My goal is always to write what I see. Here’s what I saw.

Presbyterian College is about to play its first home football game of the season against Bluefield (Va.) College, I saw the Blue Hose head coach, Tommy Spangler, speak at the Touchdown Club on Friday. I’d really like to be there, but I think it’s sort of my duty to watch NASCAR, and I love NASCAR. As noted, I’m sort of interested in catching up on the scene. You’ve heard of fans muting the TV and listening to MRN? I may put PC’s radio on while the race is on TV. I envision hilarious misunderstandings.

Okay, I did put the game on radio, where reception is pretty spotty on both AM (1410) and FM (96.5) even though Presbyterian College is in this very town. Bluefield leads 3-0 early. I’ve been experiencing some confusion between the TCU-Texas game on TV and description of Bluefield-Presbyterian via sound. This shouldn’t be as complicated with NASCAR.

Brad Keselowski could equal a modern (1972-present; Richard Petty won 10 straight in 1967) record by winning four races in a row. In the years I covered NASCAR up close and personal, I saw drivers try and fail several times. This is already the first season ever in which three different drivers – Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch – have won three straight.

(Monte Dutton photos)

Aw, hell, Kez. Tie a record. Normally I prefer that different drivers win week to week, but something mildly historic might be a nice touch.

Tommy Spangler

So far the highlight of the week has been (a.) the Red Sox clinching the AL East for the third straight year, and (b.) enjoying barbecue at The Smokin’ Pig a few miles from the Pendleton home, Cunningham Stadium. The brisket melted in my mouth, and the pork was exceptional, but the Brunswick stew was perfection.

The only down side was the barbecue, combined with the Red Devils’ 39-6 loss, gave me heartburn.

Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. are up front in the race. I just checked to see that the Longhorns seem to have the Horned Frogs cornered. The Blue Hose just took the lead against Bluefield.

All will undoubtedly change momentarily.

 

If you enjoy my insights about racing and other subjects, make a small pledge of support. Rewards are in place for pledges of $5 or more. If 1/10 of my followers and Facebook friends pledge $1 a month, I’ll be set. Read all about it here.

If you yearn for my writing in larger doses, I’ve written quite a few books. Most are available here.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Lightning in a Bottle, the first of my two motorsports novels, is now available in audio (Audible, Amazon, iTunes) with the extraordinary narration of Jay Harper.

Just out is my eighth novel, a political crime thriller called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s right up to date with the current political landscape in the country.

My writing on other topics that strike my fancy is posted here.

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A Monkey on a Rock

(Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, September 11, 2018, 8:57 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

Monday was no holiday. People had to work. Here they’re worried about a hurricane. So many footballs were bouncing around — some spiraling, some tumbling end over end, too many bouncing along the ground – that even NASCAR fans didn’t seem too sorrowful at the rain in Indianapolis that washed out an Xfinity Series on Saturday and the Big Machine Brickyard 400 on Sunday.

Big Machine makes music and vodka. What a smooth combination.

Like millions of others, I had to work. I was fortunate, though. I could work at home, so the races, beginning at 10 a.m., were on TV in the background of a mind that was working on a story about a hurricane headed for the coast.

One way or another, Clinton is getting a visit from a hurricane. It’s likely to get here Friday now. Either it will be Florence from the Atlantic Ocean or Wren High School’s football team from Piedmont. It’s likely to be one or the other, more likely the storm.

Vaguely aware that a different rules package has drastically increased the excitement of Xfinity racing at Indy, I tried to get local officials to talk about storm preparations. All of them were in favor of them. One said I could get all I needed from Gov. Henry McMasters’ live, streaming information session, which I watched after the Monster Cup race had already started.

The governor is a folksy man. He reminds me of Foghorn Leghorn.

I say, I say, this storm is gonna be a humdinger, boy!

(Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

A race at Indianapolis requires close attention, and I couldn’t give it that. I was too busy putting together a notes column on Presbyterian College’s fall sports, editing a release about a couple of profs playing a recital there, and another about the county library offering orange or garnet cards so that fans of Clemson and South Carolina could support their favorite schools with their reading.

I had to go the Laurens Commission of Public Works for a board meeting, so I listened to the race on satellite radio and the final 10 laps sitting in the parking lot.

Commissioner Gerald Abercrombie, a NASCAR fan, asked what I’d been doing. I told him watching the races.

He said, “I forgot about that. Who won?”

(Monte Dutton photo)

I, on the other hand, found I had no interest in the two National Football League games that were on back to back once I got home and commenced to write about the CPW. The Jets won the former. I don’t know about the latter. Hang on. (This is what the Internet is for.)

