‘You show ’em, Spike!’

(Getty Images for NASCAR)
By Monte Dutton

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, June 19, 2017, 11:37 a.m.

The highlight was the boiled peanuts.

Nonetheless, a lot went on over the weekend.

Hamlin over Byron on Saturday. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

For the second time in as many weeks, NASCAR’s Xfinity Series outshone its Monster Cup, or, it would have had there been as many sightings. Both Brad Keselowski’s stirring Pocono victory and Denny Hamlin’s side-by-side heartbreak of William Byron at Michigan were seen by a few thousand in person and an electronic smattering on TV.

Yeah, the Cup carpetbaggers won, but at least they were fine races.

John Hunter Nemechek won the Camping World Truck race at Gateway near St. Louis. I watched while switching back and forth between it and the Red Sox game in Houston. Every time Nemechek wins, I think of a chance encounter many years ago when I bumped into John Hunter and his father, Joe, at a Las Vegas casino buffet. We ate dinner together as a result. John Hunter was, oh, about 10, I’m guessing.

John Hunter Nemechek in Victory Lane. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

All else was standard operating NASCAR muddle.

A debris caution flag shaped the Michigan ending and helped Kyle Busch avoid an official Monster Cup victory, a task at which he has excelled all year. Instead, the currently winning Kyle, Larson, won for the second time in a row at the two-mile track, and Chase Elliott reprised second place, as well.

Yes, Kyle won the Monster All-Star Race, but that doesn’t count, and, yes, the driver with the perpetually poked-out lips retreated to the cozy comfort of his motorcoach, there to ponder what had happened … and maybe throw a few things. He offered no public insight into his misgivings.

Tony Stewart, still terrible but too old to be enfant, tweeted about NASCAR’s vigilant protection of plastic trash bags. Tweets are official policy instruments, as the Trump Administration has decreed. The change in journalism is basically this: Where once a story read, “After the race, he said …” now it reads, “After the race, he tweeted …”

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

 

Drivers, at least the young and forever so, often feel smothered by the intrusions of the media.

Hey, when I started racing, I did it for love. I didn’t sign up for all these other things, like talking to the media.

The problem came when they started racing for money, as well. As any welder with two kids and a wife knows, with money comes responsibility. Life changes when a man becomes a shift supervisor.

When once presented by a then bright, then young, driver, with this psychic trauma, the late David Poole, said, “Well, you know, you don’t have to be famous.”

Huh?

“You can go back to racing sprint cars three nights a week, and do it for love, and then you won’t have to be bothered,” Poole said, with a touch of paraphrasing induced by memory loss. “But racing right here, at this level, means you have certain commitments.”

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

Acolytes descend upon our bright, young heroes, to bask in their talented glow and assure them that everything they do is, like, so cool. They encourage the heroes to figuratively spit at their inferiors.

They remind me of the old cartoon of Spike, the tough bulldog, and Chester, the yapping Chihuahua.

“Hey, Spike, you wanna go chase some cars?”

Only Spike never slaps Chester against the wall and yells, “Shaddup!” at least not in the warmer climes of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. There the Tunes are Looney in other ways.

One such episode involves Spike, thinking he’s going to knock Sylvester the Cat around to please Chester, unwittingly running up against an escaped panther.

Few panthers stalk the media jungle, but they can get ornery, when aroused. It doesn’t take slicing poor Spike to shreds. He can be sliced by his own actions.

There’s an aspect of class warfare in it. Lots of entitled racers lack respect for the radiation-zapped (little ink these days) wretches. They’ve heard rumors that the media doesn’t make much money, and in a world shaped and framed by bank accounts, it’s natural for them to assume that its ranks are composed of men and women who obviously couldn’t do anything else.

Never mind that they can’t do anything else. The market value of racers is high, and, as anyone who is on social media obviously knows, anyone can write.

 

 

 

(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).

Aw, Play It for Fun

(Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)
(Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)

L&LComplete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, June 26, 2016, 12:07 p.m.

