I Had to Think It Through

At Pocono in 2004. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, April 25, 2017, 10:50 a.m.

I first saw it on Twitter at roadandtrack.com. I thought it was a fake. I thought it was one of those stories where they made the website look like something reputable and then ran a head that said, “Hillary Clinton Using Slave Labor at Nigerian Brothel.” Then the writing would be so bad that I’d know it was ersatz.

By Monte Dutton

The story looked okay. The website looked like it might really be Road & Track. Other hastily thrown-together articles showed up on the timeline.

It’s real. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is retiring at year’s end.

I’m going to be about the 100th person in my cast of Twitter followers alone to write that I was surprised but not astonished. I get asked about Earnhardt Jr.’s future almost every week on the South Carolina Network’s SportsTalk show, where I generally appear every Friday night at 7:30 EDT (EDT being the standard reference in the Palmetto State).

(Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

I kept saying that it was too early to tell whether or not he had fully recovered from his concussion protocols. When he had his one decent finish to date, I said maybe it was a good sign. Like many, I watched Monday’s rained-out race in Bristol, and, when Earnhardt wrecked, I thought, Well, just another brick in the wall.

Many people will be surprised when I tell you the one word that comes to mind when three words – Dale Earnhardt Junior – flash into my head.

Earnhardt is a folksy, modestly educated North Carolina kid who learned much about fame from having a famous daddy. As amazing as it may seem, the word that occurs to me is …

… Civilized.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. masters the Talladega draft. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Junior is more civilized than his contemporaries. Maybe it’s because he is the son of a hard man who provided his son with examples but not lessons. The son had to learn how to think, observe, and analyze. All racers — many of whom today have lived either comfortable or sheltered lives, and, quite often, both — graduate from the School of Hard Knocks … literally. Not everyone makes the best of his degree. Junior must have concentrated on the liberal arts.

He understands how the world turns. He understands how the media work. So many people use the word “humble” with such reckless abandon. Most times an athlete says “I’m humbled,” he is nothing of the sort. Nothing about great achievement instills humility. Adversity instills humility.Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Dale Earnhardt Jr. lost his fierce, legendary father, which is bad enough in itself, but devastating particularly in the timing of the son’s loss. Their relationship had been complicated. Now they were both competing together, father and son, and against each other, man against man. Love had lost many of its conditions.

Phoenix. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)

In 2001, before any of what followed happened, I was struck by how happy both Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were. I was there when both raced yellow Corvettes in the Rolex 24. I was in a dinner line when The Intimidator picked up an extra set of silverware and provided one to me. That may not sound like much, but I would not have been more surprised had Earnhardt raised a sword and dubbed me Sir Monte of Dutton. He also high-fived me. People high-five me every day. Not Intimidators, though. Dale Earnhardt was very much alive, and no one thought that was going to change, and I still thought Speedweeks in Daytona was getting awfully weird.

I went to the funeral. I traveled to cold Rockingham for a collective temperament that was even colder. I was in Atlanta when Kevin Harvick won in the Great Man’s car, tastefully renumbered.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. drives to victory in the first of two Can-Am Duel races. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett for Chevy Racing)

More pity did I feel for Dale Earnhardt Jr. than had I for the loss of his legendary father.

Now, I feel great. I’ll miss him, but I don’t think he will miss it. He might miss it as much as I miss 10 months of flights, missed, delayed, canceled, and rerouted; rental cars, good, bad, inappropriate, and balky; traffic jams, Atlanta, LA, D-FW, and, occasionally, tracks; and those special occasions when I’d get cussed out by a man who hadn’t read the story about which he was perturbed.

Earnhardt Jr. with Jeff Gordon. (John Clark photo)

I miss it now. After four years. I missed high school football after four years, too, and it was also hell. I miss it so much now that I wrote a novel about it, and I turned its hero into the essence of what I think stock car racing needs. Barrie Jarman isn’t righteous, either to himself or God. He’s a brash kid who has an accurate estimation of how good he is, which is very.

No intention was involved, but a little, and by that, I mean, just a touch, of Junior may have seeped into my latest prose.

Like Kyle Petty, Junior wasn’t as good as his daddy. Like Kyle Petty, Junior is every bit the man, and, in both cases, it’s because the son had enough sense to follow his own dreams and take his own course. Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt were vivid products of their generation. So, too, were their sons.

It’s going to take someone living and breathing, not a creation of a hero in fiction, to raise this next generation. Barrie Jarman is as close as I can get.

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.

(Steven Novak cover design)

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.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

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.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

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.

(Joe Font cover design)

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.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

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).