The Rams beat the Raiders. The team the Jets beat was Detroit.

Brad Keselowski won again. The playoffs (I prefer race-offs since they play no games) begin in Las Vegas next. The 2012 champion hadn’t won all year and hadn’t ever won what is rather variably known as “a crown jewel,” a term that has been dug up from the 1970s when it had a specific meaning.

The playoff field, plus Monster Energy girls.(Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Keselowski has won back-to-back at NASCAR’s most historic track and the world’s.

In Darlington, he kicked ass. In Indianapolis, he kissed bricks.

Justin Allgaier (left) won a rousing Xfinity race. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Occasionally, I’d look up from my laptop and fixate sorrowfully on those deserted Indy grandstands.

If the game in College Station, Texas, had been washed out on Saturday night and postponed to, I don’t know, 9 Sunday morning to stay clear of the NFL, someone would have been there. Such was once the case in NASCAR.

Passing, at least in the less restrictive Monster Cup Series, is hard at Indy. It can be fascinating to watch a driver do it. Of course, I was looking up who had been locked up for a probation violation. I was glum at the memory of a time when fans came back on Monday and NASCAR was big enough to employ me.

It must have been tough for the broadcasters, who strained all day to depict how important Indianapolis was while the picture on the screen made the notion absurd. I often chide the would-be gods of NASCAR for their imperfections, but, as David Letterman was once fond of saying (paraphrased), “I wouldn’t give NASCAR’s troubles to a monkey on a rock.”

Then Letterman would say, “Uh, I have no idea.”

Me, neither.

 

If you enjoy my insights about racing and other subjects, make a small pledge of support. Rewards are in place for pledges of $5 or more. If 1/10 of my followers and Facebook friends pledge $1 a month, I’ll be set. Read all about it here.

If you yearn for my writing in larger doses, I’ve written quite a few books. Most are available here.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Lightning in a Bottle, the first of my two motorsports novels, is now available in audio (Audible, Amazon, iTunes) with the extraordinary narration of Jay Harper.

Just out is my eighth novel, a political crime thriller called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s right up to date with the current political landscape in the country.

My writing on other topics that strike my fancy is posted here.

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Red Devils Take a Powder(sville)

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, September 8, 2018, 12:51 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

Powdersville is listed as being in Greenville, though road signs suggest that there is indeed a Powdersville, where the use of Goody’s could be exceedingly high. It’s on the eastern edge of Anderson, not Greenville, County.

Confusion aside, the football game made it seem plausible.

For visitors from Clinton, Powdersville was nirvana. Lower case. Not the tragic band. Before Clinton defeated the Patriots 47-0, I knew about as much about the would-be town as the band.

Both teams had gotten off to slow starts. One sped away.

Clinton head coach Andrew Webb – I played ball with his daddy – talked at length about the vast difference between winning and losing. He broke no new ground there, but even I could relate. All I did was limp up and down the sidelines a while, taking pictures, and then retire to the grandstands with my little Lieutenant Columbo scratch pad and scribble observations I used very little in the game story.

It turns out that most everyone knows that winning is better than losing. Go figure.

Often have I smiled at the notion that some malignant emphasis on winning somehow takes the fun out of sports. No one who ever said that must have experienced the incredible fun of winning. Surely not the guilty humiliation of losing. These people must live in some nether land, some purgatory, some grumpy fog.

Vince Lombardi is often misquoted as saying, “Winning is everything.” What Lombardi, not only a brilliant coach but an inspirational force in my generation, actually said was, “Winning isn’t everything. It is the only thing.”

It’s aspirational. Winning is always worth seeking. Do what you do well.

I have warm memories of bus trips home from long ago, when I was the Bob Uecker of Clinton High football players. In two years on the varsity, I never rode home on a bus after losing. We never lost a road game.

Last night, as I was driving home, I thought about what it must have been like for the Red Devils of today to ride home from losing 42-7 at Broome a week earlier, and I didn’t know. I’ve driven home disappointed in myself for what I had written, but my assumption is that the feeling is quite different with a team of young men blossoming into manhood.

Titus Hood

A state championship when I was 17 years old meant more than National Motorsports Writer of the Year.

I used to say that writing about young people kept me young back before that notion became ridiculous.

I do enjoy mingling a bit. I observe them, seeking insight into the changes in the experience of being young and foolish from a distance of 40 years.

Titus Hood caught a 61-yard touchdown pass. P.J. Bluford snagged a 37-yarder for six. Sam Tiller picked up a fumble and ran it in from 44. The Red Devils rushed for 242 yards. Four runners had more than 30. The defense that gave up 76 points in its first two games gave up 19 yards rushing in its third.

