Back to the Real World of ‘Sometimes You Win, Sometime You Lose’

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Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, January 16, 12:45 p.m.

Monte Dutton

The reality that Louisiana State University is the national college-football champion is settling in around here. A few Clemson fans are in denial, but most seem to have accepted that the Tigers wearing orange lost to the ones wearing yellow fair and square.

Clemson won 29 straight games. Into all, a little rain must fall.

One fellow quibbled about the quarterback’s unusual fallibility. Another assured me Clemson would be better next year. No one wants to fire Dabo Swinney, who could still be elected governor by acclamation if he so desired.

It was a good game. “Wait till next year!” is a healthy, sporting sentiment.

The game was about the only event on TV I’ve watched closely. I always seem to be working on something with the ballgames in the background.

Basketball, of all things, has put the football game behind many fans. Clemson’s men have miraculously beaten N.C. State, North Carolina and Duke consecutively. The South Carolina women are ranked No. 1 in the nation, and the men upset Kentucky last night, so the Gamecock faithful have found relief from the burden of having to root for a team named Tigers for the first time in their lives.

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I didn’t see a second of any basketball games that did not include the county’s high schools and Presbyterian College, but Furman had a big win last night. I’d love to go watch the Paladins play at Wofford Friday night, but the Newberry-Clinton games beckon.

Auto racing, which was once the source of my living for 20 years, is still a month away from activation, and I have a lot to catch up on between now and then.

I’ve been scared to death the Red Sox were going to trade Mookie Betts, and come to find out, the guy who’s going to be missing is the manager, Alex Cora, who is a casualty of a sign-stealing ring. High technology has changed sports, and one of the ways is in the differentiation of what is cheating and what is not. I expect baserunners at second will still peer at the catcher’s signs from time to time, but if there’s some instantaneous algorithm (or something technological) at work, it’s no can do. Times change. I’m just scrambling for perspective. Rules are rules.

“Getting caught means getting fired,” as Johnny Cash sang.

 

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.

My eighth novel, a political crime thriller, is 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.

The Football Blur

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Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, December 31, 2019, 11:58 a.m.

Kentucky is about to play Virginia Tech, and I’m about footballed out.

With a few exceptions, most notably on Saturday, football has become background noise. The game is on, I’m piddling away at something – editing obituaries and news releases, plunking on a guitar, tweeting – and I look up when the announcers start yelling above the crowd noise, which, when I look at the size of some of the crowds, I think must be piped in. At the very least, ESPN has some selectively placed crowd mics.

Lots of the bowl games are as much made-for-TV as (lack of) reality shows. The reason I prefer one to the other is I believe the ballgames are on the level even though Facebook tells me different. It’s amazing how many people know the rules, and yet their reading of them always seems to favor their preferred teams.

Then again, I’m outside the mainstream. I’ve always found it amazing that a man sitting behind the first-base dugout can see the strike zone better than a man standing right behind the plate.

So it’s already a blur with the entire National Football League and the bowl games that mean much are still ahead. Let’s see. Kent State beat somebody. The Buffalo Bulls won, but the Buffalo Bills lost. After checking my notes, I have determined that the Tigers are going to win in college and the Chiefs in the pros.

I have no notes. The Tigers can’t lose. Over history, the Chiefs can’t win, but I am also a Red Sox fan, so hope springs eternal.

This football is no passing fancy. The only time I went to the Sugar Bowl, it was in a huge, rickety place called Tulane Stadium. The world has changed. Three friends and I decided in high school that we wanted to see a bowl game, and we settled on the Sugar Bowl without having any idea which teams would be playing in it. As it turns out, Nebraska played Florida, and I have thought Nebraska fans were the best in the world ever since. I was 16. We all drove to New Orleans in Henry Blalock’s Chevy Nova. At the time, we were all blissfully unaware of all the trouble into which we could have tumbled.

Can you imagine the parents of today being willing to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to drive all the way to New Orleans for a football game? If we’d decided to drive to the Rose Bowl, my dad wouldn’t have said anything.

