Collecting My Highway Thoughts

I consider Kyle Petty a friend. We've played music together, but what I admire him for the most is his willingness to say what he thinks. NASCAR needs more like him.
I consider Kyle Petty a friend. We’ve played music together, but what I admire him for the most is his willingness to say what he thinks. NASCAR needs more like him.

Clinton, S.C., Monday, July 1, 2013, 11:16 a.m.

I just thought of some Elton John/Bernie Taupin lines: I’m back on dry land once again / Opportunity awaits me like a rat in a drain …

Okay. It’s not all that pertinent. The song is named “Sweet Painted Lady,” and the narrator is a sailor, not an author who just got back from a rainy, nine-day tour of the Mid-Atlantic states.

I didn’t write it was profound. I just wrote that the lines occurred to me. Veteran readers of this blog know that happens a lot.

I digress, which happens a lot, too.

The eastern half of the country is mostly lush and green. The western half is mostly dry and parched. These aren’t supposed to be absolutes. At the moment, the West is burning up, and the East is filling up … with water.

For the present, weather stereotypes are extremely valid. I got rained on for most of a week in various parts of Pennsylvania. Now I’m home. Rain is forecast all week. A man’s got to cut his grass sometime.

I just opened the front door. I could hear the grass growing.

On Sunday, my plan was to watch the NASCAR race from Kentucky from a motel room. It had been raining all during the drive to Pittsburgh. The race got rained out. I drove all the way home Sunday, maniacally trying to find the race on the radio as it faded in and out. I spent the first hour of the race listening to “Prairie Home Companion” on NPR, which was quite enjoyable. Siri, my electronic navigator, got me out of a bad spot in southern Virginia when I-77 was hopelessly backed up and I boldly exited for a 15-mile drive through narrow, mountainous roads. Siri got me back on track. Bless her heart. I told her that, but she didn’t seem to understand me. It rained very little till I hit the Charlotte area. It doesn’t take a storm to get the highway backed up around Mooresville, so I stopped at Arby’s and used a coupon. I really enjoyed being off my diet for a week, succumbing to the difficulties of eating right on the road.

Now I’m back on track. Really. It’s not a joke.

One thing doesn’t seem to change in NASCAR right now. Forgive the stereotype, and the exception here and there, but it seems as if every week, Jimmie Johnson drives the fastest car. Only strategy or mistakes beats him. That being the case, I think I would be very proud if I were Matt Kenseth right now. He won the only way he could have won, which was to pass up tires for track position and hope everyone behind him would start squabbling enough for him to get away.

There’s this saying. “The race does not always go the swift, but that’s still the way to bet.” Johnson is still the way to bet, but things change. Right now, it looks as if Five Time is going to become Six Time. After Johnson won every championship from 2006 through 2010, I said he’d have to lose two titles before I picked anyone else. He did, so this year, when asked, I picked Kyle Busch. Any similarity between me and Nostradamus seems merely coincidental right now.

But, of course, the Chase changes everything.

While driving down the highway, maniacally tuning the radio to keep in contact with what was happening in Kentucky, I thought about Kyle Petty’s remarks of last week. Petty cited an old saying of his father, The King, who said that some drivers can go fast and others are really race drivers. Richard’s son said that Danica Patrick could go fast but wasn’t a race driver yet and quite possibly never will be. I think he’s right, but if Patrick proves me wrong, I’ll be happy about it and admit I was wrong. Kyle will, too. I think his view is the way to bet.

The whole kerfuffle – I borrowed that word from a Nate Ryan tweet, so he owes me one – was pretty amusing. Many of those who unleashed an artillery barrage against Kyle (that’s Petty, not Busch) somehow centered their fire on the career of Petty, not Patrick, which was basically changing the subject. By the way, I arrived on the NASCAR beat when Kyle Petty was a contender. He won eight career Cup races and came reasonably close to winning a championship in 1992. Kyle, by virtue of being the grandson of a three-time champion and son of the most influential figure in the history of the sport, has more perspective on the sport than almost anyone else. I don’t always agree with Kyle, but it’s absurd to suggest that he lacks standing.

I thought it kind of laugh-out-loud funny that many fans, who have never even driven a race car, thought Kyle had no business expressing his view on the career prospects of Danica Patrick.

Kyle Petty is the most honest guy on television, at least where NASCAR is concerned. He puts himself in the line of fire every single week, and I admire him for that. It reminds me of how any politician who sticks his (or her) neck out has to fight like hell to stay in office, but the guy who just sits up there in Washington like a knot on a log gets reelected time after time.

Kyle’s way is not the norm, but it’s refreshing, and I’m glad he’s willing to put up with being perpetually in the Twitter crosshairs. His is not the path of least resistance.

Mine isn’t, either, but I can look at myself in the mirror, and I think Kyle can, too.

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Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog once every day on whatever happens to strike my fancy.

9 thoughts on “Collecting My Highway Thoughts”

  1. I believe Kyle Petty is the best of NASCAR on air media. He’s honest and gives honest opinions instead of towing the company MO. I respect that. I can’t speak for every fan, but i would assume many of the “old school” fans appreciate his truthfulness in this watered down version of media NASCAR is pushing these days. It’s not pretty. I’m afraid that KP is the last of the old guard…. I just hope NASCAR doesn’t blackball him the way they’ve done some others. I fear that if anything happens to “The King” KP’s job won’t be far behind it.