Thank goodness the Patriots didn’t have to ride a bus.

 

If you enjoy my insights about racing and other subjects, make a small pledge of support. Rewards are in place for pledges of $5 or more. If 1/10 of my followers and Facebook friends pledge $1 a month, I’ll be set. Read all about it here.

If you yearn for my writing in larger doses, I’ve written quite a few books. Most are available here.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Lightning in a Bottle, the first of my two motorsports novels, is now available in audio (Audible, Amazon, iTunes) with the extraordinary narration of Jay Harper.

Just out is my eighth novel, a political crime thriller called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s right up to date with the current political landscape in the country.

My writing on other topics that strike my fancy is posted here.

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Me, Myself … and Brad Keselowski

The sun sets over The Track Too Tough to Tame. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, September 3, 2018, 4:15 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

Glory be. I awakened happy on Labor Day morning.

It had been a rough weekend. Laurens County’s three football teams lost by a combined score of 142-13 on Friday night. Fortunately, I could only be at one of them, and it was the closest, 42-7.

The Furman Paladins got clobbered at Clemson, 48-7, and I was one of few mildly surprised or even moderately disappointed. An old Paladin called while I was watching the game on TV and said the line couldn’t do anything with the Tigers’ front.

“Nobody else can, either,” I said.

The White Sox clubbed the Red Sox on Sunday, but the Yankees lost, too, so that was a good sign.

Kyle Larson runs away, and Brad Keselowski is not in sight. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

Fortunately, the Bojangles’ Southern 500 was on the horizon like an orange and purple sunset. Literally. Darlington Raceway had an orange and purple sunset. Undoubtedly, Clemson fans claimed responsibility.

For the Southern 500, in the Palmetto State, the sky wasn’t Carolina blue.

My daddy, rest his soul, took me to Darlington when I was a young’un, and there’s still no way any race there is going to disappoint me. I am both wrapped and rapt in the lore.

The Bandit Flight Team performs a flyover prior to Southern 500 (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

I was watching on TV, of course. I don’t venture too far for my live sporting events these days. At about 3 p.m., I said to myself, Self, if I got in the car right now, I could be there live and in person. Then Self pointed out that I didn’t have a ticket, a pass or the money to spare.

Self has more sense than I, and it’s a good thing that Self is a convincing debater.

Not surprisingly, I wanted Kyle Larson to win, and Self was rooting for Brad Keselowski.

Some tracks cast a spell on me. I become hypnotized watching the cars slide around, inches from the wall, in Darlington’s narrow turns. If there’s no battle for the lead, it doesn’t bother me as much. There’s always something fascinating to watch. If I was there, I could pick and choose, but TV does a better job at Darlington than other tracks because there’s more to choose from, and the producer can’t go wrong as easily.

Brad Keselowski won his first race of the season and at Darlington. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Neither Larson nor Keselowski had won this year. Larson dominated all night long, and then Keselowski beat him at the end. Larson slipped back third, behind Joey Logano, at the finish.

The character of Barrie Jarman in my two racing novels, Lightning in a Bottle and Life Gets Complicated, was not intentionally modeled after anyone, but, coincidentally, Barrie has a bit of Keselowski’s outspoken personality and Larson’s driving style.

Derrike Cope in the twilight. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Also coincidentally, I (not to mention Self) like Keselowski and Larson.

I’m prone to forget what some deem significant and remember small moments that fire the synapses of my brain.

Nothing this year has set off the mental fireworks as much as the interactions of Larson and Austin Dillon at the ends of stages one and two. Dillon managed to stay on the lead lap at the end of the first by treating Larson’s Chevrolet a bit rudely with his own.

At the end of the second, Larson returned the favor by taking advantage of Dillon’s traffic woes and beating him at the line by inches, thus costing Dillon, uh, that lap.

Touche!

I like the way that kid thinks. I can’t understand how in the world he manages not to win more races.

Damned if Keselowski didn’t beat Larson out of the pits and dust him in the final laps. Self likes the way he thinks, too.

 

If you enjoy my insights about racing and other subjects, make a small pledge of support. Rewards are in place for pledges of $5 or more. If 1/10 of my followers and Facebook friends pledge $1 a month, I’ll be set. Read all about it here.

If you yearn for my writing in larger doses, I’ve written quite a few books. Most are available here.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Lightning in a Bottle, the first of my two motorsports novels, is now available in audio (Audible, Amazon, iTunes) with the extraordinary narration of Jay Harper.

