Ain’t Nobody Knows

Earnhardt Jr. with Jeff Gordon. Now they’ll be dressed differently when they talk. (John Clark photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, January 19, 2018, 10:55 a.m.

NASCAR fans turn their lonely eyes to the young men streaming into the great speed palaces of the land. Some are wondering if it will ever be the same again. No need to wonder.

It won’t be.

By Monte Dutton

It wasn’t the same after Fireball Roberts died. Or Dale Earnhardt. It won’t be the same now that Earnhardt’s son is taking his infectious charm to the television booth, where Jeff Gordon’s already resides. Life on the farm is kind of laidback for Carl Edwards. Like an old soldier, Matt Kenseth has faded away. Tony Stewart hangs out in the garage, so close but yet so far away.

It’s still racing, though. The fans who lived and died with their heroes, ask, “Should I stay, or should I go?” If they love the sport as much as the people in it, they will find new heroes, and if they don’t, a new generation will wander in. Surfers always find a new wave to ride. New generations always find a voice.

Carl Edwards: back on the farm. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

It may take a single race, such as Atlanta, in 2005, when Edwards slipped past Jimmie Johnson on the final lap, or a glorious season, such as the one enjoyed by Martin Truex Jr. last year.

It will happen. It has to. Racing, too, has a law of supply and demand. Some gotta win. Some gotta lose. The drivers who left created room for new ones to rise and fill the void.

Christopher Bell. Ryan Blaney. Alex Bowman. Chris Buescher. William Byron. Chase Elliott. Erik Jones. Daniel Suarez. Darrell Wallace Jr. Some others of whom we’ve heard. Some of whom we haven’t. Some have already won. Some have been close. The order is alphabetical because there is no other way to list them. Yet.

Chase Elliott could use a scene like this in the Cup Series. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

In the meantime, familiar faces remain. Truex is defending a title. Johnson is seeking an eighth. Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch yearn for another. Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola are dreaming of a first.

Given the way that NASCAR championships are decided, choosing a favorite for a championship is about the same as choosing which of 18 candidates is going to win a political party’s nomination for president. Races fall about as predictably as primaries and caucuses.

Don’t give up on NASCAR just because Junior’s gone. Hang around for a few races. Something may happen that will grab your interest.

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The Racing World According to Barrie Jarman

Barrie Jarman (Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, January 17, 2018, 7:48 p.m.

It was just about a year ago that Barrie Jarman was born. Amazingly, he is now nineteen years old.

By Monte Dutton

Barrie is the hero of two novels I’ve written in the past year. He was born in a sleepless night. I was almost finished with a manuscript called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I am almost finished with it now. When I dreamed up Barrie, I sat aside Mickey Statler and his daughter Marcia, Dylan Wannamacher, Milo Hirley and Rashawn Ling, not to mention the newly elected President of the United States, Martin Gaynes; his attorney general, Nathan Beale; and the Consortium, a nationwide conspiracy whose leaders are named Bentsen Lilley and Patrick Trintignant.

From time to time, during twenty years driving and flying to and from the great race tracks of the land, occasionally, high-ranking officials said to me that, since I obviously hated the sport, I ought to find another way to make a living, but Lightning in a Bottle and Life Gets Complicated were what I did for love. In that sleepless night, I thought long and hard about how different the racers of today are from the ones who populated the sport when I first got started, and Barrie became my personal invention of what stock car racing needs now.

Barrie, who couldn’t do anything with his daddy and whose daddy couldn’t do anything with him, showed up at his Uncle Charlie’s house in an old Ford pickup towing a yellow Mustang he was racing on the South Carolina dirt tracks. The old Mustang had a decal of a marijuana leaf where the taillights were on highway cars, and Charlie Jarman, an old racing hand, noticed three things right off: Barrie was rough around the edges, was smart as a whip, and could drive the hell out of a stock car. Charlie got two Ford officials to watch him race on a Georgia short track, and they saw enough to find him a ride in the second-string series of FASCAR, which is the governing body of big-time stock car racing in the novel. In the sequel, Barrie gets a ride in the big time at the age of nineteen.

