‘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).

The Weekend That Was

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

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, September 13, 2016, 7:38 a.m.

On Sunday afternoon, I walked out of Bi-Lo humming the theme from The Rifleman. I have no idea why. I haven’t watched a rerun of it lately.

Bum-bum-bum-buh-BUM-bum, bum-bum-bum-BUM …

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

What a momentous weekend. So much was happening I went to the supermarket to think about nothing.

Like most weekends, it had its ups and downs. I like to say that things are seldom mediocre for me. Either everything goes right or nothing does, but, in truth, most days are in between. I just remember the good and bad ones more.

dscf3767Friday night’s Laurens District High School victory over Irmo was inspiring. Then word arrived that Clinton had lost in Aiken.

Presbyterian got drubbed at Chattanooga, 34-0. The Citadel upended Furman, 19-14. I watched both games on my laptop. Denny Hamlin won the caution-marred and wreck-filled Federated Auto Parts 400 in Richmond.

Mookie Betts energizes the ballclub. (Monte Dutton sketch)
Mookie Betts energizes the ballclub. (Monte Dutton sketch)

On the other hand, the Boston Red Sox are running wide open. With 19 games left, they lead the Blue Jays by two games, the Orioles by three and the Yankees by five. David Ortiz hit his 536th homer last night, tying Mickey Mantle. Mookie Betts has become my favorite major-league player, partly because he wears my old high school football number and partly because he is the most exciting player to watch since Ken Griffey Jr.’s prime. Maybe Willie Mays’. Last night Betts caught the Birds napping and dashed unexpectedly home. He performs such magic quite often.

Billy Dunlap announces plans for the Laurens County Sports Hall of Fame.
Billy Dunlap announces plans for the Laurens County Sports Hall of Fame.

On Monday, I attended a media conference announcing the formation of a Laurens County Sports Hall of Fame and drove home to write a story about it. Then I did my due diligence on the high school games – Abbeville at Clinton, Laurens at Boiling Springs, Laurens Academy at Cathedral Academy – and I’m going to give LDHS coach Chris Liner a weekly call shortly. Then I’ll call Clinton’s Andrew Webb at mid-morning and LA’s Todd Kirk either afterwards or tomorrow morning.

This Friday’s assignment is Abbeville (3-0-1) at Clinton (1-2).

Between tomorrow morning and Friday night, I get to work on my next novel. The rough draft rose above 30,000 words last week. The latest published novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is on Amazon Kindle sale for $2 until the end of the month. I should find out soon whether or not the fifth novel, Cowboys Come Home, is going to be published in the KindleScout program. My last two novels, Forgive Us Our Trespasses and Crazy of Natural Causes, have been published in that program, but I’m not sure Amazon is interested in a modern western. I hope so. It’s something completely different for me. I believe in it, and if it doesn’t get accepted, I’ll move on to Plan B. The nomination period – Amazon likes to survey what potential readers think of it – ends in two days (as these word are written). If you’ve got a few minutes to spare, and you haven’t done so already, I’d appreciate it if you’d consider nominating it here.

Obligations are closing in. In the next month, I’ve got a lot of record-keeping and paperwork to catch up on. I’ve got to prepare Cowboys Come Home for print release, regardless of whether or not Amazon chooses it for the KindleScout program.

Troy Dendy rushed for 216 yards.
Troy Dendy rushed for 216 yards.

For a free-lancer, my life has become rather regimented, which is mainly good. I don’t get out much, and feel lonely a fair amount of the time, but solitude has its advantages and observation is more important than interaction.

I’ve been a bit glum lately, but my highs aren’t that high nor the lows that low. I’ve just hunkered down. I’ve decided I’m doing what I do, it is my fate, my only workable option, and it’s not merely that I love writing – whether about a high school football game or a chapter of fiction about a quirky teacher’s first day of school – but it’s what I’m supposed to do, all I really know how to do at this stage of my life, and the best path, however snarled, to success.

(Steven Novak cover design)
(Steven Novak cover design)

Please visit the KindleScout site and consider nominating my fifth novel, Cowboys Come Home, for publication. You’ll find sample chapters, a short synopsis and a Q&A. Take a look at it here.

(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?

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is on Amazon sale at $2. Surely my work is worth that much of a gamble.

(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 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).

 

Perversely Perfect

If Ryan Newman wins the championship by taking his first checkered flag at Homestead, many will sigh with relief. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
If Ryan Newman wins the championship by taking his first checkered flag at Homestead, many will sigh with relief. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, November 10, 2014, 10:23 a.m.

Kevin Harvick’s fine NASCAR resume is notably lacking in a championship, Winston or Sprint, and he has his best chance by far next week when the series visits Homestead-Miami Speedway for the final race. Of course, by rule (as referees and umpires are fond of saying), his chance is only one in four. As Harvick is coming off his fourth victory of the season – he is practically an honorary Sun Devil, what with four victories in his last five races at Phoenix International Raceway – many will cast him in the favorite’s role.

Kevin Harvick deserves to win a championship. Maybe, miraculously, he will. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick deserves to win a championship. Maybe, miraculously, he will. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

The other name that springs to the front is that of Joey Logano, who has two more wins and three more top-five finishes than the presumptive favorite. Neither, however, has particularly distinguished himself at the 1.5-mile track where the title is decided.

