Clinton, S.C., Friday, February 21, 2014, 10:12 a.m.
Down the stretch!
During the 20 years I spent Februarys in Daytona Beach, it was always a gathering storm even though it seldom rained. For several years, I was down there for nearly three weeks, but that was because I was in a group that had a condo rented for the whole month, the Rolex 24 was then run at the beginning of February, and I went down and watched it just for the hell of it. In addition, being holed up in a condo all alone is a great way to get gobs of preseason work done.
The last few years, though, my travel habits were fairly standard for the corps of gadget wielders converging on the Birthplace of Speed. I’d drive down a day or two before Media Day and drive home a day or two after the 500. I liked to wait until Tuesday because the 5,000-car draft back to the Carolinas and beyond on Monday was nettlesome and quite possibly more dangerous than any stock car race.
I was in Ormond Beach so long I took two guitars, a small slot-car set and a slow cooker.
I was always cognizant of this gathering storm, this rising rumble and tidal wave building up to NASCAR’s first and inexplicably most important race.
Chitchat with drivers. Hum. Busch/Budweiser/Sprint Clash/Shootout/Unlimited. Rumble. Pole qualifying. Gatorade/Budweiser Twin/Duel 125s/150s. Lightning flashing on the horizon. I’m not going to try to recite all the titles of the Craftsman/Camping World/Truck and Busch/Nationwide races. Hellfire and damnation. Then the Daytona By God 500, run with the Old Testament God calling the shots.
I mean, if you believe Yahweh is a NASCAR fan … then you know He’s got a “3” sticker on his, uh, heavenly Silverado. Or silvery Heaverado. It’s way better than the Popemobile. It’s impossible to trade up from the silvery Heaverado.
But enough whimsical sacrilege. It’s raining outside. Wait. It’s picking up. And there’s a tremor! Okay, now. That’s enough. Besides, I’ve got a new coffee blend to try.
This morning a radio announcer asked me whom I was picking, and I realized I hadn’t even thought about it. It’s another sign of distance. No one cares what I think. Cool. It’s kind of … relaxing in a nothing-to-lose kind of way.
It didn’t exactly make my answer smooth, though. I think I said Matt Kenseth, probably because he happened to be leading on the muted rebroadcast of the first Duel I was watching while I was talking via phone on the radio.
This Italian espresso would take the spots off an Appaloosa.
A few observations:
Lots of topics of discussion are stupid on a grand scale, such as Tony Stewart saying Danica Patrick should race Richard Petty. Roll a couple 1967 Plymouths out and I figure the King’s got a chance, but it’s a little like the old Stan Musial joke. Guy asks Stan the Man how he thought he’d do against the pitching nowadays. Stan says he figures he’d hit about .280. Guy says is that all? Musial says, you gotta remember, I’m 75 years old. Musial has passed on, and Petty is 76. Why not see if Bruce Jenner would like to give the decathlon another shot?
Sir Winston Churchill said, “Never was so much owed by so many to so few,” and, incredibly, he wasn’t talking about the media and Ms. Patrick.
If you want to get wasted on Daytona 500 Sunday – and who doesn’t? – the drinking game is Larry McReynolds saying “that (insert number) car.” Lightweights won’t make it to the green flag. Chuck Norris will pass out before the halfway point. You better watch out for Jimmie Johnson in that 48 car, else him and that Jamie MAC-murray in that 1 car. Uh, oh, here comes Martin Truex Jr. in that 78 car. He’s just one and 3/8ths of a half a tenth behind Jeff Gordon in that 24 car.
Allen Bestwick started broadcasting college football games last fall and wasn’t half bad at it. Can you imagine Larry Mac? Durned if that Rashad Tadooronron ain’t caught another pass in that 39 jersey.
Of course, I have no business offering unsolicited advice to McReynolds on how to be a TV guy. It’s like trying to teach a kid how to color.
Buy my books. They’ve got harsh stuff in them, too.