Indy Is Just All Right with Me

Feast your eyes on a modern Brickyard crowd. (Monte Dutton photo)
Feast your eyes on a modern Brickyard crowd. (Monte Dutton photo)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, July 22, 2016, 10:20 a.m.

NASCAR visits Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend, and I remember just how big that used to be.

Indy didn’t allow fans in the infield because it didn’t want the crowd to be larger than the 500. NASCAR required that Indy hold down the purse so it wouldn’t be larger than the Daytona 500. The first time the stock cars tested at the Brickyard, the crowd was larger than the race will likely draw Sunday.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I’m surprised Donald Trump didn’t mention the decline in his speech Thursday night. It was probably because Mike Pence is from Indiana. The decline doesn’t mirror NASCAR’s general decline; it magnifies it.

I take no pleasure in this sorrowful realization.

Let me confess to an unpopular view. I like watching stock cars race at Indy. I like a track with a high degree of difficulty. It makes me laugh when someone says, “Indy wasn’t designed for stock cars.” Indy was designed in 1911. It was designed for Marmon Wasps, which were closer to the wasps under the edge of my roof than the vehicles in the garage.

Darlington wasn’t designed for the brave, new world of NASCAR, either. It’s one of the reasons I love it so. Old school. Darlington is the Big Ten. Indy is the Ivy League.

Tony Stewart, when he drove No. 20, racing Dale Earnhardt Jr., when he drove No. 8, in 2007 (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Tony Stewart, when he drove No. 20, racing Dale Earnhardt Jr., when he drove No. 8, in 2007 (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Passing is hard at Indy. I enjoy watching a trailing driver stalk the one he’s behind. Darting a little here. Pulling out down the straightaway there. Making the prey nervous. Then … pouncing. Dale Jarrett was good at that.

How could Indy have been so breathtaking in 1996 and so B-O-R-I-N-G 20 years later? It’s the same track. The cars? Oh, they got worse for a while, but recently they’ve gotten better, and the two decades in between have left us, at the moment, in about the same place. Plus, NASCAR has inserted bells and whistles that weren’t in place back in the giddy early years, when men were men and the Busch Series was racing at IRP.

Maybe part of this confusion is derived from the fact that the world has changed and I haven’t. I am mindful of these consequences of age. Social media keep me abreast of the country’s growing impatience and anger, but sometimes my upbringing betrays me. On rare occasions, I still display an annoying taste for patience.

Somehow we have gotten in the habit of accentuating what is bad. We know so much about so many things that are bad. We forget that they were just as bad 50 years ago. Or yesterday.

Welcome back, Wonderman.  (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevy Racing)
Welcome back, Wonderman. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevy Racing)

Jeff Gordon is substituting for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Winning another Brickyard couldn’t possibly be harder than competing for attention in a TV booth with Darrell Waltrip. No way Gordon backs down to Joey Logano the way he does to D.W. In the eye in the sky, Waltrip always has plenty of ‘splainin’ to do.

My eyes will be on the Magnavox.

I’ll miss the pomp, the pageantry, dinner at St. Elmo’s, a baseball game at Victory Field, and random conversations in the track cafeteria with people I’ve never met and have never met me, but both of us wanted to correct that oversight.

I won’t miss the Yellow Shirts, the indescribable hassle of getting anything whatsoever done, the fact that waiting for the winner rivals the time of the race, and the corporate paranoia that descends upon any proceedings when the chief topic of conversation is “gee, whiz, there’s nobody here.”

In summary, I’ll get by.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy either Forgive Us Our Trespasses or Crazy of Natural Causes, and you’ll get a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs, absolutely free. Tell ‘em Mr. Monte sent you, y’hear?

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

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.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is the latest. It’s a tale about 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.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

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).

A Triumph of Persistence, Not Skill

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, July 16, 2016, 9:38 a.m.

I have squandered an early rising. Damn that British Open.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

So far, I have sipped coffee, wished people happy birthday on Facebook, cooked breakfast, played lots of Hank Williams songs, and finally gotten around to powering the laptop to start molding this day into something coherent.

At this hour, Phil Mickelson is still leading at Royal Troon. Next year will be at Royal Birkdale. Royalty will be avoided at Carnoustie in 2018. Among the more significant reasons while Mickelson is still winning is that he hasn’t started playing yet.

With the weather blazing hot and prone to thunderstorms here, Troon looks like a rainy November football game. Watch the golfers. Shiver a little. Open the front door. Feel blast of natural furnace.

Jimmie Johnson (48) is on the pole in New Hampshire. No. 88, meanwhile, is Alex Bowman. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson (48) is on the pole in New Hampshire. No. 88, meanwhile, is Alex Bowman. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

9:33 p.m.

