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).

Atlanta on TV and in Memory

The start of the Rinnai 250 Xfinity Series race. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, March 4, 2017, 2:17 p.m.

I love Atlanta. I love Griffin, where I stayed in the Best Western for most of 20 years, and I love Hampton, where Atlanta Motor Speedway is, and where I used to play my guitar and sing my songs at the town farmer’s market, and I love an evening get-together at Minter’s Farm, where my friend and fellow expatriate sportswriter Rick Minter collects old farm contraptions and grows vegetables and Christmas trees.

He’s at the track. Like me, he still writes a little racing on the side, but he gets to be in closer proximity.

By Monte Dutton

I notice a Dillon just wrecked. I wrote a 5,000-word chapter and updated the outline. I read from a novel by a Georgia author. I played a little guitar. Darrell Waltrip has been blowing through the jasmine of my my-yi-yind. And a Dillon just wrecked.

If only I had a summer breeze, it would theoretically make me feel fine.

Michael Waltrip just said a driver is “making up for that first initial start.” No telling what will happen during his last initial start. Chase Elliott sounds great. So does everyone else in a TV booth with Michael Waltrip, but NASCAR has a Waltrip thing. I pick up the guitar.

Well, I’ll admiiitttt, I’ve got a Waltrip prob-LEMMMM!

I’d like to get back to the track. I’d better not step on any toes.

The original topic was how I love Atlanta. I have significantly digressed.

It’s the environment. Everybody around here talks the same way I do about NASCAR. I don’t even mention it anymore. I get tired of nodding my head. I got a crick in my neck last week at the high school basketball game.

Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch at Atlanta. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

The first time I watched a Cup, then Winston, race at Atlanta, then International Raceway, I went with a football coach, and Morgan Shepherd won. The first time I wrote about a race at Atlanta, it snowed a foot, and, several weeks later, Morgan Shepherd won. Two races, three weekends, and I could almost write Morgan Shepherd’s life story.

One year, the concrete floor of the media center had patches of solid ice. School kids were grazing all through the aisles. A bus was parked outside. The PR director came around, encouraging writers to go across the track to work in the press box. I asked him if My Weekly Reader needed more space. It wasn’t till I came back in the fall that he spoke to me again.

I age myself. Is there still such a thing as My Weekly Reader? I bet it’s digital.

I’d hate to walk up the steps behind the old press box, on what is now the opposite side of the track, mainly because I hated to walk up them then. That was where the most famous sportswriter in the South waved a white handkerchief because the PR director was delivering Lincoln’s Second Inaugural before he’d let Dale Earnhardt speak.

Hampton, Georgia, must be like Clinton, South Carolina, based on the millions of people who don’t go to the races at the track there. It’s not a lot like Clinton, South Carolina, because we don’t have but thousands around here.

I hope there’s progress when the Cup of Monster NASCAR Series holds its Sumpin Sumpin 500 if for no other reason than the damned thing is still 500 genuine miles. It’s allegedly 500.5 miles, but that really depends on the paths the winning car takes over 325 laps.

The Xfinity cars are in the second stage of finity, so, instead of overhearing Michael Waltrip, I think I’ll start watching the action.

(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.

(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.

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).

Baseball, Softball, and Other Important Stuff

Photos by Monte Dutton
Photos by Monte Dutton

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, April 29, 2016, 11:52 a.m.

It’s been a busy day. I’ve finally gotten the print version of my 2015 novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, out and available to the public. I might even get the new one, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, out by the end of the day.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Writing is what I do. It’s what I love. It might be the only thing I can do, as a practical matter to make ends meet, at this point in my illustrious career.

What I love isn’t layout, as the wretched years I spent doing that for a living attest. Now that this process is ending, and I’ve put out a collection of short stories, Longer Songs, too, I can get back to finishing my modern western, Cowboys Come Home, finished.

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

The reason Crazy and Trespasses were originally published as Kindle books — let me hasten to add that it doesn’t mean one has to have a Kindle to read it, thanks to the miracle of free apps for iThings and other cell phones and tablets — was that Amazon’s KindleScout program provided money up front. I retain the rights to the print versions, and by using another miracle, Amazon’s CreateSpace, by completing the layout and design of these books myself, I can get them published on demand and start making a little money month to month on their sales.

