A Few Remarks from the Grand Tour

(HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, January 24, 2018, 11:26 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

No, I’m not off at the NASCAR Media Tour, hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, for decades. Hell, I went to it for two of them. Decades. I’m here at the house, finishing off a novel, like everybody else.

We writers have to be resourceful these days, now that newspapers aren’t interested anymore in any of us seeking much more than minimum wage. It’s just free enterprise. If I had any value, the market would reflect it, but I’m trying to get by on the generosity of what PBS calls “viewers like you” and I call “readers like you.”

I’ve been monitoring the Media Tour from afar, and today I’m going to pick out a few juicy morsels I can find from the transcripts that go streaming into my email bin just as fast as people can transcribe them. It would be better if I could ask questions myself, or just look at the expressions on people’s faces, but I’ll do the best I can from an impersonal distance. I wrote a column this morning that will be posted later on another website, so I won’t spoil it for you by using any of the same material.

As I have that impersonal distance, today I’m mostly gleaning words from the few, the proud, the drivers I still feel like I know, even though they may have changed and I definitely have.

(Getty Images for NASCAR)

Seven-time (Nextel and Sprint, now Monster Energy) Cup champion Jimmie Johnson is coming off his worst season, which would be the best for many. Frustration was a distant memory until 2017 came along.

“We kept hoping every stone we turned over would help us find our problem,” he said. “What was so frustrating is I’ve never worked so hard in my life to get such little return. I know (crew chief and diabolical genius) Chad (Knaus) can say the same and the team can. The efforts they put in, just mind-boggling. I’m so happy I have a group of guys to do that, to do anything possible. It just gets so frustrating when you don’t get anything for it. So that was tough.

“After a few weeks of the off-season, letting that kind of fall off your shoulders, get recharged and ready to go. It’s been easy to find motivation for 2018. With all the change that’s going on, as I mentioned a couple times, it’s a race to figure out this mousetrap first. That’s what we like to do.”

As veteran observers have long realized, NASCAR has the world’s most complicated and high-speed mousetraps. Few racers are brain surgeons or rocket scientists. Many, many of “them racin’ deals” exist at “the end of the day,” and “that’s racing.” As almost everyone says at some point, “It is what it is.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Monte Dutton photo)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who, like many of his colleagues, enjoys racing sprints and midgets on the side, said he wished the offseason was in the middle of the summer, and, that way, he might be able to go race in New Zealand … where it is … the middle of winter.

Jamie McMurray (Photo by Tim Parks/HHP for Chevy Racing)

Jamie McMurray, who ran his first marathon if one doesn’t count the Coca-Cola 600, compared the two by saying, “Well, everything is different hard.” Then he elaborated as if it was possible to elaborate on a sentence like that.

Kyle Busch got quite a bit of attention – imagine that — for expressing resentment that so much attention is being focused on young drivers, and, and at the ripe, old age of 32, he is concerned about them traipsing across his yard, but teammate Denny Hamlin was about as unconcerned as a 37-year-old could be.

Denny Hamlin (Monte Dutton photo)

I think your fan base is probably made relatively early in your career, no doubt about it,” Hamlin opined. “Even when I was a successful rookie, I mean, we never were really super-popular. For whatever reason, there were always the bigger names out there and things like that. I think the young guys are very lucky now that they’re coming in the sport. It’s as other drivers are leaving, so those experienced drivers have their fan base, and now they want to pull for somebody else. Most likely, it’s not going to be someone who raced against their favorite driver. It’s going to be someone new that comes in. So that’s where all the fans really go is to the new guys for that reason. They’re picking someone from the start just like they picked their driver that retired from the start.”

C’est la vie.


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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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