The above was intended to be a full blog. It was, at about 10 a.m., almost a full blog. That’s when this error message popped up informing me that my laptop would have to be restarted, and it, in fact, did so before I could get what I had written saved. When all was safe from Chechnyan hackers again, about three quarters of what I had written was gone forever, already bouncing around the outer reaches of the solar system and retrievable only by Chechnyan hackers, whose service charges are outrageous.

Why I quit golf. (Vince Pawless photo)
Why I quit golf. (Vince Pawless photo)

So crestfallen was I that the whole project was abandoned because, at the time of technical despondency, I preferred to play my guitar and read Rolling Stone more than I was inclined to rebuild a blog that was dubiously constituted from the get-go.

Similar to what I’ve written since.

Friday was a creative day. Writing the first chapter in yet another novel was a rush. Getting the manuscript of Cowboys Come Home ready was a relief. It was an eventful week. Some plans may be in the works.

Today the most creative accomplishments were washing the dishes and folding the clothes.

Jacoby Ellsbury. Now a Yankee. (Monte Dutton photo)
Jacoby Ellsbury. Now a Yankee. (Monte Dutton photo)

The Red Sox won their sixth straight game, and second straight in Yankee Stadium. They are 6-2 so far against the Ugly Americans, which, if they do not manage to prosper in the postseason but do manage to dominate New York, will leave some mild feeling of warmth from the season.

Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race in New Hampshire, though it was almost like a loss because he failed to lead several laps.

I drove around a while listening to people who know almost nothing about concussions speaking about Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s prognosis as if they’d worked for decades at the Mayo Clinic.

Mickelson isn’t leading the The Open Championship, but he’s right there, a stroke behind Henrik Stenson. I sort of wish a golf tournament was on TV every morning when I awaken.

On The Golf Channel, come to think of it, it’s possible there is.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is ailing. Maybe he'll be back next week. Maybe he won't. Generally, those who know aren't saying, and everyone who doesn't is. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is ailing. Maybe he’ll be back next week. Maybe he won’t. Generally, those who know aren’t saying, and everyone who doesn’t is. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)

As I told a friend over a beer Friday night, I love the British Open because the greatest golfers in the world look approximately like they were me. At times. Not really. My last round of golf was at least five years ago. I can just relate to their ineptitude better than to their proficiency.

Everybody gets to hack.

That’s two kinds of hackers I’ve mentioned in one blog. It makes me think of that old Merle Haggard tune, “My Own Kind of Hat”: There’s two kinds of lovers and two kinds of brothers and two kinds of babies to hold / There’s two kinds of cherries and two kinds of fairies, and two kinds of mothers I’m told, and told …

There. This blog isn’t much, but it is done.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy either Forgive Us Our Trespasses or Crazy of Natural Causes, and you’ll get a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs, absolutely free. Tell ‘em Mr. Monte sent you, y’hear?

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

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.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is the latest. It’s a tale about 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.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

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).

 

The Roller Coaster in Daytona Beach

Dale Earnhardt Jr. drives to victory in the first of two Can-Am Duel races. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. drives to victory in the first of two Can-Am Duel races. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett for Chevy Racing)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, February 19, 2016, 10:35 a.m.

Sure. I watched the Can-Am Duel, which was dual because there were two, as there have been since there was a Daytona 500, which led to the commonly held opinion that there is a town called simply Daytona, which there is not. It’s Daytona Beach, though, as for that, it’s unimportant personally because I am not there, and if I still went, the odds are I would be in Ormond Beach, and there’s no issue there over there not being an Ormond.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

With the South Carolina Republican Primary coming up, I kept having to answer the phone during the races. Oh, I answer, because the only time my “land line” rings is either my mother or someone wanting me to answer a questionnaire that ends up being a request for money, of which I don’t have that much presently. How do they get results to polls, by the way? Everyone I know hangs up.

To make a long story short, they got my position right.

The parking lot. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
The parking lot.
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

As is the case an alarming number of times, I digress.

I already wrote, about another race, that Dale Earnhardt Jr. would probably win it if he’s around at the end. In the first Duel, I was right prematurely. What I wanted from the race was for Earnhardt to have to show what he has. He did. It’s a lot. He’s the clear favorite in the Daytona 500. In terms of this particular sweepstakes, the best jockey is riding the best horse. He’s got to guard against getting his trusty steed pinched into the rail.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Kyle Busch, not exactly a big surprise, either, won the latter race by a piece of paper. Matt Kenseth, Busch’s teammate, had to give up the lead so that he could use the turbulence of riding around another car to get the paper to fly off the nose of his Toyota and stop unduly heating up its innards.