From the vantage of time, I think we were the perfect age. We’d have gotten into some of that trouble had we been a little older.

 

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.

My eighth novel, a political crime thriller, is 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.

What It Is … Is Football

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Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, December 10, 2019, 10:02 a.m.

Monte Dutton

The whole country is talking about impeachment, so what about that college football? What about that pro football? What about anything?

Oh, I’m vitally interested in the impending hearings, but I think the country is less divided about football.

Imagine that.

Even though they may love one team and loathe another, they all like football. No one ever demands that someone else “unfriend” them because he or she thinks Clemson is better than LSU. There is some common ground. Both, for instance, are Tigers.

I think all four coaches in the CFP (College Football Playoff), which replaced the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) in 2014, are likable. I don’t know much about Ed Orgeron other than he’s my favorite on-field interview since Steve Spurrier hung up his vocal cords. Dabo Swinney knows well the art of talking into a microphone, too. I don’t know as much about Lincoln Riley of Oklahoma, and hardly anything at all about Ohio State’s Ryan Day, but what little I know, I like.

Mainly I know that three of them are undefeated, and the other has lost one. I know all the fight-song tunes. I’ve missed a lot of their games because I switched elsewhere because they were running away.

It is not Clemson’s fault that the Atlantic Coast Conference is so weak. It’s not a weak conference. It just doesn’t have anyone currently capable of challenging the Tigers’ hegemony. Programs rise and fall. A lot of ACC teams are currently among the fallen.

I, too, expect LSU to defeat Oklahoma, but I think the fans who look past the Sooners are mistaken. Oklahoma this year is evidence of the Big 12 (which doesn’t have 12) starting to care about defense again. The Big 12 and PAC-12 (amazingly, does have 12) are more balanced than the ACC, Big 10 (doesn’t have 10), or the Southeastern Conference. The PAC-12 hasn’t started caring about defense again; hence, its absence from the final four.

This is all overly simplified. I’m much more of an expert on local high school teams and a small college than I am on the joust for the national championship. I get a lot on Clemson by osmosis. My nephew went there and still goes … to every home game. An assistant coach is a friend of more than 40 years. Clemson fans think of their team as an empire. They’ve got the right.

Surprises are few. The teams left belong. I’d say the biggest surprise is that Jalen Hurts is in it and Nick Saban isn’t.

 

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.

My eighth novel, a political crime thriller, is 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.

The Gluttony of Thanksgiving … Football

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Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, November 29, 2019, 6:06 p.m.

Monte Dutton

I’m a bit sluggish. It’s not because of Thanksgiving dinner because that’s not going to be until Saturday night in my family. I’m sluggish because of Thanksgiving, though.

Thanksgiving football.

I watched the Bears beat the Lions, and the Bills beat the Cowboys, not very much of the Saints beating the Falcons, but most of the Bulldogs beating the Rebels, who were playing college ball during the final pro game. I wouldn’t have missed the Egg Bowl for the all the deviled eggs on the menu of the feast. My niece’s first husband was a man of few culinary likes. One time he ate about three quarters of the deviled eggs an hour before the meal started. My mother just quietly started boiling more eggs, doing a slow boil herself.

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I’m sure a Mississippi running back named Elijah Moore is a nicer kid than most of who saw him think. I saw a typo in a department store ad that invited the kids to come see Satan between 5 and 9 p.m. Moore could handle that assignment, though my suspicion is that it will actually be jolly old Santa, not Satan there. It had never occurred to me that the letters were the same.

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Satan, uh, I mean Moore, scored what might have been a touchdown that sent the game into overtime, but he celebrated by crawling across the end zone and then raising his right leg to mimic a bulldog – a Mississippi State Bulldog – relieving himself. A 15-yard penalty ensued, as well as a missed extra point from 35 yards instead of 20. Ole Miss immediately became Ole Piss. He had scored on a run-and-piss play, and thus was the Egg Bowl cracked on national TV.

Civility. That’s what the world lacks.

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Today Virginia ended a 15-game losing streak against Virginia Tech. As a reward, the Cavaliers get to play Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game. Good luck with that.