The late Dudley Moore asked, “Isn’t fun the greatest thing you can have?”

The late David Poole often said, “Fun. You just can’t beat fun.”

The late Jimmy Dutton often folded his arms and said, “Chaps love to play.”

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Saturday was fun, or did most of the fun spill over into Sunday? It was late-night Saturday fun for that portion of the public that wasn’t out toasting a Britain rid of its shackles, or drowning the tears of the EU’s decline.

A few may have been drinking for some other reason.

Coastal Carolina’s baseball team surged into the finals of the College World Series. It must have something to do with climate change. The oceans are rising all the way to Omaha.

In a sense. Hyperbole. Almost rhymes with calliope. But not quite. Any rhyme with hyperbole is exaggerated.

The rising oceans also washed in Coastal Carolina’s uniforms from the 1970s. Teal pullovers. I remember them from the Sears catalogue. The Chanticleers. Chants for short. Imagine if the fans turned to Gregorian chants between innings. It wouldn’t be that different from that soccer drone.

Coastal Carolina eliminated Texas Christian, which wears the regal purple, but at least it buttons up. About all I mastered about the game was the uniforms because my attention was divided between the Chants rising, the Rangers routing (the Red Sox) and the Trucks fighting in Madison, Illinois. I also closed in on finishing a novel (reading, not writing, that was earlier in the day), played the guitar a little, tweeted slyly, and drank coffee way later than I’d planned.

It was all worth it, though. Two Truck drivers ostensibly across the river from Saint Louis to race, having failed that in concert with each other, compounded matters by having the most unsatisfying fight since Bonecrusher Smith retired. After the initial pratfall — “I say, if I can wrest that foot loose of the pavement, in theory, it would cause my nemesis to fall untidily,” said Master Townley — the two followed the “one-two-three, one-two-three” ballroom moves they had been forced to learn after the daily riding sessions on their ponies.

“Spencer, old sport, place your hand on my shoulder.”

“Ah! In so doing shall I blunt your feeble attempts at aggression.”

“Lest I force you into submission with my fists of iron!”

“Nonsense, old chum, I have you in check. Now pivot smartly and follow me … 1-2-3, 1-2-3 …”

“By George, I think I’ve got it. Tally-ho and all that.”

This morning, a few news outlets even reported this straight, but the announcers were smirking.

When a couple drunks would start duking it out in front of the Talladega Superspeedway press box, Larry Woody used to speculate that perhaps they were fighting over the relative merits of Shakespeare and Chaucer.

“Why, you SOB, Chaucer couldn’t carry Shakespeare’s jockstrap!”

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

My new novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is a crime thriller.

Set in the hills of Kentucky, Crazy of Natural Causes is a fable of life’s absurdity, seen through the unique perspective of ruined coach Chance Benford.

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

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories, all of which are derived from songs I wrote.

All three of these books, already autographed, are available at L&L Office Supply, 114 N. Main St., Clinton.

Most of my books are available here.

Tales of Tvlvteke

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

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, October 23, 2015, 9:03 a.m.

Talladega. It must be more than “border town” in Creek, which is the official explanation. According to no less a source than Wikipedia, the Creek (and/or Muscogee) word is “Tvlvteke.”

Tvlvteke Superspeedway! Who’s with me?

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

It’s a long way from Tvlvteke to Talladega, or home to “Starwood in Aspen,” but that’s not important.

Talladega must mean “ball of confusion” in some American Indian tongue. Allegedly, it was built on a burial ground, and that explains everything. If you were an Ancient American spirit, back before Native was cool, you’d be seriously annoyed twice a year when a bunch of loud contraptions start hightailing it around, disturbing the peace.

White man’s revenge? Why would the white man seek revenge? He won!

Good, bad, and merely vivid, I had a proportionally higher range of memories from Talladega Superspeedway than most tracks:

The day Jimmy Horton’s red Chevy sailed out of the track, and there was so much smoke that very few noticed it. The telltale sign was an even higher cloud of smoke that rose behind it. It was a red-clay cloud.