Just out is my eighth novel, a political crime thriller called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s right up to date with the current political landscape in the country.

My writing on other topics that strike my fancy is posted here.

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Missing the Good Old Days

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, September 1, 2018, 11:59 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

The weekend is not off to a good start.

Don’t you agree that the weekend starts informally on Friday night? Last night was a rough one.

I was off to the east side of Spartanburg, near Cowpens, to watch Broome clobber Clinton, 42-7. Meanwhile, in Laurens, Myrtle Beach was pounding the Raiders, 42-6. At Laurens Academy, Beaufort Academy won the eight-man brand of football, 58-0.

Two weeks into the season, the only victory by a Laurens County team is against another Laurens County team. As a result, the Raiders are 1-1, while the Red Devils and Crusaders are 0-2.

This makes me wistful. All three schools have proud histories. All have fallen on hard times, at least so far. Many of the traditional football towns of the state are in decline. Power has shifted toward the cities and landed in the suburbs. In the Clintons and Laurenses, the mills have closed and some people cling to life, pride, uniqueness and authenticity by the fortunes of the great rallying points, the towns’ football teams.

It may be silly, but it’s true.

I almost wish I didn’t have the drive home from Broome High School to ponder such matters. I listened to the Grand Ole Opry – the Oak Ridge Boys and Jamey Johnson make an odd tandem – as if my daddy and I were coming home from a horse auction nearly 50 years ago.

I got home, tuned the TV to the high school highlights, cropped and edited the photos, printed out the stats, transcribed the interview, wrote the story and went back over it. By the time the story was published, it was 1 a.m. and I was not sleepy.

During the drive home, I had thought about the words to Iris Dement’s “Our Town”:

And you know, the sun’s setting fast / And just like they say, nothing good ever lasts / Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye / But hold on to your lover ’cause your heart’s bound to die / Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town / Can’t you see the sun’s going down on our town, our town / Goodnight.

I found out the Red Sox lost. Of course they did.

In a few minutes, my college, Furman, opens the season. The Paladins are playing Clemson. Of course they are.

Can I accentuate the positive? Hmm.

I bought some sneakers at the outlet mall in Gaffney. The ones I had were in bad shape. I was mildly worried that, on some high school sideline, the soles might start breaking away. Those New Balances lasted longer than any pair of shoes I’ve ever had, in part because I’ve never put less wear in a pair of shoes I’ve ever had. On the other hand, they bore a heavy burden.

The new ones are gray instead of black. They are Skechers, or I suppose as plural, Skecherses. I put them on, sitting on the tailgate of the truck in the parking lot, and wore them to the game at Royal Stadium on the campus of Gettys D. Broome High School.

My feet feel good. So there’s hope.

 

If you enjoy my insights about racing and other subjects, make a small pledge of support. Rewards are in place for pledges of $5 or more. If 1/10 of my followers and Facebook friends pledge $1 a month, I’ll be set. Read all about it here.

If you yearn for my writing in larger doses, I’ve written quite a few books. Most are available here.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Lightning in a Bottle, the first of my two motorsports novels, is now available in audio (Audible, Amazon, iTunes) with the extraordinary narration of Jay Harper.

Just out is my eighth novel, a political crime thriller called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s right up to date with the current political landscape in the country.

My writing on other topics that strike my fancy is posted here.

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Off and Literally Running

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, August 25, 2018, 11:12 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

The game was played at 8 p.m. instead of 7:30 because the likelihood a week earlier was that it would be too hot to meet the South Carolina High School League’s protective requirements. As it turned out, 7:30 would have been fine. It was cool for late August at Wilder Stadium, scene of many sweltering nights.

In another way, the game didn’t really start until almost 9:30 because the first half was scoreless as Laurens and Clinton rammed into each other with thunderous clashes of what passes in football for infantry advances. The Raiders lined up with a diamond in the backfield, four backs in a square turned 45 degrees, with quarterback Ryan Campbell at the shotgun point. The Red Devils opened the game in the wishbone, a formation that has been inextricably linked to them, at least on short yardage, since the early 1970s.

(GoLaurens.com photo)

For a ground-oriented attack, in an age ruled elsewhere by the pass, Laurens looked sort of newfangled in a way that wouldn’t have seemed so different had the head coach been Clark Shaughnessy or Knute Rockne instead of Chris Liner. He called it the “diamond pistol triple option” and portrayed it as a variation on how Georgia Tech operates, though the Yellow Jackets put their quarterback under center. Liner said his team can do that. It just hasn’t yet.

Scoring in the second half improved infinitely because zero is zero percent of anything else, and the teams combined for 48.