It takes a 6-6 record to be “bowl-eligible” nowadays. Mississippi State can thank Elijah Moore. Eventually the world forgot about Tommy Lewis, the Alabama player who came off the bench to tackle Rice’s Dicky Moegle in the Cotton Bowl. That was in 1954, so Moore may have a long time to wait.

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A powerhouse by comparison, Texas (7-5), defeated Texas Tech. Iowa prevented Nebraska from being bowl-eligible by defeating the Cornhuskers in Lincoln.

I like to watch Washington play Washington State each year because I think the Huskies’ Chris Peterson and the Cougars’ Mike Leach are among the nation’s finer college coaches. I’m satisfied I’ll have the South and Central Floridas on tonight.

Monte Dutton photo

In the morning, I’m going to the stadium myself. There won’t be a game there. We Furman partisans who are unable to make the trip to Clarksville, Tenn., to see the Paladins play Austin Peay (continuing the urine theme) in the FCS playoffs are going to gather in the same location we gather before home games to watch on a big-screen TV. I’m satisfied we’ll watch a little of Clemson at South Carolina beforehand, either that or the always insignificant battle between Michigan and Ohio State.

Paladin, Paladin, where do you roam / Paladin, Paladin, far, far from home.

After I hustle back to Clinton, seriously ready for long-awaited turkey and gravy, I’ll show up at my nephew’s house about dark, having undoubtedly listened to the Furman post-game show unless they lose and I’m in no mood for it.

Then all will be back to normal on Sunday, when the usual pro football is on.

 

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.

My eighth novel, a political crime thriller, is 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.

Life Ain’t What It Used to Be, but It Still Ain’t Bad

With Sunny Ledfurd and Kyle Petty at a fundraiser for Victory Junction Gang Camp at Puckett’s in Charlotte.

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, November 18, 2019, 12:02 p.m.

Monte Dutton

The end of the NASCAR season makes seven since my wings got clipped, and I don’t miss the flying a bit.

I miss going places but not by air. My friends assure me it’s only gotten worse every year since I left, just as it did every year while I was following the annual gypsy troupe.

On Facebook, I’ve been participating in this Motorsports Challenge thing where I was asked to post photos of motorsports memories for 10 days. I didn’t strictly follow the rules. I was too busy some days, and just this morning, I discovered I claimed Day 7 twice, so I’m really done, but I’ve got one more selected, so tomorrow there will be a bonus photo.

Teresa Earnhardt stops by to ask me, Jim Pedley and David Poole how the food is at DEI stop on the Media Tour.

It was pretty hard because most of the photos I took in 20 years of NASCAR coverage were by me, not of me. I’ve never been much on selfies, or taking photos with my phone, for that matter. Part of my job is taking photos, so I prefer to use a camera that makes it easier to frame the photo and to look through the lens, not at a video screen. I can do it. I just don’t like to. The few photos I have are ones that were sent me by friends.

Had my job not been abruptly eliminated, I’d probably be out there still, but near the end, I grew more and more frustrated because it grew harder and harder to write about the sport in a way that was different than others. It became journalism by media conference for all but a few. Friends will recall that I likened it to entering the soil and water conservation essay contest in the seventh grade. Everyone had the same information, and it was a matter of who could write it the best. NASCAR was more interesting than soil and water conservation, but I wasn’t in the seventh grade anymore.

As luck would have it, the last time I chatted with Tony Stewart, someone — Jerry Jordan, I think — took a picture of it.

When I first joined the troupe, in 1993, it was great fun, at and away from the track. Newspapers were important. I loved working for the Gaston Gazette, and the Gaston Gazette loved me, mainly because it syndicated my stories and made money from them. I could cover racing the way I saw fit.

Things change. I found out the Gazette didn’t love me anymore on January 4, 2013, when it informed me my last day was January 4, 2013, and I haven’t stopped my vehicle in Gaston County in all the years since.

But I’m not bitter. Oh, no. Not me.