A three-sport high school star who turned down a baseball scholarship, Barrie speaks his mind, which does not endear him to the high-ranking officials of FASCAR. He falls in love with a beautiful young African American nursing student, Angela Hughston, who is the sister of Barrie’s best and damned-near only friend, a driver in the Truck Series. He mostly cleans up his act but still goes his own way enough to make the head of FASCAR consider him a tremendous pain in the ass.

In the sequel, fame goes to Barrie’s head a bit, and some of the enemies he made in the first novel do their best to get rid of him.

Telling Barrie’s stories was the most fun I’ve ever had writing fiction. Writing through the eyes of Uncle Charlie taught me how to be funny, whereas, in my first five novels, I was only amusing. Both novels are short. Both are funny. Both are fun. I thought the novels would take the racing world by storm as much as Barrie did in them. Few racing fans are in the Book of the Month Club (if such a club even exists anymore), and, inside the sport, I believe the novels might have been as “too hot to handle” as Barrie.

I expect I’ll write another novel about Barrie, but I’m going to set him aside for now. I’m finally about to put Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on the market, and the novel after that is likely going to be about baseball. I’m still waiting for the literary world to catch up with Barrie.

Always the cool customer, Matt Kenseth (Monte Dutton sketch)

Many readers think I just changed the names and based Barrie, Charlie, Angela, her brother Errol, Jerry McCarley, Frank Maglie, Cade Rawlings, Jay Higbe, and other characters on real people. Several readers have suggested that Barrie is really Tim Richmond, and I never once thought of Richmond while I was writing the novels. They apparently thought I was rewriting Days of Thunder, and my first reaction was, Really? Surely it’s better than that. Barrie drew more inspiration from the kids playing high school sports around here. I was trying to make him a throwback and a modern kid at the same time.

Now, as NASCAR tries to find young drivers to save the sport from the absence of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, and Danica Patrick, I think it could do a lot worse than Barrie Jarman.

Even though Barrie is fiction, that’s the truth.

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Oh, Say a Prayer for Marcus, too

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, January 15, 2018, 12:45 a.m.

In my living room, I was aghast. In Minneapolis, they were exultant. In New Orleans, they were crestfallen.

How could he miss that tackle? I haven’t seen anything like that since that ground ball trickled through Bill Buckner’s legs, and then there was a seventh game to go. Oh. My. God.

Those were just thoughts. In 1986, I yelled. I considered throwing something. I’m a Red Sox fan. This time I just wanted to see a good game. Watch what you ask for. You might just get it.

By Monte Dutton

Even as the Minnesota Vikings’ Stefon Diggs was racing into the end zone as the clock expired, my thoughts were with the New Orleans Saints’ Marcus Williams, the safety who had lowered his head and whiffed at what should have been a sure tackle and ended the game. Not only that. Williams had toppled the only teammate who could have prevented Diggs from scoring and the Vikings from winning, 29-24.

What stupidity. What a monumental mistake. How could it happen?

It was the kind of mistake that turns the error of a football game into the error of a life. The first famous sports boner – the word had a different meaning back before human minds became so tawdry – occurred, I think, in 1908, and it ultimately cost the New York Giants the National League pennant. Fred Merkle failed to tag second base on what should have been the game-winning hit.

Now it’s the day after, and my emotion is no longer cold and unfeeling. Now I feel sympathy for Williams. It could ruin his career. He may never live it down. Somehow, I hope he does. I hope next year his pick-six wins a playoff game. I doubt it, but I hope it.

Two Marcus Williamses play defensive back in the National Football League. So profound was the error of rookie Marcus Williams, formerly of Utah and playing for the New Orleans Saints, that Marcus Williams, formerly of North Dakota State and playing for the Houston Texans, is probably going to bear collateral damage. He will grow accustomed of saying to strangers in airports, “No, that’s the other Marcus Williams.”

It ain’t me, babe. It ain’t me.

One of the benefits of writing about sports is that everything is right out there, under the lights, in front of crowds, with bands playing. Politicians choke. They make poor decisions. They say the wrong things, but, lots of times, the doors are closed, and they are beyond the public’s view. The NFL has no executive sessions.

