Concord, North Carolina, Saturday, May 20, 2017, 3:12 p.m.
I’m back, and it seems relatively normal. Naturally, media parking is farther away. That’s a given.
Almost four and a half years later, I’m back at a speedway, the motor one representing Charlotte. Many years ago, it represented Lowe’s for a while. I’m glad to be back. I rather like this one. I’ve probably put in more work here than any other.
Back in the days before sportswriters became fewer and less important, Charlotte was the workload capital of NASCAR, at least for those of us who worked for newspapers in the general vicinity. May near Concord – the track is officially in Concord, though Harrisburg is right behind the back straight – used to be a time of special editions and the accompanying gnashing of teeth.
Now it’s just a place to renew acquaintances. Next week’s workload will be heavier. Next week’s race will be longer. I am, in fact, writing more than just this tonight during the running of the fabled Winston Select Open Nextel Sprint All-Star Shindig Presented by Monster Energy of America the Beautiful.
The day is already a success. During the hike in from the badlands, I managed to slip past a man I truly despise without him noticing me, and, of course, the people who can’t stand each other are the ones who most proclaim the opposite, so I’m happy I didn’t have to participate in this farce.
What you been doing with yourself? Space travel. That’s nice. How’s the family? Still nonexistent. Tell your daddy I said hello. It’ll have to wait. He died in 1993.
All in all, though, seeing people I haven’t seen in 54 months – a few, once or twice – has been pleasant. Yes, friends, I used to be Monte Dutton.
Tell the story about you missing the start in Texas. What was that place in Michigan where you used to play your guitar on race weekends? Remember that time we went to Austin and saw Billy Joe Shaver?
The best aspect of the day was that Howard A. Wheeler Jr., better known as “Humpy,” enjoyed a separate, more noteworthy, return. Hey, did you hear? Humpy’s outside. Humpy correlates as positively to Charlotte as its high banks – everyone says the place has humps — and it hasn’t seemed like the same place since he left.
Humpy and I share many views about what NASCAR needs, and I expect my new novel, Lightning in a Bottle, races right down the middle of his front straight. We talked for quite a while, and he left with a copy.
Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, May 21, 2017, 10:43 a.m.
The good old days have returned. This I concluded on the way home.
After I completed my writing – I’ve already “written through” the Competition Plus notes I filed late last night, I hit the road home and, fueled by a vat of truck-stop coffee, my eyes were still wide open when I hit the dirt road to the house at roughly “oh-dark-thirty,” an old David Poole term, which computed to about 2:15 a.m.
The long drive was marred by an unfortunate decision to buy a biscuit pinning together egg, cheese and sausage, all of which were virtually tasteless.
I listened to a lot of bad country music, which translates to what is on the radio, and thought about the racing I had witnessed on monitors in the infield media center.
Joe Gibbs Racing is not on top officially, but his Toyotas did sweep the exhibitions. Kyle Busch’s All-Star victory was his first in a Cup car at the 1.5-mile track residing in the unofficial NASCAR capital. It wasn’t like Busch ever had any problem figuring it out. His victory in Friday’s night Camping World Truck race was his seventh. Throw in the Busch/Nationwide/Xfinity Series, presently the latter, and he’s won 15 times at CMS.
The Open is a mere gateway to the varsity on this weekend, but Daniel Suarez, the rookie from Mexico, won it and thus made it historic. It was a better race than the main event.
A triumph in the Open is no clear harbinger of greater success. In the past, it has been won by David Ragan, Sam Hornish Jr., Scott Riggs and the late Dick Trickle. It has also been won by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Burton and Tony Stewart.
It could be Suarez’s springboard. It could be his zenith. Time will tell.
Ever since I started writing fiction, fans have asked me to write a novel about stock car racing. I kept it a secret while I was working on it. Now it’s out. Lightning in a Bottle is the story of the next big thing, 18-year-old Barrie Jarman.
Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced. Lightning in a Bottle will be in stock shortly.
Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are also available at Emma Jane’s, 105 East Main Street on the Square, Clinton.
If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.
Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.
Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.
Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.
Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.
The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.
The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.
Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.
Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).