For Old Times’ Sake

Michigan International Speedway (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Michigan International Speedway (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, August 16, 2015, 12:34 p.m.

It occurred to me recently that the restoration of Darlington to Labor Day weekend means the restoration of what was, for years, my favorite stretch of the season.

Monte Dutton

Monte Dutton

To be fair, I enjoyed going to Michigan, but not as much for the racing as the fact that I just loved going there. I always thought the people who worked at the track were the friendliest in the Sprint Cup Series, and in the latter years of my time as a NASCAR beat reporter, Michigan built my favorite press box. It affords a wonderful view of the action.

In addition, I used to play my silly songs twice each year on Friday and Saturday nights at Captain Chuck’s, the lakeside bar and grill about 10 miles southwest of the track. A dozen regulars probably watched me every time I played, and friends in the business like Ron Lemasters Sr. (who died earlier this year), Nate Ryan, Dean McNulty, and Brad Winters were among those who stopped by on occasion, as did, in a complete surprise, Brad Keselowski, who came unannounced, for obvious reasons, but who graciously signed autographs for everyone there who wanted one.

Bristol Motor Speedway (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Bristol Motor Speedway (Getty Images for NASCAR)

The restoration of Darlington Raceway to its proper and righteous place lines up Bristol, Darlington, and Richmond. NASCAR just doesn’t get any better than that.

Bristol was where I first saw a major NASCAR race. Darlington was where my daddy took me every spring. In my boyhood, the Southern 500 was actually run on Labor Day, which was Monday, and in one of the more traumatic aspects of those years, I couldn’t go because I had football practice. Under the harsh direction of Keith Richardson and staff, I worked as hard, though not as well, as any of the race-car drivers.

Darlington Raceway (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Darlington Raceway (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Who knows? Maybe that’s why Darlington is and always will be my favorite track. I appreciate it.

At Bristol and Richmond, back when the NASCAR media had far more adventurous camaraderie than, as best I know, it does today, many of us partied in the parking lots after the night races. The best night was when Mojo Nixon and I swapped my guitar and took turns playing raucous songs at Bristol. To borrow the late George Gobel’s line, I felt like a brown pair of shoes matched with a tuxedo, but it was still fun.

Richmond was consistently better, but it got too big, and, as a result, died. First came free food, then respectability, and respectability signaled the end.

Richmond International Raceway  (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)

Richmond International Raceway (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)

I used to call it the Perfect Crime because, when the crowd cleared out, so too did the cops.

Having to face the deadline pressure of a night race without the promise of beer and raucous war stories defeated all worthwhile purpose in the endeavor.

If times hadn’t changed, I dare say I’d miss them more. The money never was much, and now it’s the damn profession’s respectable.


(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)

Please consider reading my three novels — The Audacity of Dope, The Intangibles, and, still less than a month old, Crazy of Natural Causes — none of which are respectable but, if the idea of playing drunken songs in parking lots appeals to you, you can’t go wrong by ordering one or more here:


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 For Old Times’ Sake

  1. dawg says:

    Lonesome George, that’s a blast from the past. Somewhere I have a 78, of “Little Georgie Gobel” aged 10 singing A cowboy’s best friend is his horse. On a Chicago label if I remember correctly.

    Darlington should be billed the Track Too Tough to Kill. Because NA$CAR tried it’s damnedest, & couldn’t pull it off. Thanks to the fans.

    So much for tradition. They remind me of a town, willing to demolish it’s historic buildings. To make way for a shopping mall.

    In this case the good guys actually won one.

    Too bad Rockingham, & North Wilkesboro weren’t as lucky.


  2. Al Torney says:

    This article has inspired me to make a return trip to Darlington.

    When they announced the move of the Southern 500 to Atlanta it really brought it home that France didn’t given a hoot about the wonderful history of the sport.

    Darlington is what the term “good old boys” is all about. I love to attend races there.

    Now if they would only bring back the Reb in the confederate uniform holding the stars and bars on the hood of the winning car on its way to victory lane the day would be complete. Well I can dream can’t I?

  3. Tony Geinzer says:

    Monte, I think the only change outside of deleting Sprint is to run Bristol and Darlington Back to Back, try and let Darlington have their Grout Museum (Stock Car Hall of Fame), and try to acquire Atlanta out of Charlotte’s Hands. It would be fanish at best and unsportsmanlike at worst, but, people would have to be owed some capacity of Stock Car Racing in Atlanta, and we can’t stand to let the Smart Alecks Win, let alone the Busch Brothers, and get Cup in Nashville, Memphis, Eldora and Knoxville and not on these “As Seen on TV” Chores, or worse, be a Show like we where name dropping for unsustainable Business Clips like Wharton Business School at Penn, which is SUPPOSED to be the State Flag University of Pennsylvania, and also, would a Championship in Charlotte move people out their way to buy tickets?

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