Whoever wrote the opening monologue of ABC’s Wide World of Sports was thinking about that when he wrote “the human drama of athletic competition, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

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Oh, Lord, Grant Me Vision, Oh, Lord, Grant Me Speed

It’s a merry-go-round, but, oddly, all they ever have is a Ferris wheel. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, January 10, 2018, 5:45 p.m.

In 1920, Warren Gamaliel Harding rose to the presidency, using a slogan of “Back to Normalcy.” Harding’s campaign invented that word. It was previously “normality.” Harding, who died in office, is considered one of the country’s worst presidents. On the bright side, “normalcy” is now, almost a century later, an established part of the language.

By Monte Dutton

Going back to normalcy is clearly too much to ask of the Lords of Daytona Beach. How about “Establish Normalcy”? Let things lie. Give the base time to catch up. If this is like every other winter since 2004, NASCAR will soon announce its “exciting changes.”

The Chase. Ten drivers even for the final 10 races. No, uh, 12. Oh, because of unforeseen circumstances, this year it’s going to be 13. No, uh, 16. And they won’t begin the Chase even. And it won’t be the Chase. Let’s call it “the playoffs.” The 16 finalists will begin with bonus points. Chase bonus points. Don’t confuse them with regular-season bonus points. Each race will have stages.

No one wants to confront the factual notion that, ever since the changes began, the fans have dwindled. When the Lords call these changes a huge success, they are referring to them being a success with the half of the fan base that hasn’t leaked away.

Okay, let me concede that I thought the racing was a little better last year. God, what a price, though.

The distance – whether by laps, miles, ratings points, or tweets — from the Daytona 500 to the Ford 400 has more obstacles than Super Mario Brothers. It used to be, when we drove coast to coast, we’d take maps. Now we take mobile phones that tell us where to go.

The path to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship needs a free app. Otherwise, no one but Bob Pockrass is going to know what the hell is going on. Watching it all on TV is like watching Abbott and Costello perform the “Who’s on First?” routine.

So let it be. Let it be. Let it be. Let it be. Speaking words of wisdom, let it beeeeeeee.

Racing would be better if it didn’t take a rocket surgeon or a brain scientist.

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Who’s a Legend?

Dale Earnhardt with Richard Childress(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, January 6, 2018, 12:52 p.m.

Sam Tiller plays football, basketball, and soccer for the Clinton High School Red Devils. Currently, it’s basketball season. Last night I was at CHS Gymnasium to write about the game between Clinton and the Chapman High School Panthers, who represent the City of Inman and, in my mind, James Harvey Hylton.

Clinton won the boys’ game, 76-75. Chapman won the girls’ game, 38-30.

By Monte Dutton

I know Sam because his father and I are friends. Before the girls’ game started, Sam was sitting in the stands with other members of the team. I stopped by and sat down next to him for a few minutes and asked him about Dale Earnhardt. I knew Sam liked Earnhardt because I had seen it on his Twitter page. It came as something of a surprise because I had never heard him say anything about NASCAR.

“Oh, yeah, I love Earnhardt, man,” he said, and I proceeded to tell him several personal stories about my dealings with The Intimidator over the years. I noticed Sam’s use of the present tense. I love Earnhardt. Sam didn’t indicate that Earnhardt has been dead for roughly as long as Sam has been alive.

Dale Earnhardt on the pole at Atlanta, 1982.
(Photo by RacingOne/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Earnhardt is a legend. The legend transcends the life.

Not everyone can be a legend. Everyone can be called a legend, but that doesn’t make it so. I’ve been thinking about this, and here’s what I’ve concluded. With any famous athlete, the fans feel like they know him (or her).

With legends, they are right.

The Intimidator was no saint. He was The Intimidator. In the local vernacular, Earnhardt “didn’t take nuthin’ off nobody.”

With Bud Moore. (Photo by Dozier Mobley/Getty Images for NASCAR)

There’s a difference between being great and being legendary. Jeff Gordon is great. Jimmie Johnson is great.

Curtis Turner is legendary. Tim Richmond is legendary. Legends live on after greatness has died. It’s a good thing. Legends may not go to heaven. Legends are not necessarily beloved, but they are not forgotten.