Atlanta media center

Free enterprise means that value is determined by the market, and the market for me is here in my hometown, working for the county website, GoLaurens.com, with an assist from GoClinton.com. I like it. I enjoy taking photos of little kids running around at Squealin’ on the Square. I enjoy talking to an 81-year-old woman who is studying for her GED. I like high school athletes and coaches. I expect to attend every Furman home football game for the first time in more than 30 years, and one other, which wasn’t so hot.

With James Hylton at Rockingham for the Polar Bear 150.

Digging up those few photos I have of me with others in NASCAR brought back memories of what I now watch only from a distance. It’s probably better up close, but those up close don’t see what it’s like from a distance, either. Most people here know I used to be somebody, and, by and large, they seem to love telling me how much they used to love NASCAR and how much they can’t stand it now. Most of the kids hardly know what it is anymore. There are a few who figure if I was any good, I wouldn’t be where I am now, but I still do what Paul Harvey told me to do in an autograph when I was about 12.

Aim high, Monte.

I still aim high. I still do it my way. I still don’t take my subjects or myself too seriously. I still try to be funny. I still try to have fun. I still chip away at fiction and songwriting, but I don’t have as much time to do it. My life is every bit as busy as it ever was, though not as profitable. As Jerry Jeff Walker wrote, “Gettin’ by on gettin’ by’s my stock in trade.”

The photos are like carbon-14 dating. I can measure my age by the lightening of my hair.

I still like racing. It’s still in my blood. All that smoke just isn’t literally in my blood. And my ears rarely ring.

 

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.

My eighth novel, a political crime thriller, is 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.

My Week in Sports, Etc.

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Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, October 24, 2019, 8:53 a.m.

Monte Dutton

Clemson football fans feel unduly pressured because, somehow, in spite of winning every game to date by an average of 28 points, the Tigers have recently dropped from No. 1 to 4 in the Football Bowl Subdivision rankings.

A narrow victory at North Carolina – the Tar Heels had a chance to win but failed on a late two-point conversion – set off the mild decline. The other three teams ranked in the top four – four is a crucial number in FBS since it is the number of playoff slots – have all won every game convincingly.

Clemson hasn’t lost and can’t afford to do so. Alabama, LSU and Ohio State are ahead of the Tigers, and all are undefeated, and so is Oklahoma, which looms fifth and “only” won by seven against Texas. The Crimson Tide and Tigers, LSU variety, must play each other.

The pressure to win – and not just win, but win big – is oppressive.

If the Tigers continue to win, they’ll be fine, but the fans bristle at the notion that the reigning national champions have fallen in the rankings without losing.

I sympathize. Running up the score is rewarded.

On the other hand, I’m confident Clemson fans would make the same contentions made on behalf of the other three teams were the roles reversed.

That’s the way fans are. It’s absolutely necessary to be fueled by both love and hate. The contentiousness is inherent in sports. Everyone must have some justification for complaint.

Just keep on winning, Tigers, and everything will be fine.

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Upsets are much likelier in the National Football League.

For instance, how in the hell did the Dallas Cowboys lose to the New York Jets a while back?

It was an anomaly. If Ohio State, which defeated Northwestern, 52-3, last week, had lost to the Wildcats, it would have been roughly equivalent to the Jets beating the Cowboys.

In the pros, it happens every week, even though they’s supposed to be … pros.

(NASCAR Media)

I have no idea who is going to win the NASCAR Monster Cup championship. Denny Hamlin is being trumpeted as the likely champion again, and it’s because he happens to have won the most recent race in Kansas.

That’s the way it’s supposed to be. The format is designed for excitement at the expense of fairness.

In the final race, in Homestead, Fla., four drivers will have an equal chance at the championship. One might be a driver with far less on his result sheet than others.

Who’s most likely to pull off the far-fetched upset? Why, Kyle Larson, of course.

At least right now.

In a way, it’s all the same, whether it’s the Clemson Tigers, the New England Patriots or Denny Hamlin.

Just win, baby.

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Finally, there’s the World Series, where the Washington Nationals lead the favored Houston Astros, 2-0, in the best-of-seven.