A symphony of screeching metal.  (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
A symphony of screeching metal. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

The brief era of maniacal bump-drafting, when everything was two by two, and the end was blockers versus jammers, just like roller derby. Every time the rules change, something unforeseen occurs at Talladega. I wasn’t particularly fond of the tag-team derbies, but they were … interesting.

Raucous stories from a time when sports writers didn’t just have a drink. They drank.

Ah’ight, now. Thassa damn nuff. I gotta write about a #$%&*@! race tomorrow. I can’t be hung over, y’know. Gotta get some #$%&*@! sleep. Enjoyed it, y’all.

Aw, hell, don’t run off, son. We gon’ cut a watermelon here in a minute!

Fortunately, it was also a time when sports writers mostly stayed in the same quaint lodges, back before Marriott Points contributed to the general breakdown in camaraderie and esprit de corps.

You can feel the rumble every time the the steel chariots roar by. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)
You can feel the rumble every time the the steel chariots roar by. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)

Today’s media contingent is more fueled by energy drinks, meaning they lack the patience inherent in other vices that will also kill them.

The time David Poole was detained by an Alabama state trooper for driving down the shoulder of a road where a sign had been posted advising motorists to do so.

“Why do you think no one else was driving down the shoulder of the road, Mr. Poole?”

“Because it’s … Alabama?” replied the North Carolinian.

Back to the actual racing, Talladega being one of the venues where on track was even more colorful than off.

The day when a NASCAR judgment call put Jeff Gordon in victory lane instead of Dale Earnhardt Jr., and the Junior partisans, good and true, pelted Gordon’s car with beer cans, exploding against the sides and top of his Chevy like a fireworks display. A festival of suds! Suds and Stripes Forever!

Tony Stewart (John Clark photo)
Tony Stewart (John Clark photo)

Ten thousand fans mooning Tony Stewart during driver introductions. Stewart had been quoted as saying there were more “rednecks” at Talladega than anywhere else, so they rose, turned their backs, and squatted, in righteous indignation to prove him … right?

The wrecks people survived there. Not death. Death defied. I’d have hated to be a driver during the 1990s. Being a sports writer scared me.

 

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

Now I watch from a safe distance of two states over. What I earn from NASCAR is more spending money than livelihood. Take my books. Please. http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Up This Hill and Down

Its a merry-go-round, but, oddly, all they ever have is a Ferris wheel. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Its a merry-go-round, but, oddly, all they ever have is a Ferris wheel. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, June 25, 2015, 10:11 a.m.

The week brings with it a vague, simple optimism for NASCAR fans, beaten down by rain, strategy, and leaders who run away by virtue of somehow getting in front and pulling away via the vagaries of aerodynamics.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Sonoma is a road course, and a road course is something different, and something different is desperately needed in the NASCAR doldrums. The Sprint Cup Series needs some wind in its sails. Basketball and hockey are over. The Chase is out there on the horizon.

Road courses are rare. Both are in the summer. Twenty-five years ago, many fans dreaded the races at Sonoma and Watkins Glen. Now they adore them. Once the outcomes of those races seemed predictable, back when only a few drivers were winning them. Now the road courses seem more competitive than other races.

This week, drivers are saying “anybody can win.” They’ll say the same next week, too, because it’s summertime in Daytona Beach, featuring sun, fun, and aero conditions that enable passing instead of minimizing it.

Imagine. In the short span of two weekends, NASCAR might build some steam, gain some momentum, energize the fans, build its brand, address the stakeholders, and assorted other cliches of a cliche-ridden pastime.

Kurt Busch can spin 'em. Cliches, that is.  (HHP photo for Chevrolet)
Kurt Busch can spin ’em. Cliches, that is. (HHP photo for Chevrolet)

No one rides a cliche better than the incomparable Kurt Busch.

“Sonoma the race itself is a rhythmic balance that you get into,” said Kurt via media release. “You work all the corners [and] you try to tie them all together to create your lap time.”

Got it.

