One of the luxuries of writing without any deadline pressure – I watched the Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway from the privacy and comfort of home – is the convenience of, oh, thinking things through before having to write about them.
One of the setbacks is not being paid for it. This blog, like everything else at montedutton.com, is gratis. It’s on the house. I’m not going to be getting a check at the end of the week or month.
The benefits of this website are intangible. It helps to keep my writing in circulation. It’s hard to measure what it does for my career. It promotes the fact that, hey, I’m still out there. Money trickles in from book sales. I hope that visiting this website encourages, in some way, fans of my writing on other subjects to at least consider buying a copy of my novel, The Audacity of Dope (which, I hasten to add, is available at Yahoo and neverlandpublishing.com, not to mention fine bookstores like Poor Richard’s Book Shoppe in Charlotte, N.C.; Barnhill’s in Winston-Salem; and Binding Time Café in Martinsville, Va.; or by ordering an autographed copy at this, aforementioned website).
Click on “merchandise.”
I watched the Food City 500 on TV. I tweeted (@montedutton) and posted (Facebook Monte-Dutton) while it was going on. I waited to write, as in “really write,” not “crack wise,” until this morning. I thought about it. I read what others wrote. I didn’t dream about it (actually, I had a dream about playing music with Todd Snider, whom I miraculously encountered at a convention of the Eastern Motorsports Press Association, which I haven’t actually attended in several years), but I thought about it a bit while in the process of tumbling off to sleep and rummaging around the house this morning.
Bristol fulfilled my expectations of being the best race of the season to date, which didn’t necessarily translate into that much of a compliment and was entirely predictable. I knew the new Gen6 car would do fine at a short track and that the focus would be on the drivers more than the cars. I’m not overly concerned that the new car has failed to live up to expectations so far because there’s no way, given the highly charged nature of NASCAR hype, that it could have. When NASCAR rolls out something new, the advance notices are like movie trailers. Not every movie is impressive, but the trailer usually is. At the very least, much like Scarlett Johannson, the new cars are nice to look at. Unlike Ms. Johannson, the cars will get racier. The actress is a proven commodity. The cars aren’t yet. It takes time.
Kasey Kahne may finally fulfill his great promise. As impossible as this is to believe, Kahne, the quiet, slight darling of Enumclaw, Wash., will turn 33 on April 10. Thirty-three! Women love him. When Kahne comes across as shy, it isn’t an act. He is bereft of brashness but rich in talent. He won six races in 2006 but only eight in all the seasons since. His fans have patiently awaited a Sprint Cup championship but no more patiently than Kahne himself. Perhaps this is finally the year.
The closest Kahne has ever come to controversy was when he allowed on social media as how he was a bit taken aback by seeing a woman breast-feed a child in a supermarket. That was a while back, and ever since, Kahne has dutifully averted his gaze.
Controversy is unavoidable at Bristol, but Kahne avoided it by comfortably taking the checkered flag. That is his style.
The chief controversy at Bristol came from the driver who is blossoming into the Anti-Kahne, Denny Hamlin, who remains delightfully unrestricted in his thoughts and actions in spite of NASCAR’s oppressive attention. Hamlin cuffed up another of the sport’s maturing waifs, Joey Logano. Logano abruptly blocked the advance of Hamlin, his former teammate, whereupon Hamlin’s Toyota bumped Logano’s Ford and sent it sliding into a wall that was sufficiently soft not to end Logano’s day. After the race, Logano confronted Hamlin. I don’t know what Logano said – probably something along the lines of “hey, you, you, better not mess with me, buddy, or I’ll, I’ll, do … something … that you … won’t like” – and it appears as if Hamlin just looked at him with an attitude that translated into “whatever.”
Logano reminded no one of Gary Cooper in “High Noon” and perhaps a few of Fred Savage in “The Wonder Years.” On a roughhousing afternoon at NASCAR’s most frenetic track, that’s all the hype mongers had on which to dwell, so this comedy of manners will linger at least through next weekend’s race in Fontana, Calif.
I thought the race was satisfying. From the recliner, I enjoyed every lap that was available between commercials. A year ago, fans cried out for the “Old Bristol,” where advancing typically required the pursuer to pry the car ahead from a steadfast clinging to the bottom of the track. Bruton Smith’s attempt at turning back the clock created a track where pursuers now must pry the car ahead from the top of the track.
It’s different, but I liked it. The ratings ought to be strong, if for no other reason than a glance at the grandstands suggested that lots of fans, like me, preferred to watch it on TV.