This isn’t the primary reason for this blog. It’s typical of me that I get past the digression in the fifth paragraph.

DSCF2804The playoffs have started. Last night wasn’t so much fun. Gaffney upended Laurens in the first round of Class 4A softball. A little Indian with a powerful right arm, Olivia Henson, beat the Raiders, 4-0, and Laurens didn’t help matters by playing poorly in the field. I’m very fond of LDHS’s folksy coach, Butch Clark, who, based on the final regular-season game, saw it coming. Last night he said his team couldn’t have beaten Hickory Tavern Little League, and when I suggested the tikes in Hickory Tavern, a crossroads most noted for used-car sales, might be insulted, he said he didn’t think they played Little League up there anymore.

Here’s my account of the game at GoLaurens.com.

It’s double-elimination, so the Raiders get a chance to make some amends tonight against Mauldin.

DSCF2321I won’t be there. I’ll be at the field known locally and unofficially as The Sponge, which will be replaced next year by a new facility with a grass infield, to watch the Clinton High Red Devils (20-1) take on Daniel. Clinton won its region (currently III-3A) for the first time in 22 years, and, regardless of what happens from here, the season has been extraordinary.

These last few days, most which have been spent amid the aggravating trial and repeated error of book layout, have found me feeling quite a bit like a bucking horse getting out of his stall when I backed the trusty Dakota out of the garage.

DSCF2802I enjoy getting out to write about ballgames. The kids at CHS and LDHS are as interesting as the race drivers about whom I used to write. I enjoy travel to Laurens more than travel to, oh, Detroit, or Manchester, or, especially Philly, scene of many long days of loitering in the airport waiting for delayed flights. Some of it I miss. Talladega was always fun on and off the track, but life goes on, and now I write books, but the fact that I still like writing sports is obvious given all these blogs I still crank out.

All I miss writing about NASCAR at home is seeing the delightful disorder in person.

Dale Earnhardt, last of the red-hot racers, 1978. (File photo)
Dale Earnhardt, last of the red-hot racers, 1978. (File photo)

The disappointment of the Raiders’ softball loss was assuaged by the fun of chatting with LDHS athletics director Mark Freeze on the landing at the top of the stairs outside the press box and trading old stories about Dale Earnhardt and others. Freeze is a lifelong racing fan who seems today to be like all the others I encounter.

Man, I used to go to races all the time. I never missed one at Charlotte, or Rockingham, or North Wilkesboro, and I went to them at Talladega till they started running in the fall while I had school to teach. On Sunday, I didn’t even watch the race on TV. I didn’t think about it, to tell the truth.

One doesn’t get that perspective at the track, surrounded by those who still follow NASCAR and are perplexed, mystified, and damn near crestfallen — it’s what happens when Hillcrest loses — that there still aren’t 150,000 in the stands and 40 million watching on TV.

Come to the country. They’re all playing a different tune nowadays. NASCAR’s angriest detractors are the folks who go to the dirt track on Saturday nights.

Josh. Full of mischief.
Josh. Full of mischief.

I wouldn’t be averse to a trip to Laurens County Speedway this Saturday night, but I’m obligated to watch the Columbia Fireflies play the Kannapolis Intimidators with my niece’s three delightful, fun-loving little boys — Alex, Anthony, and Josh — amidst all the bedlam that such activities imply.

 

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

Longer_Songs_Cover_for_KindleMy book of short stories, all derived from songs I wrote, is called Longer Songs, and you can buy it here.

The Audacity of Dope is a tale about a pot-smoking singer-songwriter who becomes a reluctant national hero. He prevents someone from blowing up the plane he’s on, and both hilarity and drama ensue. My first novel is an irreverent, fun read.

The Intangibles is my most personal. Set mostly in 1968, it draws on memories from my childhood and teen-aged years. It’s a story of civil rights, bigotry, and high school football.

Crazy of Natural Causes has a main character who is an outrageous football coach at the beginning, loses everything and has to start over. It’s a fable of life’s absurdity.

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

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a yarn about a corrupt, ambitious politician who wants to be governor and will do anything to achieve it. It has a parallel story of a good cop who’s trying to stop the monster and another of kids gone wild.

