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.
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.
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.
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.