Next Time I’m Buying Junior Mints

The No. 17 of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. evokes David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip, Matt Kenseth and others. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, July 2, 2017, 10:45 a.m.

I went to bed hoping to find some clarity in the spectacle of the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona Beach, Florida, The Birthplace of Speed!

By Monte Dutton

Also, The Cemetery of Race Cars.

Unfortunately, I dreamed about NASCAR, so I awakened with my thoughts enshrouded in smoke, fire, and shrapnel.

A little iodine. Some Triple Antibiotic Ointment. I’m fine.

For many watching, the good news was that Junior won. The bad news was that it was Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who has now managed at last to get past the shadow of Ricky Stenhouse Sr. Victory at Talladega and Daytona will do that for a young man.

(Getty Images for NASCAR)

It doesn’t bother me. I admire Juniors even though, personally, I’m not one. My father’s middle name is my brother’s first. My first name is one grandfather’s. My middle name is the other’s. I go by a contraction of the middle name. I’m equally divided between my late grandfathers but unaffected by my father.

I hasten to add that this is just in name. My father bequeathed me a myriad of virtues and vices. Likely, I am not alone … but back to Juniors.

When I was a kid, Junior Gilliam played for the Dodgers, and Junior Miller helped my father cook barbecue. Junior Johnson was the Last American Hero, and I believe this because Tom Wolfe wrote it and it must be right. Buck Baker was Elzie Wylie Baker Sr. Buddy Baker was Elzie Wylie Baker Jr.

Raymond J. Johnson Jr. popped up on virtually every television variety show for no apparent reason. Strangely, I don’t recall him saying, “But you can call me Junior!” He was fine with Ray, Jay, Raymond, Ray J., etc., as long as no one called him Johnson. I’m confident many readers don’t recall the repetitive saga of Raymond J. Johnson Jr., and will thus live slightly more interesting lives.

Early in my sportswriting career, Junior Reid played for the Hornets. Folks called him Junior because he preferred J.R., at least in the press room when he wasn’t around.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges


I don’t think Barbecue Junior Miller lived to see his namesakes play tight end or race modifieds. Early in his career, fans used to claim that Dale Earnhardt looked down from heaven and guided Dale Earnhardt Jr. to victory. Perhaps my father’s barbecuing assistant helped his namesakes slather sauce on some ribs.

(Getty Images for NASCAR)

Earnhardt, by the way, used to bristle at the notion that he was “Senior.” He said there wasn’t any such thing, that it was Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Then, often in the same paragraph, he would refer to “Tony Sr.,” referring to the Eurys, who were to Earnhardts and racing what Junior Miller was to Duttons and barbecue.

Brad Keselowski (2), Ryan Blaney (21), Chase Elliott (24), Kevin Harvick (4). (Getty Images for NASCAR)

When Junior is a name of itself, it is sometimes shortened to June, though not in the cases of Allyson, Lockhart and women in general. Darrell Waltrip has used this method, and added a bug, and, over time, that bug has managed to sting everyone who watches NASCAR on TV to one extent or another.

In conclusion, the main result of that race is that it’s left me writing aimlessly, shell-shocked by all the sound and fury, most of which signified nothing.

I’m glad I was far away, safe from the ravages of an unnatural disaster. It was a human-generated earthquake saved by no one, to the best of our knowledge, getting hurt.



(Steven Novak design)

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).

Charlotte ‘Back in My Day’

Jeff Gordon started racing when I started writing about it. (Christa L. Thomas/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon started racing when I started writing about it. (Christa L. Thomas/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, October 9, 2015, 11:19 a.m.

When I was a boy, for some reason, races at Charlotte Motor Speedway were not often featured, via tape delay a week later, on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. I listened to them on the radio, and then, on Monday night, WBTV would run a highlights show — 30 minutes or an hour, I forget switch — that I could watch through snowy reception because WBTV wasn’t one of our primary stations here in Clinton.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I watched Fred Kirby’s cowboy kids show — “Take me back to my boots and my saddle, yo-de-lay-hee, yo-de-lay-hee, aiieeee!” — the same way.

Charlotte’s “truncated trioval” — that was the late Bob Latford’s term — fascinated me. Often the big Mercury Cyclones, Chevrolet Monte Carlos and the Dodge Chargers would touch the grass with their left-side tires and puffs of dust would fly up, even with bad reception. No telling how much I would’ve loved it had there been high-definition, satellite TV.