This set in motion a series of events. Busch won, and Kenseth’s car got destroyed and, as a result, it will not start on the front row of the Daytona 500.

Both races provided pertinent information regarding the likely outcome of NASCAR’s most prestigious race. At this point, with the actual running of the qualifying races little more than a formality, the best that could be expected was valuable information, which we got.

The second Duel even had a dual duel of its own.

The Camping World Truck Series race is tonight. I’m thinking of having a safety harness installed in my easy chair. It’s probably already too late to get that done. I guess I’ll clench my teeth again.

Xfinity Series practice. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to watch the opening scenes of Days of Thunder. Speedweeks is a roller coaster. The ride starts out with gentle ups and downs, just to get the squealing cords cleared out vocally. Now it’s gears grinding, pulling everyone up a ponderous grade. From here on lie free falls, loops that turn us upside down, and such pure speed, at long intervals, that, after a while, it seems as if a parking lot, perfectly aligned, is going nearly 200 miles an hour.

Amazingly, this formation flying will seem boring. It’s too much of a good thing, or, perhaps, too good of a much thing.

The ending will be whiz-bang, though. It will be swell, a humdinger and a ripsnorter. What few kids are watching will find it turnt, based and/or lit, terms that can be translated as “stoned” but also refer to most everything that feels good. Many are not about that life.

NASCAR, I mean.

(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)

As you may have noticed, I use these blogs as a promotional tool for my novels. One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Another, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be out soon. I got a little news on Thursday. A release date will be announced in a few weeks. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time.

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. The Audacity of Dope was published in 2011, The Intangibles in 2013. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50. Look for me by name at Google+. Whew. It’s too much.

 

In the Cold Arizona Rain

Many NASCAR fans wanted the Phoenix race to end this way, but not exactly this way. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Many NASCAR fans wanted the Phoenix race to end this way, but not exactly this way. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, November 16, 2015, 2:45 p.m.

Sunday didn’t wind up being laid out in the manner I’d envisioned. Sunday missed deadline. Sunday spilled over into Monday.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

A 312-mile NASCAR race near Phoenix, Arizona, of all places, was delayed all afternoon and halted prematurely due to rain. I had planned to be done with the chores of producing a weekly Bleacher Report column — writing, advise and consent with the home office, assembling quotes from emails, choosing photos, a statistical table, adding items from Twitter and YouTube, the usual — by about the middle of the second quarter of the Sunday night football game.

The race leaned heavily on midnight. I got through about three. I’m not even sure who played in the football game. I was too keyed up to sleep and went to bed at four.

Both Dale Earnhardt Jr. (left) and Kevin Harvick have won three races this year. Harvick has finished second 12 times. (HHP/Garry Eller photo for Chevy Racing)
Both Dale Earnhardt Jr. (left) and Kevin Harvick have won three races this year. Harvick has finished second 12 times. (HHP/Garry Eller photo for Chevy Racing)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the race for no good reason other than knowing how to be on pit road when a caution flag, one of only two in the whole race, waved. Either he or crew chief Greg Ives must moonlight as psychics.

Somebody had to win. Somebody had to finish second, and, surprise, it was Kevin Harvick for the 12th time this year.

 

Jeff Gordon is seeking a fifth championship and first since 2001. (Garry Eller/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon is seeking a fifth championship and first since 2001. (Garry Eller/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Had the 93 laps that were washed away forever been run, much would have undoubtedly turned out differently. Mother Nature is rarely inclined to compromise, though, so chalk up the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 to the vagaries of what might have been rather than those of what did. The night wasn’t particularly heroic.

It was particularly soggy. It could have been the Quicken Loans Race for Wetness 500, and if “500” had meant miles and not kilometers, 219 laps wouldn’t have been enough to end it.

Thank God for the metric system.

Instead of the race rising to a competitive crescendo in the waning laps, it waned early and Chase survival wound up being a matter of free passes and wave-arounds.

Earnhardt could have won the race in a Zamboni, though track position might have been tough before the rain.

In a season in which the Roger Penske-owned Fords of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski flashed strength, and a Chase with Joe Gibbs’ stable of Toyotas — Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin — and Penske’s Fords combining for five victories in the first six races, a turnabout occurred without the benefit of fair play.

Now it’s down to four drivers, all even, as football referees say, “by rule.” Three of them — Jeff Gordon, Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. — drive Chevrolets, which have clinched the manufacturer championship for the 13th year in a row, and the season’s three biggest race winners — Logano (6), Kenseth (5) and Jimmie Johnson (5) — haven’t gone home but they’re going to be listed in the history of this season as footnotes.

