Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, January 28, 2014, 9:19 a.m.
Charlotte seems as far away as Sochi, and likely as cold, on this last week of January. For 20 years, the hustling-and-bustling, head-‘em-up-move-‘em-out NASCAR Media Tour occupied my time damn near completely.
Now I see the tweets.
The Media Tour changes slowly, as does the sport, and pretty soon I’m not going to have any business writing about because it will have changed in ways I couldn’t appreciate even if I was paying attention.
It changed during the 20 years, 1993-2012, when I was in the ranks.
The Tour relates mostly to NASCAR – there are almost always a few exceptions, thanks to multifarious Charlotte Motor Speedway’s sponsorship – but I always thought of each day as a drag race. I never had the luxury of entrusting part of the Tour to an associate, though John Clark was often handy to accompany my stories with well-crafted photos.
It was up early, to bed late (this was sometimes no one’s fault but my own), and keeping up with the day’s activities for a daily newspaper often meant, in the early days, that I was typing away on a bus, and in the later, heading back to the room, typing right up to the last possible minute and filing stories before barely getting back in time to board the bus before it pulled away to the Speedway, or Hendrick, or some once-impressive facility now relegated to the vague mists of memory.
I just missed one bus in all those years.
In the 1990s, the travel was grueling. Off we’d go, feigning a certain esprit de corps, to far-flung outposts of speed in Dawsonville, Ga., or Stuart, Va. They’ve become NASCAR ghost towns since.
Now a high percentage of the tour is at the host hotel, with shiny color schemes unveiled and everyone sitting in rows of chairs, attempting to get recognition at endless media conferences. The amount of information grows as the quality diminishes.
I used to sandbag. I’d chat with a fabricator, or a PR rep, and wait for the swarm to be satiated, then I’d walk up and ask a question whose answer I didn’t have to share with so many. Before I got old enough to be patient, I’d sometimes get angry at being in the swarm.
Now there are far fewer people available for chats in the corner. They’re back at the shop, fabricating.
Now the Tour, and the sport, is more writing contest. Everyone gets the same information, and there’s a subtly measured intramural competition in which whoever does best with that information gets grudgingly acknowledged, though not often publicly.
I used to liken it to the annual Soil & Water Conservation Essay Contest I entered several times back around junior high school. Most of my colleagues laughed nervously, and a few even had an inkling of what I meant.
If you’ve got a few bucks to spare, I’d appreciate a pledge so that I can provide you my opinions expeditiously this year. Click here.
My books aren’t for everybody, but I bet you’ll find something here that piques your interest.