Charlotte was first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of its countrymen. The facilities were better and cleaner. So were the concessions. Later there would be condominiums overlooking turn one, lights, and drivers with agents, handlers, motorcoaches, and charm-school diplomas.

Charlotte Motor Speedway. (HHP/Garry Eller photo for Chevrolet)
Charlotte Motor Speedway. (HHP/Garry Eller photo for Chevrolet)

Today I often hear people talking about how races at Charlotte are boring. This saddens me because I remember many races, and even more moments, at Charlotte that were, well, self-evidently, obviously, memorable.

Because I remember them now better than what happened two weeks ago.

In the 1980s, I was working as the combination sports editor of the local weekly and sports director of the local AM radio station. Mainly what this meant was that I got up at 5 in the morning to tape a local sports segment that ran “on the hour” all day long and chitchatted on a talk show for a couple hours.

Charlotte was also the most promotion-minded NASCAR track, and its promotions were the most outlandish. No telling what would be in a package from CMS. A crumpled can of Coors after Bill Elliott tangled with Dale Earnhardt in The Winston, for instance.

Bill Elliott. (John Clark photo)
Bill Elliott. (John Clark photo)

Tickets were often included, presumably so that we could give them away to “lucky fans” through the newspaper or radio. We gave away the tickets to the Busch race, but a friend and I drove up to Charlotte one Thursday afternoon and watched qualifying. Nowadays, qualifying crowds often swell well into the hundreds, but, back then, 20,000, maybe 30,000, would watch qualifying. Later, in the 1990s, when I was writing about NASCAR for a living, it might have been more like 40,000 or 50,000.

It was that day, though, that I arrived at the first of what later became “Dutton’s Rules”: The only driver I’d pay to see qualify is Tim Richmond.

Either his pole run was breathtaking, or I got excited a lot easier back in those days. It was undoubtedly a bit of both.

Charlotte's walls weren't Sprint yellow back in 1992. (HHP/Brian Lawdermilk photo for Chevrolet)
Charlotte’s walls weren’t Sprint yellow back in 1992. (HHP/Brian Lawdermilk photo for Chevrolet)

I watched the 1992 Winston from the fourth-turn grandstands. It was the last one I didn’t cover as a sportswriter, and I’m glad it was. The night was best watched with the people.

I have vivid memories of Jeff Gordon’s first victory in the 1994 Coca-Cola 600, of how young, naïve and emotional he was when he accepted the trophy from North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt. I think of the time Ernie Irvan drove across the grass and wrecked for no apparent reason in The Winston. I remember the night Jamie McMurray, substituting for injured Sterling Marlin, surprised everyone by winning the fall 500-miler.

I remember driving home from the Indianapolis 500 while listening to the end of the 600 on radio somewhere in Kentucky and doing simple math, trying to figure out how in the world Dale Earnhardt managed to take the lead away from Darrell Waltrip with a green-flag pit stop. Earnhardt went from way behind to way ahead, and I couldn’t figure out how it was possible.

I remember when Charlotte ran the World 600 in May and the National 500 in October. I remember listening on the radio when the crash that claimed the life of Fireball Roberts occurred. I was six.

Jamie McMurray (left) with teammate Kyle Larson. (HHP/Christa L. Thomas photo for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray (left) with teammate Kyle Larson. (HHP/Christa L. Thomas photo for Chevy Racing)

What many today don’t realize is that NASCAR was always a mainstream sport in the Carolinas. It was the same way it is now nationwide. In fact, it may have been bigger here in the 1960s, ’70s and ‘80s than it is today. It’s more likely that I overestimate the events of my youth, but I remember the first time I saw Charlotte Motor Speedway, and it seemed more impressive at that age, in that time, that it does now.

Back then, I listened to races on the radio, learned about baseball games from box scores and read much more than I saw.

Somehow I remember those times more vividly than, oh, last year.

Or yesterday. When I was young.

(Graphic courtesy of Meredieth Pritchard)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredieth Pritchard)


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

At one time, I wrote books about NASCAR. Some of them are still available here:

My proudest accomplishments these days are works of fiction. My latest novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, is on sale for $1.99 at Amazon in Kindle edition.