Take Away the Uniqueness and It Loses Some Allure

Sonoma Raceway(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, June 23, 2018, 4:11 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

I’ve never differed from the basic opinion that road racing is a nice change of pace. It’s like having a junkballer, a submarine pitcher or a knuckleballer in the pitching rotation. I love the two road courses on the Monster Energy Cup Series. I’m not averse to another. The Charlotte “roval” is going to be an appealing hybrid. I can’t say whether I’ll like it or not. I’m looking forward to find out.

When I traveled all the tracks, I didn’t think being there meant as much at road courses. It frustrated me that I just sat in the media center and watched TV. Naturally, for those who watch all the races there, it’s not an issue, but I never liked letting TV dictate what I saw. It’s impossible to see the whole track at road courses. Now I watch them all on TV. I miss press boxes, towering high above the track, because they were the basis of my love of the sport. My suspicion is that most of the fans who love road courses do so because they’re watching on TV. To me, stock cars are indigenous to ovals. Watching them on road courses is a trip to the zoo. I like zoos, but the animals seem happier in the wild. As a stock car racing venue, Sonoma is a great place to visit.

(Monte Dutton photo)

I miss taking a ferry across the bay to see the Giants, or crossing the Golden Gate Bridge to experience the uniqueness and culinary possibilities of San Francisco. I miss driving the Pacific Coast Highway, and Tony’s, the little seafood joint on the water in Marshall, and watching people play music on the sidewalks of Haight-Ashbury, and the fog that seems like it’s a living being as it rolls in. And looking down upon the Golden Gate from the Marin Headlands, and Muir Woods, and Alcatraz, the only edifice in the entire area that isn’t gorgeous, and Angel Island, and the ostentatious affluence of Marin County.

I miss nothing about San Francisco International Airport. I’m no great connoisseur of Wine, but I like its Country.

Martin Truex Jr. at Sonoma Raceway(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Not every driver is adept at road courses, but there are a lot more than there were in the early 1990s, when I first started attending them. Until the past decade, the number of potential winners was much smaller. Now it’s as hard to predict as a plate race. The biggest reason is that road racing is much easier now that tap dancing on the pedals isn’t so difficult. The clutch has become unnecessary. Another reason is the tactical possibilities. Hardly anyone loses a lap on a pit stop. It’s better to pit under green than to pit under yellow. Pitting under green at the right time means idling right past those who have to pit under yellow.

It’s cultural exchange, on track and off.

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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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