I’ve half-watched the two games, partly because inevitably I have work to do and partly because the Boston Red Sox did not make the postseason this year. I’m as interested in what the Red Sox do in the offseason as which team actually succeeds them as world champions.

I have no particular rooting interest. I’ve found myself tilting toward the Nats because, all else being equal, I usually find my sentiments drifting in the direction of the underdogs.

Monte Dutton photo

Wednesday was a busy day. Complications at home left me feeling behind all day with advance stories of local football games and editing releases and stories provided us at GoLaurens/GoClinton.

The assignments themselves are less enjoyable than the conversations they provide.

Yesterday, after taking photos, I found myself chatting with three Clinton High football players as the girls’ tennis team steamrolled Indian Land – I wonder if changing it to Indigenous Land has been contemplated – in the first round of the playoffs.

Today I’ve got a Touchdown Club meeting, an interview with a young drag racer, and a trivia contest at the county museum about which to monitor, photograph, and write. My drag race is going to be getting the obituaries and arrest report done in the gap between assignments. It might not be a bad idea to take my laptop with me to the TD Club and work on the story and the aforementioned daily work in a coffee shop on the Laurens square.

This week’s YouTube video contains songs performed 10 years ago by me and Kyle Petty.

Those were the days.

 

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.

My eighth novel, a political crime thriller, is 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.

Damn the Climate Change … in Sports

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Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, October 15, 2019, 2:17 p.m.

Monte Dutton

I’ve been remiss of late.

Part of it is that I’ve been writing enough about sports elsewhere that it leaves me without much more to say. The weekly NASCAR column at Competition Plus (here’s the latest) fulfills my need, not to mention a visit each Friday night on a statewide sports talk show.

It’s hard to find the time, too, and I can prove it. A motorcyclist got wounded last night in an apparent road-rage incident. I’ve got to write about it.

I’m remiss again.

Sometimes I feel I too am in the twilight.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019, 1:13 p.m.

It must irk the fans of the Atlanta Braves that the Washington Nationals are going to the World Series.

Being a fan of the Boston Red Sox, it irks me that the New York Yankees might be playing them. It’s hard for me to say, “In Houston, I Trust,” but I’d wear an IHIT cap if there was one.

Red Sox fans have not been unduly irked since 2003. Where once Boston took years from my life, four world championships might have given a few back. This year was tough, but it happens. Winning it all is hard.

Boston fans have never been intent on world domination. We just wanted one, and we’ve got four. The Yankees are the ones who want to run everybody else out of business.

Oh, God, please forgive me. I sound a little like Trump.

Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick duel at MIS. (Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

I love baseball unconditionally, but I guess I’m just old enough to wish it hadn’t gotten so selfish. Teams routinely stack all the fielders where the opposition batter is likely to hit the ball, and, in most instances, he’ll eschew a free hit to the opposite field so he can just take another rip and make his agent happy. It’s more complicated than that, but it seems to me that what passes for accepted practice is geared to the current culture of the game.

As strange as this may seem, I think much the same about another sport I love, stock car racing.

MLB and NASCAR reek of climate change. The rest just smell.

Oh, wait. The whole world smells.

Or, perhaps, I am just getting older.

I still believe in love, though. It just seems more and more unrequited.

I talk a lot about various things – NASCAR, local sports, small-town life – in my latest YouTube video.

 

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.

My eighth novel, a political crime thriller, is 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.

The Granddaddy of Them All

Monte Dutton photo

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, August 28, 2019, 12:45 p.m.

Monte Dutton

Pack Darlington Raceway, and the crowd is still only about 60,000, but for many reasons unique to yours truly, the Southern 500 is NASCAR’s biggest race.

It’s in my home state. It was NASCAR’s first race on a track larger than a mile and first on a track that was fully paved. That was in 1950. The “road” part of Daytona Beach’s Beach/Road Course was paved.

More important personally is that it was the first major race to which my father took me. I had gone to a 1965 race at Bristol with some family friends, but five years later, when I was 12, I watched Buddy Baker drive Cotton Owens’ burnt-orange Dodge Charger Daytona to glory. Much later in life, I got to know both Buddy and Cotton, gone now but two of my favorite people in racing or anywhere else.