Earnhardt may be the last legend. Maybe it’s Tony Stewart. His will have to settle a while.

I’ve come to realize that others use words loosely that I use tightly. Legend. Hero. Friend.

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Most of the Missing Is in the Mind

Poised to strike. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, January 3, 2018, 10:54 a.m.

Football season is winding down.

Alabama clobbered Clemson, 24-6, in the BCS, meaning the Crimson Tide will advance to take on the Georgia Bulldogs for college football’s national championship. Georgia survived Oklahoma, 54-48, in the best game that defense ever forgot, at least until overtime.

By Monte Dutton

Here in South Carolina, talk of a Clemson dynasty has subsided until next fall, but the Carolina Gamecocks won the Outback Bowl over Michigan, 26-19, and, on Wednesday, when I went to the post office to mail some books, half the people in line were wearing garnet and/or black.

The Carolina Panthers (11-5) are in the NFL playoffs, but, based on a dreadful performance in Atlanta, they aren’t a team likely to hang around long. Perhaps Cam Newton will regain his superpowers in New Orleans, but, on Sunday, it looked like someone had hidden some Kryptonite in Atlanta.

Football isn’t exactly kaput, but it’s diminishing in the hearts and minds of fans whose pro teams of choice will gradually limp to a season’s sidelines.

Kevin Harvick (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)

So there’s room for racing, and the Super Bowl will be done by the time America, Fox, and Ol’ D.W. are ready for the Daytona 500 to commence.

Vroom. Ruh! Ruh-ruh! Ruhruhruhruhruhruhruh … ruuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhh!

Old memories of Ken Squier openings drift into my mind.

Forty-two automobiles, decorated in every color of the rainbow, have been rolled onto the starting grid here in Daytona Beach, Florida, the Birthplace of Speed, for the Great American Race.

The first time I saw Chris Economaki, he was broadcasting from the roof of the Greenville-Pickens Speedway press box. (Monte Dutton sketch)

The earnest drawl of Ned Jarrett. Barney Hall’s comforting tone. Chris Economaki’s urgent staccato. David Hobbs’ droll wit. Jackie Stewart’s indecipherable brogue. Benny Parsons’ calmness in the storm. Neil Bonnett. Bob Jenkins. Larry Nuber. Mike Joy.

Oh, to be young again. Maybe it’s just that. Godforsaken age. Maybe it’s because I got to know all the drivers, and somehow they became less folk heroes and more just gifted men. Maybe racing became a job instead of an obsession. I don’t know. I get tired of analysis. I just know how I felt then and how I feel now. Mine is not to wonder why. Mine is just to put into words what my eyes can see. And my mind can remember.

I still recreate the sensations.

Riding on the Ferris wheel, in the infield, after midnight, as headlights zip through the darkness during the Rolex 24, back before the speedway had lights.

(Monte Dutton photo)

Watching a cold rain fall, and the Atlantic boil, from the condo north of Ormond Beach. Taking the elevator to get a copy of the Daytona Beach News-Sentinel before the machine runs out. Buying a small, battery-operated slot-car set at the Family Dollar so that we can amuse ourselves while the real track is closed. Breakfast at Alfie’s on the way to the track and Halibut Night on the way back at day’s end.

Parking in the horseshow of the road course. Thousands of sea gulls taking flight when the first engine fires in the garage. The strangely metallic and vibrating rumble that comes from a line of cars speeding through turn four. Gaps in the traffic filled by the constant prattle of the public address. Joining a busload of senior citizens for an afternoon matinee at the Regal Ormond Beach Cinema 12, just off Williamson, conveniently on the pathway to and from the track.

Beers at the Boot. The IROC luncheon. The often laughable drawing of starting positions for the Busch Clash and its descendants. Driving up to St. Augustine to watch my friends Those Guys playing music.

It will be five years since I spent most of February in Daytona Beach (and thereabouts) for Speedweeks. I still watch the races on TV. What I miss are the sensations, and I’m not sure why. I can still conjure them up.

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An Up and a Down in the Palmetto State

Imagine. All those football games began on fields like this one. (Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, January 2, 2018, 12:22 p.m.