To peruse all my books, including most of the non-fiction ones from my NASCAR years, click here.

 

Trying to Reason with a New Season

(Getty Images for NASCAR)
(Getty Images for NASCAR)
Monte Dutton (Alex Howard photo)
Monte Dutton (Alex Howard photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, February 16, 2016, 11:54 a.m.

So far I’ve written a NASCAR column (it will appear later in the week, as if by magic, or even a website) and the first three paragraphs of a chapter, and I don’t quite feel ready to write that chapter’s final 99 percent, so I decided to turn to a task of unplanned destination.

This.

Lots of things are on my mind. Just not a lot on any one of them, at this particular point in time. Wouldn’t be prudent. Wait. Let me regain my balance. Members of the Bush family are orbiting around the state and exerting a gravitational pull on my mind.

Just when I thought it was safe to go back in the water …

Ah, as those who would hope to limit my First Amendment right would tweet, stick to racing.

Okay. But not because you want me to. And I can’t wait to see that next photo of a casserole.

Chase Elliott rolls in. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Chase Elliott rolls in. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
I like Junior if he's around. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevy Racing)
I like Junior if he’s around. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevy Racing)

Who’s going to win the Daytona 500? Oh, whoever stays out of trouble, and, probably, Dale Earnhardt Jr. if he’s one of them. In terms of the championship, the statistics suggest it will have little to do with what happens afterward. It means a lot in prestige and money, but in the latter regard, NASCAR will no longer tell us how much it is.

Once it was common for NASCAR to brag about money. Maybe they’re hiding it because it’s much more practical than hiding the winner of the race, it being on TV and all.

Sigh. I sigh a lot.

It would be nice to see that laugh again. (John Clark photo)
It would be nice to see that laugh again. (John Clark photo)

The Greek drama is Tony Stewart. The Greek comedy is everything else.

Only NASCAR could reduce the seating capacity of its most famous track and call it Daytona Rising. Only NASCAR could proclaim its new palace for the 21st Century the World’s First Motorsports Stadium, conveniently dismissing the world’s previous hundred thousand.

What about that cozy little speedrome in, aptly, Rome, where they raced chariots? Oh, yeah. Motorsports. They just had horsepower.

Michael Waltrip (John Clark photo)
Michael Waltrip (John Clark photo)

When that caution clock starts to wind down in the Camping World Truck Series, the theme of “Final Jeopardy” should play on TV. Then, if it expires, Michael Waltrip should say, “Every time the clock runs out, an angel gets its wings.”

The world has changed everywhere, not just in NASCAR. A long time ago, when men were men and beauty queens were nervous, and corporations spoke for racers and not vice-versa, when sportswriters started drinking beer before the gamer was done, and it wasn’t some high-dollar import, either, and a hard charger could lap the field without them fools in the tower sprinkling stardust and calling it debris, and letting everybody catch up, and it was harder to gain a lap that it was to lose one, and … and … and …

The last thing I remember, I was reading about Rip Van Winkle. Thank God I woke up.

(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’m expecting to be given a release date soon. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon 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

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font 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.

 

The Beautiful People

Kasey Kahne answers the question, "What would happen if Junior was a fireman?" (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
Kasey Kahne answers the question, “What would happen if Junior was a fireman?” (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, June 4, 2015, 10:52 a.m.

This morning was normal. I got up, took some medication, and got some coffee brewing. I checked email and social media. I fetched the coffee and sipped it thoughtfully. After a half hour of rumination, I prepared breakfast and consumed it. I shaved and showered, which was a bit unusual because I don’t often do that until I need to go out, and most days I write all morning and run errands in the afternoons. This morning I had an errand to run. Now I’m back.

"Kids, start your engines!" (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
“Kids, start your engines!” (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Kasey Kahne did an impression of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are going to have cameos in Sharknado 3.

Jeff Gordon was on whatever show it is that used to have Regis Philbin. Wait. Live with Kelly and Michael.

