Go ‘Round Merrily

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

If this happens Sunday night, NASCAR officials will have survived their format. (HHP/Christa L. Thomas photo for Chevy Racing)

If this happens Sunday night, NASCAR officials will have survived their format. (HHP/Christa L. Thomas photo for Chevy Racing)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, November 14, 2014, 9:04 a.m.

Readers hate to read lectures. This I understand more because I’m more of a reader now. The lack of common ground between many fans and the media resonates more. I talk to people at hardware stores and music venues. I don’t go to NASCAR venues anymore. A few more of the trees make up my forest.

Ten years ago, the Chase was completing its first year, and I was at Homestead-Miami Speedway to watch Kurt Busch win the championship. I clashed in the media center with a writer who had written an ingratiating column, the gist of which was that anyone who didn’t love the Chase should just “get out.” I confronted the person who wrote it, saying that since I disagreed with the Chase, I obviously needed to find something else to do.

(He just missed it by eight years.)

First he (or she) denied writing it, to which I said something subtle like, “Oh, yes, hell, you did.” Then he (or she) got all weepy-eyed and said he (or she) had all the respect in the world for me, yada, yada, yada.

He (or she) just didn’t expect to be called on it. History was on his (her) side. He (she) got the last laugh. He (she) is still out there, prospering. I’m hoping this next novel makes it big.

I’ve got a long history of rather being right than president. In spite of watching Doctor Strangelove at least two dozen times, I still haven’t learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.

I hated the Chase in all its previous incarnations, but this one is to the original as nuclear is to atomic, Oxycontin to aspirin, moonshine to wine spritzer, and Alabama to Savannah State.

I watched a Torino like this one win at Greenville-Pickens when I was eleven. It was a dirt track then.

I watched a Torino like this one win at Greenville-Pickens when I was eleven. It was a dirt track then.

I just reflect my own thoughts. If you like this, it is your right, and it’s quite possible that NASCAR is attracting more of you than losing those like me. It’s also possible that guys like me will continue to watch, even if we don’t like it as much, because we simply like racing, and even watered down, it beats spending all my time reading and writing, playing guitar and tweeting in haiku.

Wait a minute. Did I just write that?

It’s not been unusual for people who know me to see a certain inconsistency in my barbaric enjoyment of watching cars go around and around. Furman University wasn’t a hotbed of stock car racing in the late seventies and early eighties. Steve Bishop, a fine fullback, and I used to go to Riverside, a dirt track, and paved Greenville-Pickens, where we’d sit on the tailgate of his Chevy pickup and swig beer amidst the racing tumult. Another friend, Bernard Durham, and I went to the 1984 fall race at Charlotte, and I remember how shocked Bernard was when the fans cheered. What shocked him was that they were cheering Darrell Waltrip for wrecking.

I never liked wrestling. NASCAR was my guilty pleasure.

The Silver Fox, David Pearson, circa 1977.

The Silver Fox, David Pearson, circa 1977. (Thomas Pope photo)

Just because I loved NASCAR, I didn’t stop loving the novels of John Steinbeck, black-and-white movies from the thirties and forties, the poetry of Robert Frost, the songs of Tom T. Hall, and every word Carl Sandburg wrote about Abraham Lincoln.

It’s a long way from my literary idol, Steinbeck, to my racing idol, David Pearson. Hmm. Where is there common ground? Okay. Steinbeck wrote Of Mice and Men. Lots of drivers were mice. Pearson was one of the men. It’s not a valid comparison, but it’s all I got.

Maybe I just like it now where once I loved it. Maybe when the sport goes into hibernation for the winter, I’ll rekindle a yearning for the high banks of Daytona and the boisterous bumps and runs of Martinsville. Maybe, come February, I’ll think of the chill winds and how the flocks of seagulls rise skyward at the first roar of an engine.

Maybe it's the Boy Wonder's year. He's the biggest winner left. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Maybe it’s the Boy Wonder’s year. He’s the biggest winner left. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

I keep reading where fans are “pumped,” and “stoked,”  for this final race. I can’t make up my mind whether I’d rather see a deserving champion emerge from the smoke and mirrors of this format or a winless champion who it exposes it for the fraud it is. Some would say the format defines the championship and thus is anyone who wins it legitimized.

It’s the same way winning the Powerball defines a rich man (or woman).

As Tom T. once wrote in regard to his native music, “They might pat your fanny, and say you’re a dandy, but they still don’t like picking on network TV.”

In the off chance that you’d like to my books — the novels, The Audacity of Dope and The Intangibles, and non-fiction books about NASCAR and music – they’re available here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1414631316&sr=1-1

My short stories and essays are at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com.


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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20 Responses to Go ‘Round Merrily

  1. Carol Dahlberg says:

    Since Newman got in the chase, many of my friends and I have been planning to not watch, not listen, to go for a walk in the woods, rather than support this idoicy. But. If we do that, we fail to support our drivers, and for me, the drivers are the reason I watch, not NASCAR and their idiotic attempts to be like the NFL and enrich the France Family more.

    So, I will listen on Sirius as I travel on Sunday, on the channel dedicated to Jeff Gordon’s scanner. Or maybe Dale Jr’s.