    Thanks for another great write up Monte. You are fighting the good fight for the right reasons. Even if it doesn’t make you rich it still makes you a great man…..

  2. In a world of political correctness, KP is our saviour! I like Danica but Kyle is right.

  3. Its refreshing and uncommon. I don’t agree with kyle a lot of the time(such as danica). but I’ve found other times where kyle has blasted nascar officials, tony stewart and even as recent as sunday Jimmie Johnson about the restarts…

  4. Great writing as always.

    What I find interesting about the Kyle/Danica war of words is that for many years, people questioned how serious Kyle was about racing. It was felt that his full focus wasn’t there as he moonlighted as a musician. Even after his success at Sabco, some skeptics still brought that up. Its an interesting contrast but I’m sure many people aren’t even aware of that, especially the newer fans who only saw Kyle as a back marker and do not realize how much success he had during the early 90s. Danica will be very fortunate to have a career that comes anywhere close to the one Kyle had.

    There’s few reasons to pay attention to any NASCAR tv these days. Kyle is one of the best out there. Let’s hope folks realize that part of the job of an analyst is to say what Kyle did. That’s his job. Without that, you have a boring telecast and a bunch of yes men. I’ll take Kyle over the ego of DW any day of the week.

  5. Monte,

    I enjoyed following your travels very much and appreciate the time you spent blogging about it. I sure want to hear your comments on the latest group of 5 for the Hall of Fame. Mario Andretti? FOURTEEN races and ONE victory. I think most fans have been very outspoken about not nominating folks who are still involved at the present time. They need to wait a while like the stick and ball sports.

    Your take, please?

    Thanks,

    WG
    North Augusta, SC

  6. I don’t understand. Do you mean the NASCAR Hall of Fame? The latest class is Tim Flock, Jack Ingram, Dale Jarrett, Maurice Petty and Fireball Roberts. Mario Andretti isn’t in the Class of 2014.

  7. Monte, I’m sorry, I didn’t pay close enough attention. I was referring to the NMPA announcement as follows below. Got it mixed up with the NASCAR Hall of Fame and my bias against that outfit showed.

    NMPA Announces Nominees For 2014 Hall of Fame: The National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) announced that there are five new candidates for its Hall of Fame. Those elected by the membership will be inducted in ceremonies in January 2014 in Charlotte, NC.
    The nominees for 2104 are:
    L.D. Ottinger – Two-time Sportsman champion (’74 & ’75), perennial top 10 points finisher in Sportsman/Nationwide Series.
    Ray Evernham – Three-time Sprint Cup Series champion crew chief for Jeff Gordon, helped bring Dodge back to NASCAR competition as a team owner in 2001, often described as greatest crew chief of all time.
    Mario Andretti – A four-time INDY champion, 1978 F-1 champion, 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner, 1967 Daytona 500 winner; one of two people to win in Formula 1, Indy racing, NASCAR, and World SportscarChampionship. Only driver to win Indy 500, Daytona 500 and F-1 championship.
    Joe Gibbs – As a NASCAR car owner, has won three Sprint Cup championships. His drivers have won 105 Sprint Cup and 82 Nationwide Series races (as of 5/23/2013). JGR also has two NNS owner’s championships to its credit.
    Steve Waid – Four-decade career included stints with daily newspapers before joining staff of Grand National Scene. Rose to position of publisher for the weekly trade paper. Former winner of the NMPA’s George Cunningham Award and a recipient of the Henry T. McLemore Award for outstanding lifetime achievement in motorsports journalism.(NMPA)(7-2-2013)

  8. I wasn’t paying attention like I should have been. Too much rain!

    NMPA Announces Nominees For 2014 Hall of Fame: The National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) announced that there are five new candidates for its Hall of Fame. Those elected by the membership will be inducted in ceremonies in January 2014 in Charlotte, NC.
    The nominees for 2104 are:
    L.D. Ottinger – Two-time Sportsman champion (’74 & ’75), perennial top 10 points finisher in Sportsman/Nationwide Series.
    Ray Evernham – Three-time Sprint Cup Series champion crew chief for Jeff Gordon, helped bring Dodge back to NASCAR competition as a team owner in 2001, often described as greatest crew chief of all time.
    Mario Andretti – A four-time INDY champion, 1978 F-1 champion, 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner, 1967 Daytona 500 winner; one of two people to win in Formula 1, Indy racing, NASCAR, and World SportscarChampionship. Only driver to win Indy 500, Daytona 500 and F-1 championship.
    Joe Gibbs – As a NASCAR car owner, has won three Sprint Cup championships. His drivers have won 105 Sprint Cup and 82 Nationwide Series races (as of 5/23/2013). JGR also has two NNS owner’s championships to its credit.
    Steve Waid – Four-decade career included stints with daily newspapers before joining staff of Grand National Scene. Rose to position of publisher for the weekly trade paper. Former winner of the NMPA’s George Cunningham Award and a recipient of the Henry T. McLemore Award for outstanding lifetime achievement in motorsports journalism.(NMPA)(7-2-2013)

  9. The NMPA isn’t the same as the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The NMPA Hall has been around since the 1960s.
    The official NASCAR Hall of Fame — which the NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) used to be — wasn’t formed until recently.

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