While driving around town, I heard Pete Pistone and Mike Bagley talking about how Montreal needs a Sprint Cup race because the fans are loyal and don’t mind sitting in the rain.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Jimmie Johnson is on Nick Jr.’s (it’s an animated show, not Nick Jonas’s son, if he has a son, and if not, some other Nick it’s not) The Wonder Pets! Oh, wait. It’s on regular Nick (I seem to remember it stands for Nickelodeon, not Jonas), and the show is Bubble Guppies.

Now I’m watching Bubble Guppies. The lengths I’ll go to write a blog.

The plot is quite convoluted. I see no reason to go through a chase scene with a friendly wolf just so Bubblepuppy can have a new house built because his old one got wrecked by a runaway shopping cart. Besides, that never happens except at Family Dollar. I just want to see if there’s Lowe’s “branding.”

There’s Jimmie! No out-and-out Lowe’s logos, but he’s got a house on his outfit, and it’s blue and white. That’s the Lowe’s logo in the United States of Bubble Guppies, apparently. I have determined that everyone will live happily ever after.

With the exception of Montreal – I’ve been there once – I have no interest in any of this.

Several images come to mind. One is Loretta Lynn singing “One’s on the Way”: They say to have her hair done / Liz flies all the way to France / And Jackie’s seen in a discotheque / Doing a brand new dance / And the White House social season is all glittering and gay / But here in Topeka the screen door’s a-banging / One needs a huggin’ and one needs a spankin’ and / One’s on the way.

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

Another is a commercial from my youth of David Pearson recommending that I use Pure Firebird gasoline in my car (which I didn’t have yet).

I’m told NASCAR helps “place” its drivers in such dramatic simulations.

It’s understandable why the drivers want to be celebrities. They meet the stars of stage, screen and Hollywood, most often because these stars show up at NASCAR races to promote their upcoming albums, movies, and TV shows.

Celeb: “Hey, Champ, it’s so cool hanging with you.”

Driver: “My pleasure. We should get together sometime.”

Celeb: “You know what. Come to the set. We’ll put you in a movie. You can get eaten by a flying shark.”

Driver: “Cool.”

My next novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, will be out soon. Maybe, once it tops the New York Times best-seller list and is spun off into a movie, I can become a celebrity, too. If only Letterman was still on.

In Bubble Guppies, Jimmie Johnson didn’t even drive a race car, but his appearance was designed to make kids interested in NASCAR again. I imagine a cute little kid going to his first race.

Ned Jarrett, 1965 (Ford Motor Company)
Ned Jarrett, 1965 (Ford Motor Company)

Mom: “Look, Cody, see that guy climbing into the No. 48? That’s Jimmie Johnson. He was on Bubble Guppies!”

Cody: “Ooh, really? When’s he gonna build Bubblepuppy a cool new house?”

Another image is of Dale Earnhardt in Bubble Guppies. Or Sterling Marlin. Or Harry Gant. Or Kenny Schrader.

“Build your own damn house! Ain’t got time for that [stuff].”

Fortunately, I’ll get plenty of knowledge of the real NASCAR this weekend, when the Flying Waltrips take over again.

While you wait in breathless anticipation for Crazy of Natural Causes, perhaps you might examine other books of mine, conveniently “branded” and available for sale here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

If Ever a Wonderful Wiz There Was …

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Bedlam in the pits following Jimmie Johnson's 10th Dover victory!  (Tim Parks/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Bedlam in the pits following Jimmie Johnson’s 10th Dover victory! (Tim Parks/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, June 2, 2015, 8:21 a.m.

The regular season is halfway done. In the summer, young men’s hearts turn to thoughts of … The Chase. As these next 13 races unfold, desperation will rise. The winless will steel their determination for a breakthrough.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

That’s the plan. The effect of the season’s first 26 races will be to winnow down the Sprint Cup championship-eligible elite to … 16. Should 16 drivers have a shot at the title? Will there be that many who are worthy?

As Rocky Balboa once said to Adrian Pennino, “You think this smells like a man? I say absolutely not.”

It is the format Brian the Groovy has given us, and there will be excitement because there isn’t any other way.

"So what's gonna stop us? An iceberg?" (David Tullis/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
“So what’s gonna stop us? An iceberg?” (David Tullis/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Jimmie Johnson just won his fourth race of the season, his 10th in Dover, Delaware, and the 74th of his illustrious, and, in some ways, unprecedented career. He seems to be steaming toward a seventh championship.

