What Goes Up … Must Come Down

Chase Elliott is congratulated by his father and NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, August 6, 2018, 7:30 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

Chase Elliott won. Now we can get along with the rest of our lives.

I wasn’t that concerned. My basic view was, I’ve watched him race. He’s good. It’s going to happen. It’s the patience that comes from not having to rely much on assignments. Mostly, I can write what I want. Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.

Bill Elliott, who rose to stardom in an age in which NASCAR heroes could also be folk heroes, has a thoroughly modern son who just won a Monster Energy Cup race in Watkins Glen, N.Y.

Free at last. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

As soon as the race was over, all the fun facts started leaping across the World Wide Web!

Bill and Chase both finished second eight times before they won. Their first victories were on road courses. I paid attention to both for the first time at Darlington, though, in Chase’s case, it was on TV.

In 1981 and ’82, I wrote about Winston Cup races at Darlington. It was my first job out of college, and I persuaded the managing editor to let me go to the race. I’m fairly certain I paid my own way. I took pictures, hung out in the pits, observed real NASCAR writers at work, drove back home and wrote a column for the next day’s paper.

The Silver Fox, David Pearson, circa 1977. (Thomas Pope photo)

The master of Darlington was, is and forever will be David Pearson. Pearson’s career was winding down. He had already won his last race. Bill Elliott was the only driver I ever saw race at Darlington who reminded me of Pearson, who was so smooth that it didn’t look like he was fast enough to dominate the race the way he did.

Bill didn’t win his first Cup race until 1983. I knew he was good, though. He looked like Pearson on the track.

It was when I watched Chase win an Xfinity race at Darlington that I decided he was going to be a star, too.

It never hurts to get a healthy dose of evidence one is right.

8:32 p.m.

It was such an enjoyable weekend. The Red Sox defeated the Yankees four times in a row. I was in a good mood during last night’s Facebook Live, even though it was before Boston scored three times in the bottom of the ninth inning and won the game in the 10th.

Chase Elliott leads Kyle Busch. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

I slept so well last night.

Just what NASCAR needed, I thought. Great race. New winner who already has a fan base to energize. Hard earned. Well done. Carry on.

Mondays are full of busy work. Editing releases. Making phone calls. Paying some bills. I ran some errands. Trash dump. Dropped by L&L to pick up some reporter’s notebooks because a lifetime supply of free pads picked up at race tracks has recently run out.

I was listening to ancient country songs on SiriusXM as I tooled around town.

I went back to busy work. One of the obits was a guy I knew in high school. The school board is having a teleconference meeting, which probably means it’s hired a principal at E.B. Morse. Or maybe it means something else that doesn’t occur to me right now. The arrest report is short.

I finally decided to see what was happening on social media.

Brian France (Monte Dutton photo)

Brian France drove a Lexus when he shouldn’t have. It was out in the Hamptons, a place in New York that has little in common with Watkins Glen other than the proximity of water that is fresh in Seneca Lake and salty off Long Island. Sag Harbor. Swimming pools. Movie stars. Kids named Gatsby.

The NASCAR scion ran afoul of the authorities, allegedly overserved, with five pills to spare.

France is taking “a leave of absence,” which is basically the same headline as “Marion Wormer to vacation in Saratoga Springs.”

I’m not aghast. I’m not astonished. I’m not even surprised. I knew the sport was burning and had not known France to have a fiddle, though I did refer to him as “Nero” from time to time.

It’s not like the ship has lost its rudder. I don’t see anything getting worse. It’s just that I went to bed Sunday night thinking maybe, just maybe, times in NASCAR were about to start getting a little better.

 

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(Cover design by Steven Novak)

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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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