“Road courses are unique [in] how you get into that rhythm, and you don’t even realize that you are halfway through the race before you really even get settled in,” Professor Busch further stated. “Road courses are challenging in so many different ways.”

Kurt wasn’t alone in citing the alleged difficulty of racing in the season’s first road course without having an opportunity to try it out in advance.

“What is going to be tough about Sonoma this year versus years past? No testing. No road-course shakedowns, no ‘go to VIR (Virginia International Raceway) or another road course to get the car prepped. It’s going to challenge the drivers this year in a unique way,” he further opined.

“Fun,” as David Poole used to be fond of saying. “You can’t beat fun.”

“Normally we can go and run a road course around here for an afternoon,” said Kasey Kahne’s crew chief, Keith Rodden, “and that usually gives Kasey, myself, and the engineers some time to relearn turning both left and right. But this year we don’t get that, so it’s going to be fun.”

Gosh, have I turned both left and right in my passenger car or pickup truck lately? I believe I have. Whew.

What I had been awaiting, as I perused the emails, was what someone was going to say inevitably, because race drivers, particularly modern ones, love to say that one track is like another that would seem to be totally different.

Looking forward to short-track racing in Wine Country.  (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Looking forward to short-track racing in Wine Country. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

“It is more like a short track there,” said A.J. Allmendinger.

Careful study invariably yields drivers who say Pocono is like a road course, and it’s like Indianapolis, which thus is like a road course, but both are like Martinsville, which is as far from a road course as Capetown from Point Barrow.

Occasionally, a driver will say something that seems to make sense, such as allowing as how Talladega bears some similarity to Daytona.

On the other hand, drivers often say that seemingly identical tracks — Charlotte and Texas, say, or Auto Club and Michigan — are nothing alike.

It’s vexing.

The chorus further informs us that Sonoma is “more technical” than Watkins Glen and that the speeds of the two are “drastically different.” All the two seem to have in common is that “things can get crazy out there.”

Obviously, only a masterful driver of virtuosity and renown could ever win races at both places, except that whoever wins on Sunday will undoubtedly say, when August arrives, that his (or her) Sonoma victory gives him “a leg up on the competition” at the Glen.

Such is the nature of the beast that is the weekly media release.

Did I mention it’s “a finesse race track”? Or that it has “a lot of character”?

Tony Stewart intends to drive his car throughout the race. (John Clark photo)
Tony Stewart intends to drive his car throughout the race. (John Clark photo)

“Sonoma has a lot of character because of all the elevation changes,” Tony Stewart said, and later added, “You are always driving the car.”

If this is not the case at other tracks, perhaps it provides some insight into Stewart’s woes this year.

They all “like road racing a lot,” and it’s pretty much the same for “plate tracks,” concrete, short, intermediate, long, flat, banked, and equipped with “interactive fan experiences.”

It’s all technical, character-building, and balance-requiring. As any reader of driver quotes realizes, a car can be “too free.”

 

Have fun watching the all the colorful cars go “up this hill and down, and up this hill again.” If you think of it, check out my books, which are at least as different as Sonoma and Martinsville are alike. You can read all about them, and, preferably, buy one or two or five, here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

The Road Does Not Go On Forever, and the Party Sometimes Ends

Remember to take a hard right on I-95. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Remember to take a hard right on I-95. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, February 11, 2015, 9:02 a.m.

I feel fortunate this morning.

For some unusual reason, I awakened a little after six. I was going to try to go back to sleep, and I don’t know why I did this, other than fate, but I scrambled for the remote and turned on the TV, where, there to my amazement, was Robert Earl Keen Jr. and band performing on Imus in the Morning.

I turned off the TV in the bedroom, staggered into the living room, flipped on the TV there, walked into the kitchen to put on some coffee, iced down my aching back, which aches when I get up every morning, and commenced to perusing my social-media feeds.

The early-morning life ain’t normally my life, but it’s a good life. Today. Because of REK.

As is way too common, I digress.