(GoLaurens.com photo)

The final score was Laurens 34, Clinton 14. Twice in the fourth quarter, the Red Devils crept within six, but the Raiders’ superior size wore them down.

What Clinton head coach Andrew Webb had said all preseason was true. The Red Devils could pass if they could run. Quarterback Andrew Webb passed successfully but not successfully enough. The Raider defense got up on its toes but not its heels.

Laurens, a Class 5A school, deserved the county championship because it looked the way numbers would suggest. Clinton, in Class 3A, won’t accept that size matters, but a neutral observer, of which the crowded stadium had few, would’ve suspected it.

The season is long. Myrtle Beach visits Laurens next week, and Clinton takes a trip to Broome, near Spartanburg, to play a team called the Centurions that was in its own Region 3 until this year. All that tires me about Broome is having to type “Centurions” repetitively because there is no short version. “Cents” or “Ions” would be deemed unacceptable by the blue-clad, would-be Romans there.

 

If you enjoy my insights about racing and other subjects, make a small pledge of support. Rewards are in place for pledges of $5 or more. If 1/10 of my followers and Facebook friends pledge $1 a month, I’ll be set. Read all about it here.

If you yearn for my writing in larger doses, I’ve written quite a few books. Most are available here.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Lightning in a Bottle, the first of my two motorsports novels, is now available in audio (Audible, Amazon, iTunes) with the extraordinary narration of Jay Harper.

Just out is my eighth novel, a political crime thriller called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s right up to date with the current political landscape in the country.

My writing on other topics that strike my fancy is posted here.

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They’ve Got Rhythm

Kurt Busch leads Kyle Larson. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, August 19, 2018, 11:59 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

I found a bit of irony in the outcome of Saturday night’s Monster Energy Cup race in Bristol, Tennessee.

Kyle Busch gets lusty responses when he is introduced twice yearly to the fans of Bristol Motor Speedway. I don’t think it’s as malevolent as it seems. The fans are mostly just weary of Kyle Busch victories. Results have made thousands who are not fans for him into fans against him.

The seven-time Bristol winner would not go away, rising from the ashes of a lap-two wreck like some monster in a sci-fi flick. Relatively late, it appeared as if he might somehow pull off another victory, but his crumpled Toyota finally ran out of steam (and air in a tire) with under 10 laps to go.

Among the tangles of Kyle Busch (left) was one with Martin Truex Jr.. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

Would-be Rowdy finished 20th, three laps down. He flashed his skills, came up short, and fans would have breathed a sigh of relief …

Had not the race been won by the other Busch, Kyle’s older brother Kurt, who, before Kyle started dominating Bristol … dominated Bristol.

Kurt once won three straight Bristol races and four out of five. He had not won at the track, though, since his fifth victory in 2006, and 20 races, seven of them won by his brother, had passed since.

The tilt of the “Anybody but a Busch” grandstands began with Kurt.

For those who remember the Kurt Busch Bristol conquests of the previous decade, Saturday night’s performance was reminiscent. His brother wins in every manner of ways, but Kurt has always, when successful, followed a similar formula. Kurt Busch keeps clear of trouble while most around him are getting nicked and dented. When the time to strike arrives, Kurt’s car is the most intact. He will mix it up with anyone, but usually not until it’s time.

Kurt Busch in Victory Lane with his mama, Gaye. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Let the record note that Kurt, like his brother, was involved in the second-lap pileup, but Kyle’s Toyota required more extensive repairs than Kurt’s Ford.

What is the inexplicable knack these brothers from the neon Las Vegas plain have for the barren hills of Tennessee?

Just the attack,” Kurt said. “Go after it. You run hard. You run 99 percent here all the time. That’s what Kyle and I do. It pays off at this track until you step over that one percent line. This track just fits our style. I don’t know what it is about it. A guy like (runner-up Kyle) Larson? We know he goes 99 percent all the time. Now he’s starting to find his rhythm.”

At Bristol Motor Speedway, the Busch Brothers are a swing band.

 

If you enjoy my insights about racing and other subjects, make a small pledge of support. Rewards are in place for pledges of $5 or more. If 1/10 of my followers and Facebook friends pledge $1 a month, I’ll be set. Read all about it here.

If you yearn for my writing in larger doses, I’ve written quite a few books. Most are available here.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Lightning in a Bottle, the first of my two motorsports novels, is now available in audio (Audible, Amazon, iTunes) with the extraordinary narration of Jay Harper.

Just out is my eighth novel, a political crime thriller called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s right up to date with the current political landscape in the country.

My writing on other topics that strike my fancy is posted here.

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