Unfortunately, he is at the helm of the Titanic.

The season to date has been a common NASCAR battle between Johnson, the irresistible force, and Kevin Harvick, the immovable object. Johnson has won four to Harvick’s two, but Harvick has finished second seven times.

Jeff Gordon is struggling. Tony Stewart is struggling as few drivers of his stature ever have. Matt Kenseth is hanging in there, as he is wont to do. Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski have lost their pocket knives. Kurt Busch is in one kind of recovery and Kyle another. Greg Biffle is struggling a little less. Carl Edwards, incredibly, has his win in the bank.

Martin Truex, Jr., Goodyear shod and ready for battle.(Alan Marler/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex, Jr.: It is to persevere. (Alan Marler/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Surely, Martin Truex Jr. is bound to win a race because he is running out of possible ways not to. Denny Hamlin could win it all if he gets his golf game straightened out. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has taken the second spot in the Hendrick Motorsports pecking order, and there shall he stay. Only in NASCAR could a competitor wind up first in the sport and second on his team.

Two road courses are ahead. God knows who’ll win them.

Variety is in the immediate future. It’s a weekly entertainment trade magazine owned by Penske Media Corporation.

Next is Pocono, one of the world’s great anomalies: the triangular oval. It’s difficult. It’s a bit Indianapolitan, pass the English peas, and bless this food that the race is only 400 miles. Then it’s California in Michigan, whereas, earlier was there Michigan in California. Don’t believe me? Keselowski won.

"When you wish upon a Chase, makes no difference, just win a race!" (Tim Parks/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
“When you wish upon a Chase, makes no difference, just win a race!” (Tim Parks/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

“Up this hill and down, and up this hill again.” That’s Sonoma, and, as Faron Young sang, “I’d like to thank the men who raise the grapes way out in California, and I’m hoping this will be their biggest year.”

Daytona. “In the summertime, when the weather is hot, you can stretch right up and touch the sky.” Carry on, Mungo Jerry. “Have a drink, have a drive, go out and see what you can find.”

Notice how I can get more out of quoting lyrics than the races these days.

Ryan Newman should be smiling. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman should be smiling. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Perhaps it’s just the futile knowledge that, no matter how much Johnson, or anyone else between now and November, dominates, it’s still going to come down to four drivers, dead even, one race. Last year Ryan Newman finished second in the points. Newman is doing just about the same this year so far, making the best of mediocrity. He’s got four top fives. He’s got eight top 10s. He’s 13th in the points.

He’s averaging slightly over one lap led a week.

Nothing against Newman. In his way, by getting the most out of his equipment, he deserves praise.

A championship? Not so much.

It’s just like all the other sports. Really? I’m looking forward to the college football championship game, you know, the one matching Alabama and Wyoming. Or the Final Four of Kentucky, Wichita State, Santa Clara, and Radford. If Radford gets hot at the right time, the Highlanders could win it all. Stranger things have happened.

In NASCAR. That’s where.

My third novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, will be published soon. I have a new short story up at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com. My previous books are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

As Much As I Try, I Just Can’t Say

Views of NASCAR seem a little distorted.(Rusty Jarrett/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Views of NASCAR seem a little distorted.(Rusty Jarrett/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

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Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, May 11, 2015, 10:55 a.m.

Last week I bumped into an old friend in town. He was just back from Talladega, where he had camped in the second turn, and was quite happy at Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s victory. He told me he was setting up camp at Charlotte this Thursday.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

He went to Martinsville, too, and I’m almost certain he’s going to be at Darlington in September when the Southern 500 returns to Labor Day weekend. In fact, I know lots of people who swear to me they’re going back to Darlington if they haven’t been going there already while NASCAR was swapping its dates to the lowest bidder.

I talked to another friend on the phone Sunday. He said the racing was so bad in Kansas that he left the house when it started raining (in Kansas, not Georgia) and went to a nearby dirt track. He had a ball, came back home, and got depressed again, only it was that deep, dark depression that comes from watching something in the wee hours.

Opinion about NASCAR is sharply divided, even, and perhaps particularly, among those who love it the most.