Buddy Baker (Photo by ISC Archives via Getty Images)

I remember Cale Yarborough’s Mercury skittering along the top of the guardrail at the inside of the track in front of me. I remember taking a Kodak Instamatic picture of Wendell Scott’s robin’s egg blue Ford flashing by that was remarkably clear because I was doing something known as “panning” the car. I thought a “pan” was for frying eggs back then.

I wish I knew where that photo is today. Maybe it’s in a shoe box at my mother’s house. Maybe it’s not. Probably it’s gone forever, but I remember it.

I also remember sitting on the back straight, mostly near kids in Cub Scout uniforms, and after the leaders flashed by, leaning forward and craning my neck to see who was ahead when they dove into turn three, which is now turn one. I remember that long Daytona of Baker, sliding through turn two like an aircraft carrier running rapids. Buddy drove a race car, but he could wrestle.

The slowpokes had to pit on the back straight, and I watched a driver named Johnny Halford get out of his car and change his own tires. It was a pretty purple No. 57 Charger (non-Daytona), but it wasn’t any faster on the track than in the pits.

At the time, I was introduced to the notion that a car could have a wing that would hold it down. When I went back home, I pulled out several World Book encyclopedias to research the matter.

For the next few years, Daddy took me to the Rebel 400 in the spring, but I had to practice football on Labor Day. All the practices were hard, but that was annually the hardest. My mind was in Darlington.

The Silver Fox, David Pearson, circa 1977. (Thomas Pope photo)

My next Southern 500 was in 1976, when I was already enrolled at Furman University. Jimmy Carter, the Democratic candidate for president, spoke to the crowd, as did the Republican vice-presidential nominee, Bob Dole. It was a time long ago, when race fans would still cheer a Democrat, particularly one from Georgia.

David Pearson won. He won every Darlington race I attended in those days. I drove all the way from Greenville to Darlington by myself, and it was the first time I watched a race at Darlington from the covered front-straight grandstands, where, man, was it loud.

Ray Melton was the public-address announcer. He was as unforgettable as the racers, describing the action in a Virginia drawl that surely only fellow Southerners could decipher.

Ray Melton

Lez and gennuhmen, wellum to the Suh Five Hunnud, the Granddaddy of ’Em All, heah at Dahlinton Resweh, the Track Too Tough to Tehm …

The cars ran “hah, wahd ‘n’ hansum” through the turns, and Melton devoted an inordinate amount of time to telling kids to get away from the fence at the bottom of the grandstands because it was “danguhs” down there.

Melton died in 1986, but I should thank him for teaching me how to later make out what Ward Burton had to say.

 

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.

My eighth novel, a political crime thriller, is 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.

Downhill in a Hurry

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, August 3, 2019, 1:21 p.m.

Monte Dutton

High school football players are officially sweating again. During the coming week, they’ll start bumping into each other on purpose. I went out Friday to snap some photos. Few atmospheres are more hopeful than the month before a season starts.

It’s baseball spring training, only much, much hotter. It takes heat to burnish steel.

5:11 p.m.

Speaking of baseball, the leaves are turning. Thank goodness I had a NASCAR Xfinity race to occupy my time while the Yankees were clobbering the Red Sox.

Pixabay

Even if Boston falls from playoff contention, I’ll keep watching lots of the games. I love baseball. This team isn’t as good as the one that won the World Series last year, but it’s still exciting to watch.

This is the difference. It didn’t matter how far last year’s team fell behind, it might win. The same is true this year. But if the Sox are way ahead, they also might lose the game this year.

The starting pitching has been a complete disappointment. As a result, the bullpen is worn out. Problems lead to musical chairs.

Sports is made up of both tangibles and intangibles.

The biggest problem with the Red Sox is they used up all the magic last year.

Pixabay

Sunday, August 4, 2019, 9:05 a.m.

Sometimes I hate to awaken. I almost always fall asleep with the TV on.

Dayton? What’s all this about Dayton? What happened to El Paso?

Next thought.

