In the Merry, Merry Month of May

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Jeff Gordon has been in No. 24 since 1993. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)

Jeff Gordon has been in No. 24 since 1993. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)

Clinton, S.C., Sunday, May 11, 2014, 9:27 a.m.

The Five-Hour Energy Drink 400, which almost required the full range of the stimulating beverage, was important for two reasons.

If the Sprint Cup points leader is winless when the Chase commences, his name will not be Jeff Gordon, who won at Kansas Speedway by withstanding an astonishing last-lap rush by another Chevy pilot, Kevin Harvick.

Seventh: Not too shabby for Danica Patrick. (HHP/Rusty Jarrett photo for Chevrolet)

Seventh: Not too shabby for Danica Patrick. (HHP/Rusty Jarrett photo for Chevrolet)

The second noteworthy performance was by Danica Patrick, whose seventh-place finish was both a career best and richly earned. She ran near the front all night long. It was not only her best finish but her most impressive.

Back to Patrick later, but first …

Gordon, 42, won the first two Cup races at the 1.5-mile track in 2001-02, and Saturday marked its first night race, part of which was illuminated incompletely by the track’s lighting system.

While he exulted after the 89th victory of his career, Gordon did little to dissuade anyone from noting that the sand is seeping slowly through the hourglass of his majestic career.

Jeff Gordon: Looking good at 42. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)

Jeff Gordon: Looking good at 42. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)

Early in his postrace interview, Gordon said, “An old guy like me likes to be patient and finesse,” though adding that Hendrick Motorsports is providing equipment that makes him feel young again.

Later he addressed the subject of eventual retirement.

“When the cars are that good, my back just doesn’t seem to hurt as much,” Gordon said. “The whole retirement thing, I think, is thrown out there too much, and I’m probably somewhat to blame, but there’s no secret. I’m going to be 43 this year, but, man, if 43 is like this, I can’t wait for 50. This is all right. I’m having a good time. That’s why I feel young, because I’m just having a great time.”

It’s hard to think of Gordon, the onetime Wonder Boy, as old. He’ll look boyish at 60. He’ll sound that way, too. What he’ll have to decide for himself is how long he can drive that way.

Right now? Check.

They rolled out a fast car for Danica Patrick. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

They rolled out a fast car for Danica Patrick. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Patrick showed that hers isn’t a failed experiment. She has been a slow learner, having undergone extensive Nationwide Series prep and being now in her second full season at NASCAR’s premier level. The plodding pace doesn’t mean she can’t get there.

Perhaps this is the key. She came to NASCAR with cultivated gifts but little knowledge of stock cars. Learning how to drive them was only part of her apprenticeship. She also had to learn how to feel them. Quite possibly, Kansas was the site of her “Eureka moment.” Perhaps she had some epiphany. Instead of Henry Higgins, perhaps it’s Harry Hogge proclaiming, “By George, I think she’s got it.”

Or, “Dadgum if she ain’t up on the wheel.” Something like that.

This, too, may pass. One race does not a contender make. It’s encouraging, though. Damned encouraging.

I hope you’ll consider reading my novels, The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope. Learn more about them at this site, and thanks for taking the time to read what I write.

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About 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 regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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6 Responses to In the Merry, Merry Month of May

  1. Tony Shepherd says:

    Mr. Dutton. Thanks for your time and effort placing pen to paper so we can enjoy your view of an establishment we have all followed for many years. It’s a strange feeling to see an aging Gordon as that time for me has passed so quickly. In reflection, I now pause and remember the early ASA days with my driver Mark Martin and think of his final exit while at Hendrick under the same guidance with Alan and the five wins and second place at the end of that year. For Danica, time will tell. I’m also encouraged by her progress. Her team mates, especially Harvic have taken interest and that may be the next step for her eventual sucess that will require a win to move the needle. For NASCARS sucess I hope she gets a W.

  2. Monte says:

    My pleasure. Thanks for your suppport.

  3. @DJsplitter says:

    SHR twitter feed noted that Danica spent over an hour talking to Harvick before qualifying. She then posted a great qualifying effort and race result.

    This made me wonder…what happened to her being mentored by Mark Martin?

  4. Monte says:

    I expect it was much ado about nothing.

  5. Al Torney says:

    Not related but I was wondering if you know why Mike Mulhern has dropped out of site? Ernie Saxton mentioned it in his column last week.

    Another question. Despite the ravings about the racing this year, what are your thoughts about the tv ratings sinking to new lows? This can’t be blamed on the economy.
    .

  6. Monte says:

    I don’t know. No one seems to. I heard late last year he was giving up the ghost on his website, but I haven’t heard from him and haven’t heard of anyone who has.

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