The name of a Charlie Robison song just came to me: “These are desperate times.” It’s about a guy who robs a bank in cahoots with his wife, who is a teller, and at the end, he gets caught because she turns on him to the feds, and, when he asks her why, she says, “It wasn’t easy, Jack, but these are desperate times.”

Kevin Harvick leads Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Kansas in 2014. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick leads Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Kansas in 2014. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

I was singing along to this song while I was listening to it on my iPod, circling the yard on a grass-cutting mission. Some people who live in the nearby apartment complex might think I’m crazy since they can’t hear what I can hear through my sound-proof headphones, which are red because I bought them when it was still the Winston Cup.

When I started wearing those headphones cutting grass, I was plugging them into a transistor radio.

I have one friend who likes NASCAR as much now as he did 10 years ago. He likes it more than high school football, and, once upon a time, he was real good at playing that.

Lots of them still like it, just not as much, which is why I reckon they tend to watch it on TV instead of go see it live, and I don’t care how great fellows named Waltrip keep telling them it is, they’ve gradually stopped buying it.

I used to watch it from there. Now I watch it from here. Both ways I watched it for pay. Either I’ve got a great perspective or the worst one possible.

I’d appreciate it if you’d give my, uh, literary web site, www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, a look from time to time, not to mention the occasional consideration of my books at: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

You can nominate a third novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, for publication here: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/1H8P26P38KYW8

 

A Jedi Wins at Poker

Jimmie Johnson (right) congratulates Geico 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr.  (Rusty Jarrett/HHP photo  for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson (right) congratulates Geico 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Rusty Jarrett/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

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Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, May 4, 2015, 11:02 a.m.

It’s okay to like restrictor-plate racing.

Really. It is.

In this age, it’s popular to say fans don’t go to the races to see the wrecks. It’s popular and also untrue. It’s laudable. It’s the same way people claim they want more local news in their paper but wouldn’t read a story about the school board if they were standing in front of a firing squad.

Or the school board.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

As I’ve written many times, and as recently as last week, fans don’t come to see death. They come to see death defied. No track is more defiant than Talladega Superspeedway.

Plus, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won. All it cost fans was the price of admission. Over the weekend, a few bones cracked, lots of metal crumpled, and everyone got what they came for, which was, in many cases, the No. 88 winning and a chance, several times, to say, “God Almighty! I hope everybody’s all right.”

The Geico 500 was survival of the fittest. The fittest was Earnhardt Jr. What could be better than that?

Undoubtedly, these words are going to produce several who will say they absolutely do not want to see wrecks, just a good, clean race, but yet the grandstands were mostly filled, unusual these days, and I’m guessing the television ratings will see a nice, healthy boost. (As it turns out, I was guessing wrong.)

Most sports produce cringes of excitement. It’s not much different from football. Few of those fans claim they hate bone-jarring hits. They hate it when people get hurt, but it’s a distinct possibility.

People were disappointed in the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. Why? Not enough hits, as best I can gather. I haven’t had much interest in boxing since it left Muhammad Ali punch-drunk, but I liked it up until then.

I guess there are hockey fans who don’t like fights. Watch the background on replay, though, and observe them. Not many are shrinking in revulsion. More are watering at the mouth, and a few are foaming.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., triumphant. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., triumphant. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

If anything bewildered me, watching the Geico 500, it was how the racing seemed reversed or, at least, premature. For the first three quarters of the race, the action was two, three, and four wide, and I was wondering, do these drivers know the race has 100 more laps to run?

Then, at the end, they all got in one line, and anyone who didn’t conform to this rather moribund sense of order all seemed to get punished for it, and I was wondering, do these drivers know it’s almost over?

What happened to, well, if you can’t win the race, at least tear up the car?

Oh, they tore up some cars on the last lap, anyway, perhaps as a result of some of those who had taken a chance trying so hard not to be punished for it that … they got punished for it.

Talladega is a great center of the very barbarism that lingers in society and somehow inspires it to advance in the 20-car Draft of Life.

Life is hard, no matter where you go. It’s a tortured path. Tough roe to hoe. Yes. It’s from one of my songs, “The Paved Road,” which has little to do with NASCAR, or at least I wasn’t conscious of it when I wrote it.