Leaning on the old tires. (Monte Dutton sketch ... of Monte Dutton)
Leaning on the old tires. (Monte Dutton sketch … of Monte Dutton)

Today is when many of my old friends are, by some means, traveling to Daytona Beach, Florida, because Thursday is Media Day. When I attended this affair, it was a day of socializing and making plans, and seeing if there was any good music to go see, and whether the activities at the track would allow it.

By the time Media Day rolled around, I would already have all my preseason work done, so I covered it for whatever new information might be breaking, not to prepare for the season in general, as planned and intended by the Lords of Daytona. It was a relaxing day because most of the stressful work was done. It wasn’t exactly the calm before the storm, but it certainly wasn’t a nose-to-the-grindstone day. It wasn’t the type of day to shout out questions above the din of the mob.

Actually, I wasn’t about that life, anyway.

I’m not a press-forward-and-be-pushy kind of writer. I’m a hang-back, let-the-young’uns-think-they-somebody, then slip-over-after-the-mob-has-dissipated-and-try-to-get-something-different kind of writer. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. I’m selfish. My way was a lot more fun. The longer I wrote about racing, the more I cared about having fun, and I rationalized this by convincing myself – “Self, you need convincing” – that, if it was fun for me, what I wrote would be fun to read.

That was the story to which I stuck.

Not anymore, of course, but I think this morning of all those friends, making their way through airport security, taking their shoes off, putting them back on, checking the boards to see if their flights are still on time, and pecking away at their text messages and tweets. Others are driving for half a day on Interstate 95, the road where sheer boredom is interrupted mainly by traffic cones. I always drove because I was going to be down there for anywhere from ten days to two weeks, and I wanted to take items like guitars and ice chests and slow cookers. One year I even bought a small slot-car track at the Family Dollar, and we raced all month at the condo, too.

Robert Earl Keen, with me and David Poole in the foreground, back during the old days that seem better and better.
Robert Earl Keen, with me and David Poole in the foreground, back during the old days that seem better and better.

The Daytona 500 isn’t just the biggest race. It’s the most enjoyable. Not necessarily the race. It’s so time-consuming that there’s more time for consumption.

I’ve gotten to where I enjoy it from afar, too. Maybe even more. I can hole up in my house the same way I could hole up in the Ormond Beach condo. I can go to the Presbyterian College game, where once I might drive over to Deland to see Stetson play. Going to a basketball game was a me-and-David-Poole kind of excursion, and when David died, among many more significant losses were those trips.

I can watch a movie at home instead of the cineplex on Williamson, on the way back from the track. I can go over to Clinton High tomorrow to chat with Andrew Webb, the new football coach, instead of Tony Stewart while he’s waiting to get his picture taken.

Thanks for reading what I write, even though it lacks some of its former immediacy. If my non-fiction bores you, my short fiction is on display at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, and the third step in my diabolical plan is for you to buy my books here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Another. Big. Day.

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, S.C., Thursday, June 5, 2014, 8:47 a.m.

Robert Earl Keen, with me and David Poole in the foreground.
Robert Earl Keen, with me and David Poole in the foreground.

 

This morning I read a Q&A with Rick Reilly in which he talked about his decision to give up sportswriting. He’s going to move to Florence, Italy.

I might drive through Florence, S.C., sometime this year.

Last night, I moped. I’d had a day that fell short of expectations. I’d spent more time playing my guitar in search of inspiration than making use of any actual inspiration. I read some Elmore Leonard (Swag). I stayed up to 2 a.m. watching the Boston Red Sox lose a rain-delayed game in the 12th inning. They got swept in Cleveland.

The Red Sox lost 10 straight, then won seven straight, and now have lost three in a row en route to Detroit. They’re the perfect team for me.

Big things seldom upset me. Big things build up. Little things set me off because my frustrations escape the banks. My sea levels had been rising.

Of all things, Don Zimmer died.

That little sentence sort of stands apart, doesn’t it? It seems irrelevant to the subject.