In the aftermath of the New Year’s football games, my principal feeling when I got up this morning was bonhomie for the recently suffering South Carolina fans. The Gamecocks came from behind to beat Michigan, and their 9-4 record was quite an accomplishment for a scrappy, overachieving team.

As a boy, I loved the Clemson Tigers in spite of the fact that they weren’t anywhere near as good as they are today. I went off to college elsewhere, though, and today I take pride in taking pride in my alma mater, Furman. I wanted Clemson to win, but I was more disappointed that it wasn’t much of a game than I was that Alabama won.

By Monte Dutton

Last year the Gamecocks won the national championship in women’s basketball and made the Final Four in the men’s game, but that doesn’t stand for much in a state that is football-crazy. If South Carolina got its name from sports preference, it would be East Georgia. In 49 states, USC is in Los Angeles, and Carolina is in Chapel Hill, but I live in that other state. I don’t hate Carolina, as I once did, and I’m glad its fans have something for which they can take pride.

Clemson fans don’t have many bad weeks. This is going to be one of them.

I knew Clemson might get the big payback in the Big Easy. I knew Alabama might whip their young asses, and I knew that if Clemson won, it would likely be in the final moments, as it was a year earlier. I also knew that Nick Saban doesn’t often lose when he has a month to prepare, and it didn’t hurt that Saban only had a week to prepare for Clemson last year.

In watching Saban’s Crimson Tide, I have detected a pattern. In the first half, it looks as if Alabama doesn’t care about winning. Alabama cares about punishing the other team. It’s an artillery barrage that leads up to an invasion in the second half. A year ago Clemson became one of few teams to withstand that hellish onslaught.

For Tide fans, and for Saban, though I doubt he’d admit it publicly, it was sweet. For the rest of my life, when I think of Saban, I will think of his coup de grace.

It was a one-yard touchdown pass caught by a 308-pound defensive tackle.

First Da’Ron Payne picked off a Kelly Bryant pass, ran it back 21 yards, and Clemson had to use this draft horse’s collar to bring him down. That’s a 15-yard, personal-foul penalty. Then Saban put Payne in the backfield, ostensibly as a blocking back, and he slipped out toward the sideline and caught the touchdown pass.

It was perfect in a Nick Saban kind of way. It was demoralizing to the opposition, as evidenced further by a pick-six thrown by Bryant on the Tigers’ next offensive play, and it was somewhat similar to the game-winning catch a year earlier by Hunter Renfrow, other than the fact that Renfrow is a scrawny flanker and Payne is a mountainous lineman who normally terrorizes the other side of the ball.

Now Clemson gets to lick its wounds, rededicate itself to perfection, and come back next year intent on forming a more union.

The Tigers’ next game is against Furman.

Oh, bother.

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It’s a Long Way from New Orleans to Here

(Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, December 29, 2017, 8:08 a.m.

I could grouse about there being too many bowl games. Everyone else does. It’s fashionable, and I’m not wild about a pair of 6-6 teams playing each other in front of a crowd numbering well into the thousands.

By Monte Dutton

Unless, of course, it’s a good game. Then it’s a good way to while away the hours, chipping away at a sports feature or a chapter of fiction. It’s pretty easy. Look up every time the announcer starts yelling.

Besides, without minor bowl games, where would Appalachian State, or North Texas, or Utah State, have to go celebrate a jam-up season?

I haven’t been to that many bowl games in person, and most of them were selected in advance because I wanted to go to the place. I got in this habit when I was a junior in high school. Four of us decided we wanted to go to the Sugar Bowl, not knowing what teams would play in it. Nebraska played Florida in the last edition of the game played at old Tulane Stadium. The Superdome was under construction when we rolled into town in my best friend’s yellow Chevy Nova with the beige vinyl top. He was the only one of us who had a new car. His was the most likely to make the trip without a flat tire or a steaming radiator.

(Monte Dutton photo)

We had no chaperone. Fortunately, we were all too young and naive to exploit fully the sinful opportunities of the Big Easy. The next time I saw New Orleans was almost forty years later, when I was less capable but more interested.