If winning the championship were still based on season-long performance, the finalists would be, following the mode of regular-season allocation, first (Harvick), fifth (Truex), 10th (Gordon) and 20th (Kyle Busch).

But it’s not, and it hasn’t been since 2003, and it’s not going to come back, and the best that can be hoped is that NASCAR won’t try to jazz it up even more with caution flags for fireworks displays, bonus points behind Door No. 3, demerits for remarks detrimental to the sport of stock car racing, discarded finishes, debris scattered like confetti (oh, wait, they have that already) and a championship conducted under the auspices of DraftKings.

The potential Cinderella champion is Martin Truex Jr. (Garry Eller/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
The potential Cinderella champion is Martin Truex Jr. (Garry Eller/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

That way the fans can share in the bucks!

With the exception of no Fords being left to contend, the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami is destined to produce fodder for inspirational stories. Gordon could bow out a champion. Harvick could make it two in a row. For Kyle Busch, it would be like finding the Holy Grail, and Truex is from a single-car team, and if he wins it, it will seem afterward as if he was born in a log cabin and taught himself to read and write just in time to cure cancer and bring peace to the Middle East.

Then, basking in the rosy glow of the Holidays, everyone will forget how much the racing sucked.

(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Reading my novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, will help you forget how much the racing sucked. http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436215069&sr=1-1&keywords=Crazy+of+Natural+Causes

If you think it would be cool for me to get another KindleScout novel published, you can help by nominating my latest, Forgive Us Our Trespasses. Click here. Then once more, and you’re done. If it wins, you’ll get a free download. The campaign runs through Saturday, November 21. https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/A20FEF33PZP1

Intangibles1

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

My first novel, The Audacity of Dope, was about a chase, and my second, The Intangibles, is set back in 1968, when men were men and air conditioning was for sissies. http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

Each week I write a NASCAR column at Bleacher Report. Here’s the latest: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2589829-weather-favors-dale-earnhardt-jr-at-phoenix-and-shapes-the-chase-finals

 

A Brand-New Wizard

Kevin Harvick's title hopes finally came to fruition. (HHP/Garry Eller photo for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick’s title hopes finally came to fruition. (HHP/Garry Eller photo for Chevy Racing)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 11:04 a.m.

Another NASCAR year is over. The Sprint Cup Series, by the miracle of the Etch a Sketch, has produced a new champion, Kevin Harvick, and it was a bit overdue. Harvick, who turns thirty-nine on the eighth day of December, is of the same generation as Dale Earnhardt Jr., and several others who have had potential titles vacuumed away by the Great Hoover of Jimmie Johnson.

In short, Harvick is a deserving champion, fast all year, and positioned perfectly, in the end, to exploit the Etch a Sketch’s more advanced features. The season had a rousing start, Earnhardt’s victory in the Daytona 500, and a frenetic finish, with enough “Game Seven Moments” in between to thump the NASCAR tub.

How about Etch a Sketches for both the December 8 birthday boys? (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevy Racing)
How about Etch a Sketches for both the December 8 birthday boys? (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevy Racing)

Let’s take a break with a bit of useless trivia. Ryan Newman, who finished second in the intertwined race (Ford 400, Homestead-Miami Speedway) and Chase, was also born on December the eighth, though he will turn thirty-seven instead of thirty-nine.

The season had many worthy champions, if for no other reason than worth is defined by an Etch a Sketch that draws it rather broadly. When the Empire’s minions shook that box one last time, Harvick was best equipped to twist the knobs.

That, as they say in Daytona Beach, is the bottom line, and it is what it is at the end of the day. The Chase is fully integrated, multifaceted, debris-strewn, thoroughly waved around, and situated exactly where the rubber meets the road. It’s a rich language the business folks talk.

For Jeff Gordon, another championship year slipped away. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevy Racing)
For Jeff Gordon, another championship year slipped away. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevy Racing)

Somehow, out of all those red Solo cups on the back straight, those checkpoints where a roughhousing eleventh beat a futile second, those one wrong moves that dispatched other worthy candidates to the broadening purgatory … a fun-loving, mischievous champion emerged.

So give Harvick his credit. In an age where many of his peers play video games, Harvick plays mind games. He loves to stir things up.

As such, he fits the format perfectly. Just as Johnson knew how to seal the old deal, Harvick proved himself a wizard at etching the sketch.

Thanks for taking time off from your busy schedule to read this blog. Do me the favor of considering my novels, The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope, along with my other books at: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1414631316&sr=1-1