  2. Mike Ray says:

    IIt’s created excitement and Homestead is sold out for Sunday.I’m working the Pro All Star Series season ender tomorrow at Southern National Motorsports Park. Thirty six Super Late Models practicing today. Come on up and sell Nascar souvy’s with me Saturday or write a story.

  3. Monte says:

    It’s apparently sold out in the sense that they covered over the seats they didnt sell.
    Kenly’s a long way. I’m covering a football game, anyway.
    Have a great time, Mike.

  4. salb says:

    They may have ‘sold out’ the past two weeks, but how many of those were sold to corporate sponsors, or those hoping to see another brawl on pit road? Is selling out 2 races really saying the lotto for the title is a success when over 34 races cant sell out and ratings keep dropping? Doesn’t sound overwhelming to me.

  5. John Irby says:

    I was winding down in bed around midnight and decided I needed something on TV to stare at until I dropped off. I found a rerun of NBCSN’s “NASCAR America” with the CC working just 1 second out-of-sync with the lips of the talking heads (which included Kyle Petty and Jeff Burton speaking in tounges).


    A minute or so in, they had an interview with NASCAR’s CEO, Brian “Zippy” France. First, I was taken how much he has come to resemble Kim Jong-un, the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Second, his face (especially the nose) was flushed so bad, even makeup artists could not hide the redness (did he toss down a few shots prior to going on?). Third, Brian replied to all the questions with pre-scripted, stock answers, which I was surprised he could recite with any reasonable accuracy in his semi-inebriated state.

    I was slipping off to sleep when the “money question” was asked: “Would it be good for NASCAR to have Ryan Newman, a driver with no victories, win the Sprint Cup?” And of course, Brian replied with something to the effect that, yes, not only would that be good for NASCAR, but it would also be a desirable result in proving that the new Chase format works.

    Okey doke?!

  6. Gary poland says:

    The NASCAR Championship is no more valid than the WWE World Heavyweight Championship now. That doesn’t mean it is not fun to watch (it is), it just means it can’t be compared to what used to be. The thing I like is that on a weekly basis it has emphasized winning. Something that the sport has needed for a long time. I could care less about the champion, but enjoy the heck out of the weekly show.

  7. Al says:

    In reality two drivers, Lagano and Hamlin, are in because of lucky dogs or wave arounds. Five drivers: Gordon, Kesslowski, Junior, Johnson and even Kenseth without a win had better years then Hamlin and Newman. If Kevin or Lagano win the deal it will sort of be ok but they really didn’t have the competition they should have had. If Hamlin or Newman win it diminishes the value of the championship in my opinion. One bad race should not ruin a championship run in a 36 race season and that is what happened to Gordon, Junior, Kesslowski and Kenseth. Johnson did have several bad races but still had a good season overall. I love how they spin things. It was all about winning but Brian said it was great that a non winner could be the champion. And I can see John Roberts laughing and congradulating Brian on a wonderful call.

    I just wish one time That Brian would just say ” hey, everybody’s laughing heading to the bank, so what’s the problem? We’re all winners where it counts”.

    Monte if you would like I will mail you the Ted Williams book I just read and you can read it at your leisure and mail it back. Just email me your address.

    Al Torney

  8. Robert Johnson says:

    They could just load all the cars with explosives, and make it so all but the winner would explode at the end.

    Heaven knows that would be exciting, and everyone would tune in.

    Don’t let France know I said that though…

  9. Robert Johnson says:

    It surprises me that no one mentions the new owners organization in all this. I can’t help but think they’ll be having a little talk with France in the off-season.

    Think about if Gordon should win on Sunday, and everyone knows who should be champ ?

    I wonder who’ll be doing burnouts then.

  10. Monte says:

    You may be right, but all reports I hear is that they are fairly cautious and seem to be more and more cooperative with NASCAR.
    It’s not a revolutionary enclave.

  11. Monte says:

    What book is it, Al? I’ve read quite a bit about Williams. He was my dad’s hero. I just don’t want you to go to the trouble of sending me something I’ve already read.

  12. Monte says:

    I expect we mostly agree, Gary.
    It IS exciting. It is also unjust.

  13. Monte says:

    You’re pretty observant, John.

  14. Al says:

    It’s titled ” The Kid” the Immortal Life of Red Williams by Ben Bradlee Jr. Published in December, 2013.

    784 pages. Covers his military and fishing experiences. A good thing about the book is that you can skip around. It doesn’t have to be read in order.

    While I was a big fan of his during the ’50’s until he retired I didn’t know to much about his career in the beginning and during the ’40’s.

    It’s a great read.


  15. Al says:

    Sorry for the typos.

  16. Monte says:

    I really do appreciate the offer, Al, but I’ll look for it myself. Thanks, as always, for reading what I write.

  17. Wayne says:

    I wanted to share this link with Monte and all of his blog readers. Some very nice old photos from 1963 and the old Augusta road course. Fireball sure looks sharp in that coat and tie.


  18. Richard R says:

    Well thought out article. From the first NASCAR news I read in the Gastonian Gazette, I’ve appreciated your “other view” of the sport we’ve all loved or love. Don’t always agree with your view, but, not to worry, often I don’t even agree with my own.


  19. Monte says:

    Thanks for reading me. I don’t write for anyone but myself. Rejoice in freedom.

  20. Monte says:

    Thanks for sharing those photos. I enjoyed looking at them, and I’m sure other readers will, too.

Comments are closed.