When the Going Gets Tough …

(Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, May 7, 2018, 9:48 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

Week in, week out, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch drive the fastest cars. Or they are the best drivers. It is undoubtedly a combination of the two. Others drift in and out, roaring up behind them or falling toward the rear. If one is Death, the other is Taxes.

Eleven races into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season, trends have been identified. Fords have won more than half the races. Toyotas are winning their share. Chevys languish.

The oldest cars are fastest. The oldest drivers are fastest.

That’s the trend. It can’t last. Old never does. It benefits from experience for a time, but Time fights a battle of attrition better than General Lee, and, by General Lee, I mean both the Confederate general and the orange Dodge Charger in The Dukes of Hazzard.

You don’t see the Duke boys winning races anymore, do you? I rest my case.

(Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

When a young driver – Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano – rises up to to ease a legend out of the spotlight, a chorus also rises to defend whoever the veteran of the moment, might be – oh, just randomly, maybe Jimmie Johnson – by singing, invariably, “I can assure you than Jimmie Johnson didn’t forget how to drive a race car.”


Now a chorus rises to defend the ballyhooed young guns or Turks or lovers, and its only logical refrain is, “I can assure you that [Alex Bowman, randomly] hasn’t remembered, or discovered, how to drive a race car.”

He doesn’t … know … just how to race a car! A car! A car! He cannot race a car!

I stretch my opera cred, of which is there little.

The young may take to the streets with all their boundless enthusiasm, but to change the world, they will have to get their legislation out of the House of Representatives.

(Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

Experience won three times at Dover International Speedway. The first, late on Friday afternoon, was the best and most memorable because the veteran who won, Johnny Sauter, took a bright young driver, Noah Gragson, to school. Many times have I written that, in NASCAR, wrecking another driver is an act of destruction, but “rubbing” is an act of skill.

When Gragson advanced up to challenge Saturday, it was new territory. The kid had his gloves off, figuratively, and Sauter knew how to survive the contact and benefit from it. Gragson, alas, did not. I admire him for owning up to his mistake, but I couldn’t help but note that Cale Yarborough wouldn’t have gotten all weepy about it.

As such, I thought, it was the perfect outcome. Gragson needs to get tougher. That experience will toughen him.

Nowadays, the kids have more money, but it’s not a game of croquet.


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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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