Halfway to Charlotte

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

It's not a bird. It's not a plane. It's Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

It’s not a bird. It’s not a plane. It’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Clinton, S.C., Friday, May 23, 2014, 4:54 p.m.

The most identifiable place to meet in my native state is a gigantic peach that borders Interstate 85 near Gaffney. It also happens to be midway between Charlotte, North Carolina and my home, and there’s a Fatz Café sitting right in front of it.

For the second time this year, I drove up to The Big Peach – some South Carolinians insist on calling it The Peachoid, which I find overly garish – to meet an old NASCAR chum for lunch.

We’ll meet at the Peach. It’s a natural.

Al Pearce has been writing regularly about NASCAR longer than anyone else still doing so. This is often overlooked. Deservedly, he has a vote in the annual Hall of Fame selection process. Naturally, we talked about the five new inductees: Bill Elliott, Wendell Scott, Joe Weatherly, Rex White and Fred Lorenzen.

Fred Lorenzen was my first NASCAR hero. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Fred Lorenzen was my first NASCAR hero. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

I don’t have a vote. Nor should I, but if I did have a vote, I would’ve cast ballots for three of the five. Al was right on four. I don’t think it matters who my five were, as I don’t have five, but the two for whom I would have voted who didn’t get in were Benny Parsons and Curtis Turner. I was, however, happy that each of the five got in. My first favorite driver was Lorenzen, and my last favorite driver was Elliott. When I started writing about NASCAR for a living, I stopped having favorite drivers.

It meant a lot to get to know Rex White over the past 20 years. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

It meant a lot to get to know Rex White over the past 20 years. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

As I have written before, fans pull for drivers. Writers pull for stories. Sometimes people look at me as if they don’t believe it when I say that. It’s true. If my brother had been a race driver and won several in a row, I’d be tired of writing about him and would hope someone else won the next one. That’s just the way it is.

Al wanted to know about my recent Texas-and-back music/book sojourn, and I wanted to know about the Sprint All-Star Race, about which I still know little since I followed its progress sketchily while trying to manage the efficient conduct of a concert for charity.

When I got back from Gaffney, I dropped by Clinton Tire to get the oil changed on the pickup I drove 2,864 miles over nine days. As usual, I talked racing in the lobby. Longtime readers know I often pay heed to what I hear around town. David Jones, with whom I always talk about NASCAR and/or Clemson athletics, went to the Sprint All-Star Race and said he enjoyed himself, that he likes it better than the Coca-Cola 600 and that he enjoyed the qualifying format, which includes a mandatory pit stop. I pointed out that they’ve been doing it that way for many years now, and he said it was a lot better in person than it was on TV.

Bill Elliott may go down as NASCAR's Last Great Country Boy. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Bill Elliott may go down as NASCAR’s Last Great Country Boy. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

I’m really looking forward to enjoying the festival of racing on Sunday, with the Grand Prix of Monaco followed by the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. Sometimes I miss being at the track. Not this weekend. For twenty years, it was my most difficult time of the year. Saturday nights were stressful, but Sunday nights were hell. What kept me riding the circuit for 16-1/2 of those years was the syndicated race page, which had to be completed and electronically circulated on Mondays. As a result, I’d get out of Charlotte Motor Speedway long after midnight, get back up at 6 a.m. on Monday, write all that copy, and then drive home. Fatigue was a factor. Charlotte was also the home track for the newspaper, so my workload during the two weeks in May was about twice normal.

I spent more time “multitasking” than watching races.

It’s going to be nice to really watch the racing on Sunday, not from onsite but in a recliner.

If you’re interested in signed copies of my novels, The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope, I can ship them to you. Note the instructions in the Merchandise section of this site.

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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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3 Responses to Halfway to Charlotte

  1. Mike Ray says:

    Great article;enjoy your weekend;Monaco NBC Sports Sunday 7am pre-race show;I love this weekend! I could have announced Sunday at KOMA Modified show at Jacksonville,N.C., didn’t because:”I’ve got those No Gas Blues”;write the song; PEACE,OUT!

  2. Andy D says:

    I used to have a job where there were no actual holidays (like you). We didn’t work Sundays but were expected to “be available all day”.

    My first year there, the boss asked if I was going to work that weekend. I replied that it was Memorial Day and he countered “You know we work holidays, right?”.

    “But boss, this isn’t a holiday, this is Memorial Day, the biggest racing day all year! This is the Rose Bowl, Super Bowl and Stanley Cup final all on the same day!”

    “Yeah, but it’s just cars going ’round in circles”

    What a maroon. I’m older now, and probably won’t get up early enough for Monaco. Indy excites me like Charlotte never could. If they don’t finish Charlotte by 11:30pm, I’m turning it off. I’m pulling for Kurt and figure him for a 7th place finish in the 500 and an early exit in the 600. Rumor has it that there’s going to be a reverse double next year.

  3. Al Torney says:

    I wish the tv announcers would read your sentence about not having a favorite driver plus sponsor, car owner etc.

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