Of all the minor achievements that mark my career as a journalist, I’m probably proudest of what I wrote about Dale Earnhardt after his passing. I believe that greatness stands on its own merits. Even in the face of tragedy, I think it wrong to depict people’s lives dishonestly. I was proud of paying just tribute to Earnhardt without depicting him as someone he wasn’t. I don’t think that’s really a tribute. It’s a retroactive ass kissing.

I wrote of Zimmer what I felt I could. Unfortunately, it was in the form of tweets, which would be like writing of Gandhi, “He seldom dressed well.” I don’t know why I did it. I know better.

The two tweets:

Don Zimmer, by all accounts a fine man. He broke my heart managing the Red Sox and Cubs. As a fan, I’m still a little wounded.

Zimmer worked for many teams. Good guy. Loyal guy. In terms of managing, well, he worked hard. That’s all I can concede.

I know people loved him. It’s just all I could write without being insincere. What followed, of course, was an exchange, one I should’ve let lie, that came from one of those fans who, for some strange, masochistic reason, apparently hates many of the people he follows. I was “bitter” (as usual), and my timing was inappropriate, and I couldn’t wait to peck away at Zimmer’s corpse.

Me? I just thought I was being as nice to the man as my conscience would allow. Inappropriate? I just thought it honest.

So the guy played the “unemployment card,” and it was the second time in as many nights I had been assailed for not having a job from some corporation that deigned to provide a living for me. I shouldn’t have gotten upset. They’re the same people who accuse me of betraying NASCAR and “biting the hand that feeds me,” as if I was supposed to check the experiences of a lifetime at the media-center door.

NASCAR made my living? No. Writing about events and personalities honestly made my living. NASCAR and I lived on a two-way street.

In my heart, the death of David Poole in 2009 was more significant than Earnhardt’s loss. I respected Earnhardt and grew to understand him. David and I were buddies, two fat guys with a whole lot in common and a whole lot of areas where we didn’t see eye to eye. I never knew anyone with whom I had more and less in common. (Notice how I refer to one by last name and the other by first.)

Occasionally, David used to let me sit across the table from him.
Occasionally, David used to let me sit across the table from him.

In the aftermath of David’s death, I suppressed grief with amusement. I was struck by how almost no one paying tribute to him seemed to be talking about the person I knew. I laughed at how David would have laughed at the notion that most of those paying tribute to him were people he despised, and who despised him. I know it’s a strong word. David sometimes used strong words.

The best moment was when I was driving to Richmond after attending the visitation. Listening to satellite radio, I heard a prominent observer say, “What I will always remember about David Poole is that the man had no ego.”

I nearly swapped ends on I-85. David was one of the great friends of my life, but his ego couldn’t have been confined at Guantanamo.

I laughed and laughed and laughed. Amusement kept me awake all the way to Richmond. It also kept me from crying, I expect.

Earnhardt was a great race-car driver, not St. Francis of Assisi. David was a textbook journalist. He was more dedicated than I, and fortunately, he appreciated my sense of humor. David went off on most everyone except me, which I took as a great measure of respect. I am embarrassed that I let myself be bothered. David would’ve lashed out for the rest of the week – not even allowing for how social media has skyrocketed since his death – and angry critics would’ve converged on “live chat rooms” – remember those? – like seagulls seeking bread crumbs.

I would have had great fun watching.

Instead, I feel like a damned weakling, letting my poor feelings get hurt, sulking, lips poked out and other terms of derision my grandmother used to use.

For the record, mean-spirited assholes, I’m self-employed, not unemployed. My job expired. They needed the bucks. As the Statler Brothers sang: “Whatever happened to Randolph Scott has happened to the industry!”

I’m not groveling. For the first time, I’m doing exactly what I want to do. Writing fiction is the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had. I have to get better at making a living from it, but I’m making progress.

Thanks for all the support, folks. I’m just embarrassed at stirring it up. I’m not really a bad guy in spite of what is contained in my writing. If you really want to help me, buy a book, preferably one of mine. And keep those tweets and posts coming, you hear? Tell ‘em Monte Boy sent you.