Presbyterian College just hired a new athletics director from the University of Texas at El Paso. I wonder if he has already left? I wonder how he feels.

These were half-asleep, groggy thoughts. I tried to go back to sleep, but my mind was alive with song lyrics, and I gave up and got up. No good could come from a dream.

If people can’t safely go to a garlic or a country-music festival, or back-to-school shopping, where can they go? They may just hole up with their Facebook pages and take their psychic shots at the outside world. I think I’ll just stay here and drink.

What’s that Jerry Jeff Walker song about staying home?

A few of the lines:

A time for young fellas to carry umbrellas

And considering the climate, you really might find it
The right time to stay at home …

It’s dangerous out on the freeway, its dangerous out in the bars
Everybody’s mad at somebody, it’s dangerous to drink and drive cars

Pixabay

It certainly got my mind off the Boston Red Sox.

I fear we’ve created a world in which the back of that mind is always a little wary, a little fearful. Yet I mustn’t be cowed by uncertainty lest it prevent me from living because I am merely alive.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

What’s at the beginning mustn’t come to an end.

 

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(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.

My eighth novel, a political crime thriller, is 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.

The Rookie Who Wasn’t

Alex Bowman races Kyle Larson during the Camping World 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, July 1, 2019, 11:52 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

Alex Bowman’s victory on Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway was quite the phenomenon as it was quickly portrayed as, gadzooks, the first time a rookie had won a Cup race since 2006, and, for most of NASCAR’s history, it was the rarity it seems to be now.

One problem.

Bowman is not a rookie. He has competed in the Monster Energy Series since 2014 and is in his second full year at Hendrick Motorsports. Earlier this year, Dale Earnhardt Jr. even referred to Bowman as a rookie in spite of the fact that it was Bowman who succeeded Earnhardt in the No. 88 he drove to victory on Sunday in rather stirring fashion.

To paraphrase the late Rodney Dangerfield, Bowman gets no respect, no respect at all.

I think I heard it on TV Sunday, and since lots of folks apparently hold the absurd view that TV never messes up in such ways, it probably spread like religious dogma from there. For half the race, I was strumming my guitar and singing songs, so I damn near repeated the mistake myself. It was this morning before I was pondering life while watching the progress of an omelet in the griddle, and thought, Hey, wait a minute …

Rookies had a golden age, though, and it coincided with NASCAR’s rapid growth in popularity. Beginning with Tony Stewart’s three victories in 1999, rookie victories became suddenly common. Rookies won at least one race for five straight years, eight of the next nine and nine of the next 11.

The list of relatively recent rookie victories consists of Stewart in ’99; Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2000; Kevin Harvick in ’01; Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson in ’02; Greg Biffle in ’03; Kyle Busch in ’05; Hamlin in ’06; Juan Pablo Montoya in ’07; Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski in ’09; Trevor Bayne in 2011; and Chris Buescher in 2016.

That’s once in eight years if you’re keeping a scorecard at home.

Bowman leads the pack. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The fruitless years are only three in order but still counting. This year’s hopes lie with Daniel Hemric, Ryan Preece and Matt Tifft. All I know about Tanner Berryhill is that he was supposed to run the season, hasn’t, and otherwise I wouldn’t know him from ex-ballplayer Damon Berryhill or the blueberry hill where Fats Domino found his thrill.

All these drivers, even Berryhill, wherever he is, owe a debt of gratitude to Jeff Gordon, who didn’t actually win a point race when he debuted in ’93 but quickly developed into the sport’s dominant figure with three championships in the next five years and four in the next nine. Before Gordon, young drivers worked their way up through the ranks and had to serve apprenticeships in subpar equipment. Gordon’s success created what was then the phenomenon of young drivers moving right into top-flight equipment. Many failed these tests, but the ones who prospered are the ones now remembered.

As I once heard the Rev. Jesse Jackson say, the doors of opportunity have been locked with impunity.

Three teams – Gibbs, Penske and Hendrick – have won all the races. At the moment, NASCAR’s top series offers precious little opportunity for upward mobility.

 

 

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.

My eighth novel, a political crime thriller, is 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.