That brings us to the two drivers, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin, who have, by the wonder of the new NASCAR format, capitalized on the contrived format that now determines the champion. Hamlin has a lone victory. Newman doesn’t. No Cup champion has ever failed to win a race, and the format was ostensibly designed to make such a phenomenon impossible. This claim had already been undermined ever since some pesky compiler ran the 2013 results and determined it would have produced a winless champion.

Joey Logano is most useful of the four finalists. (Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
Joey Logano is most useful of the four finalists. (Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Perhaps the rationale was surely it can’t happen again! It can. Not only does Newman lack a victory; he’s only finished in the top five four times. Hamlin has seven top fives. Only by the wonder of the Etch a Sketch is it possible to conclude that either has had anything more than a disappointing season, but the aforementioned wonder is the only one that matters. If Jeff Gordon had had such a season and been able, like Newman, to make an unruly pass for 11th place on the final lap, he’d be cast as the favorite right now.

Denny Hamlin has competed for championships before but this year has benefited in particular from the new system. (Monte Dutton)
Denny Hamlin has competed for championships before but this year has benefited in particular from the new system. (Monte Dutton)

What this format really produces is excitement. Zany excitement. The kind invented by the Marx Brothers. The kind provided by a Final Four that includes both Ringling Brothers, Barnum, and Bailey.

That it will be. If Newman wins the championship, he will be Cinderella, and when the fireworks go off, three other cars will turn into pumpkins, and somehow, for the burly Newman, who looks like a high school linebacker, a glass slipper will fit, and someone at NASCAR will point out that, at the end of the day, it is what it is, and many will rejoice at the isness of the itness.

The process is exciting, unjust and gimmicky, which is to say, from NASCAR’s obvious view, perfect.

It’s sort of a shame that all the drivers who managed more than Newman and Hamlin – Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, even Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch – have to compete in the Ford 400. They should be allowed to watch from a mountaintop, impossible in south Florida though it may be (sorry, I’m still thinking Phoenix), and peruse the great works and deeds of those mortal in comparison.

It’s the bravest new world since Aldous Huxley sat down his pen.

Thanks for reading me. Give my short stories and essays a look at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com a look if you think of it. My books, fiction and non, can be considered and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1415634579&sr=1-1

 

Talladega by the Grace of God

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Those hills might have eyes. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
Those hills might have eyes. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Clinton, S.C., Sunday, May 4, 2014, 7:19 p.m.

Talladega Superspeedway is a track from a different time, a relic of when racers were a lot closer to astronauts and a lot farther from celebrities.

Oh, yes. When men were men and beauty queens were nervous.

In his all-too-brief life, Fireball Roberts never maintained a Manhattan townhouse or even once accepted a cameo role in a soap opera. He did personally attest to the robust and manly qualities of Falstaff beer, however.

Compared to other NASCAR productions, Talladega is an old movie, Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies, which opened in 1969, the same year the track did. It was released abroad as Monte Carlo or Bust!

In Alabama, it’s Montevallo or Bust!

The flick starred Tony Curtis. Who else? He’d already starred in The Great Race of 1965.

Denny Hamlin was the latest star to fall on Alabama. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
Denny Hamlin was the latest star to fall on Alabama. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Denny Hamlin, meet Chester Schofield (Curtis), who won the Monte Carlo Rally by being pushed across the finish line by his girlfriend and co-driver, Betty (Susan Hampshire).

Hamlin won under caution on Sunday. Other than that, it was a remake.

A fine mess Brad Keselowski has got himself in. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
A fine mess Brad Keselowski has got himself in. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Getting back to the astronaut analogy, drivers really do sound as if they are at the mercy of Mission Control.

“I don’t know what happened.”

“You really can’t do anything.”

“It’s just a matter of time.”

They are just along for the ride, apparently fired down some long barrel by a trigger-happy crew chief and a spotter with a joy stick. It’s not the way it happens. It’s just the way it sounds, as if 43 drivers blast off into space in their own, individually decorated Mercury space modules, bump and bounce, sometimes spin for no apparent reason and certainly do nothing that could be attributed to having a steering wheel in their hands.

What happened? “Uh, ah ‘on’t know.” There’s a frequently used word, “idiot.” Everyone on the track knows one, and it’s always someone else.

Oh, the humanity! And the smoke, and fire, and twisted metal! (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
Oh, the humanity! And the smoke, and fire, and twisted metal! (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Even Brad Keselowski, blamed on Sunday by everyone except Rep. Darrell Issa, said he was sorry but wasn’t too forthcoming in just what it was he did. He tangled with Danica Patrick early and apparently everyone else late, but not even he really threw himself at the mercy of the court.

“I just spun out in front of the whole field,” he said. “I don’t know why, if I just busted my butt on my own or lost a tire, but I feel bad for everyone that got torn up.”

Drivers often speak of their cars as if they have human characteristics. “The car didn’t like that last set of tires.” “This hot rod’s mood sure improved when it cooled down a little.” They speak of Talladega as if the coiled ribbon of asphalt has the malevolence of a rattlesnake. They insist they aren’t scared of it, bravado being indigenous to the racer’s habitat.

Sometimes, if you didn’t know better, you’d think the hills had eyes.

When Hamlin crossed the finish line first, burned out his tires and made his way to the Lane of Victory and the Circle of Winners, apparently the Good Lord sure thought a lot of him.[cb_profit_poster sponsor1]