Can you imagine the parents of today allowing four teen-agers to drive all the way from Clinton, South Carolina, to New Orleans, Louisiana, to watch a football game? It was a different time. Adventure wasn’t so tightly monitored.

We booked a motel room in Gulfport, Mississippi, because that was the closest place we could find an affordable rate. It was unseasonably warm, and we decided we’d like to take a dip in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The four of us dashed across the beach and splashed up water that was … black. Oil rigs were in sight out there, and, apparently, a spill had occurred.

So much for that.

A lot has changed besides Chevy Novas with vinyl tops.

Nowadays I try to keep up. I’m wed to the past, though. The last time I played on a football team was the year after that Sugar Bowl was played on December 31, 1974. Based on my obsolete experience, I can’t imagine a member of a team deciding to sit out a bowl game because he might get injured, and getting injured might affect his value on the National Football League market.

(Monte Dutton sketch)

I also can’t imagine a football coach skipping out on his team to take a new job before what should have been his final game is played. He’s no better than his ballplayers, and he sets an example that makes their actions plausible.

These are men who profess their love of team, game, the thrill of victory, and even the agony of defeat. I’ve heard men say with a straight face that they love it so much they’d play for nothing else.

That is, until they get that opportunity.

Not everything has changed. I still love it. It’s not the same, but nothing else is, either.

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Parsons and Poole, Etched in Memory

It’s been a while since Benny Parsons raced this heap on the short tracks of the Midwest.

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, December 27, 2017, 12:09 p.m.

I don’t have a lot to write about NASCAR in terms of what is happening now, mostly because not much is happening. A change of makes here. A staff change there. It won’t be long until the proverbial wire starts crackling.

By Monte Dutton

A couple of times recently, once on a radio show and once on social media, or via online messaging, someone asked me whom I missed the most, and I said, or typed, that I missed Benny Parsons the most and thought the most about longtime colleague David Poole.

In this time of reminiscence, let me reminisce.

Benny and I had many conversations in many press boxes on many race mornings. He’d stop by and sit down next to me before he went on the air. Once we sat together in Charlotte at a Robert Earl Keen concert at Neighborhood Theater.

Let me tell you about Benny’s personal integrity. I got him in trouble once when I quoted him on something related to his television career. It wasn’t off the record. He didn’t tell me it was between us. I guess he just didn’t expect me to print it.

I used to give the same spiel to drivers, crew chiefs, owners, etc., that went something like this.

Benny Parsons

People always think that writers can’t keep a secret. If you tell me that something is between us, I won’t tell my own mother, but we’ve got to have that straight between us, because if you don’t tell me it’s off the record, it’s my job to tell the world about it, or, at least, that small part of the world that is in my range.

What usually happens is that a driver says something, knowing full well that I’m going to print it. Then, if he catches flak about it, he claims it was “off the record,” or “out of context” or even, occasionally, “I never talked to the guy.” One well-known driver sent his P.R. rep to apologize for trashing me.

“[The driver] said for me to say he’s sorry. NASCAR made him do it.”

Benny said, “It’s my fault. It’s not your fault. You didn’t print a word I didn’t say. I shouldn’t have told you, but that’s my problem, not yours.”

Benny was a straight-up guy. They were rare then and rarer now. A writer appreciates them.

David Poole (left foreground) and I (across the table), typing away. Jim Pedley and John Sturbin are nearby.

David Poole and I had much in common and much about which we dramatically differed.

At a moment when all hell broke loose, I would ask, satirically, “Isn’t fun the greatest thing you can have?” usually in an English accent, mimicking Dudley Moore in Arthur. David would say, “Fun. You just can’t beat fun.” He told me he got it from a handmade sign at a county fair.

David blew his top five times a day. It was wildly entertaining for those who weren’t on the receiving end. One reason we were close is that he never went off on me, and I’m damned sure there were times he wanted to scream at something I said because we disagreed many times and he screamed – more often, bellowed – a lot.

When I was on the gypsy troupe, I blew up that many times in a season. David never held anything in. I was good-natured most of the time, but the pressure built inside of me, and when I exploded, it was rare but nuclear.

David said of my musical tastes, “Monte Dutton doesn’t like anything anybody else does, and if what he likes gets popular, he’ll stop liking it.”

There was some truth in that, but, by the time he died, in 2009, he and I were listening to mostly the same music, as attested by the photo here of the two of us at Texas Motor Speedway, with the aforementioned Mr. Keen playing in the background. One of the more unlikely trios ever to attend a concert in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury District were David, me and another great deceased friend, Ed Shull.

Sometimes David would admit to me he was wrong about something, but it was uncommon and in private. And I never told my mother.

If you like my writing, and you’ve got ample funds, I’d appreciate a pledge to my Patreon page so that I can do more of it and make it better. Click here.

My two most recent books are novels are about stock car racing. Such fiction is rare, and for a good reason. You’ll like them, though, you’ll laugh a lot. In fact, you’ll laugh a lot even if you don’t follow NASCAR. Sample my books here.

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It’s Christmas, No NASCAR, and I Am Obsessed

Kyle Busch is everywhere. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, December 19, 2017, 10:05 a.m.

I guess all is not lost.

Tyrone Power and Dana Andrews are about to depart aboard a submarine to fight the Nazis. The Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl will pit Temple, no, Rice, no, Kennesaw State, no, Florida Atlantic against Akron tonight. It took me a while to figure which Owls were involved since my DirecTV program guide listed only that they were 10-3.

By Monte Dutton

Ten and three, huh? Not bad for a bowl game on a Tuesday night.

It’s a long way from December to February, which is when NASCAR begins again. Do you miss it yet?

I find myself equating everything to NASCAR.

Jerry Richardson is going to sell the Carolina Panthers. Maybe Brian France will buy them. Maybe Bruton Smith will buy them.

Lane Kiffin coaches Florida Atlantic. He’s kind of the Kyle Busch of college football coaches.

Last night Jon Gruden was the analyst for the Monday Night Football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’s kind of the Kyle Busch of football announcers.

Congress is about to pass a tax bill. Donald Trump is kind of the Kyle Busch of presidents.

These half-baked, skewed observations are kind of the Kyle Busch of thoughts.

It’s the best I can do, though CBS Sports is about to televise “Terracross: 2017 Rough, Tough and Muddy RZR Recap Show.” My suspicion is that this has something to do with motorsports.

I can’t ever recall pining for NASCAR this much this early. On Thursday, Presbyterian College plays a women’s basketball game at noon and a men’s game at 2 p.m. Maybe that will help. If so, anything will.

(Monte Dutton photo)

So desperate am I to get back to the track next year that I have established a Patreon page to fund a few trips to tracks that are relatively nearby. I went back to Charlotte for three weekends during the past year. Now, with Christmas approaching, visions of Atlanta, Bristol, Darlington, Martinsville, and maybe even Richmond and Talladega, dance in my head like sugar plums, I guess. I have actually never enjoyed the deliciousness of sugar plums.

Its a merry-go-round, but, oddly, all they ever have is a Ferris wheel. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

I’m going to be in Greenville tonight. Perhaps I should go early and stop by Costco.

“Excuse me, ma’am, could you direct me to your sugar plums?” An attractive woman might take that the wrong way, and my Patreon fundraising might be marred by an harassment scandal. Al Franken didn’t see it coming, either.

Since this beard appeared, a Santa Claus impersonation scandal might be more likely. Or, perhaps, at Costco, Santa might be a no-show.

What do you mean, you’ve got the flu? Have you been drinking again, Fred? Wait a minute, you won’t believe it! Hang on!

“Sir, have you ever thought about playing Santa Claus?”

“Why, ho, ho, ho, ma’am, I haven’t.”

Then, maybe, just maybe, I could become the Kyle Busch of Santa Clauses, or, as I would insist, Santas Claus.

I don’t want to have to sign any contracts.

This, friends, is how a crack blogger squeezes 500 words out of almost nothing.

Make your pledge to my Patreon campaign today by clicking here. I promise most of my writing will be better than this.

After Santa Claus comes, you’re going to need something to read while the kids are tearing up the toys. Please peruse my books by clicking here.

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