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)

The notion that anyone can win at Talladega and, to a slightly lesser extent, Daytona, is true but not overly enlightening. Inexperienced drivers think it, but, over time, the good ones get a special knack for nuance at a place that seems about as nuanced as an artillery barrage. Some are better than others. Some develop patience at a place that seems about as patient as flailing at a baseball that’s bouncing in the dirt.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is such a driver. His father, the late Dale Earnhardt, was such a driver. Junior once finished first or second in seven consecutive Talladega races, winning five of them, but, then, for slightly over a decade, playing Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi didn’t seem to work … until Sunday, when the Force was essentially a teammate, Jimmie Johnson, covering him in another Starfighter.

Return of the Jedi?

That metaphor wears a little thin. The race fell more like a poker game. They dealt and redealt the cards all afternoon, and, at the end, Earnhardt Jr. got a great hand and could stand pat while everyone else was rummaging through their pockets, discarding cards and drawing others, trying and ultimately failing to stay in the game. It didn’t hurt Earnhardt that most of them mainly bluffed.

The father was coy while performing at his best track. He left a lot unsaid. About the best he’d reveal was a knowing glance.

Earnhardt Jr. summed up his victory perfectly.

“I certainly hope [the victory] was a little bit of me,” he said, “but I know it was a lot race car.

“The car gives you the confidence to make the moves that make you look good. It’s the car really making it happen, but you’ve got to know what to do with it. You’ve got to put [the car] in those situations where it can excel, you know, and it can do the things it’s capable of doing. It doesn’t happen on its own.”

A pit-road penalty cost Jeff Gordon, (Andrew Coppley/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
A pit-road penalty cost Jeff Gordon, (Andrew Coppley/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Drivers like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart had the boldness, not the help. What happened to them happened on its own, or, rather, their own.

The surprise of the race, rookie Ryan Blaney, didn’t have the help, either. Some will criticize him for just staying in line and behaving, but there was no way drivers who wouldn’t help Stewart or Gordon were going to take a dive of faith with Blaney, who had to be aware that other drivers were treating his Wood Brothers Ford as if it were radioactive all day.

Had the rookie gotten crazy, he likely would have wound up in the mass of spewing smoke and crumpling metal.

Blaney played it right, and the right guy, Earnhardt won, and now everyone can sigh and thank the Lord for a good, safe race.

Thanks for checking out this website from time to time. If you find yourself yearning strangely to read a short story or book review, I’d appreciate your patronage at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, and, then, stage three would be for you to actually materially invest in my writing by buying one of my books here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

Help me get a new novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, published by nominating it here: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/1H8P26P38KYW8

 

The Talladega Frontier

Kasey Kahne (5) and Ryan Newman racing at Talladega on Oct. 19, 2014. (Alan Marler/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne (5) and Ryan Newman racing at Talladega on Oct. 19, 2014. (Alan Marler/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

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Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, May 1, 2015, 9:30 a.m.

When I think of Talladega Superspeedway, I wonder if it’s changed since my streak of 40 straight races there ended in 2012. And, if so, how much it’s changed.

I’m not talking about the races. They rise and fall. Rules change, and each time they do, the racing changes, but it’s always exciting, perilous and fraught with the anticipation of doom at any second.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I can’t even remember who it was, but someone asked me the other day if he should go to Talladega, and I told him, yes, it was an atmosphere he should experience at least once. I told him, if he went, to take binoculars because it’s a gigantic place, and one of the first impressions is just how vast is the distance looking across the infield to the back straight.

Talladega, though, is a unique experience. It’s sort of how Myrtle Beach is at the beginning of June, when all the recent high school graduates converge looking for trouble and forbidden fruit.

The beach has the ocean. Talladega has the infield.

At the places where the schoolbuses are an endangered species, NASCAR has gotten too big for its britches. If it takes a family that can afford a posh motor coach to afford a weekend in the infield, then the sport is shooting itself in the foot.

If a man can spend the weeks leading up to the track’s two Sprint Cup races fixing up his bus – painting it black and silver and scattering tilted “3’s” on the sides, bolting down another bed bought secondhand, putting some sort of hydraulic lift on the back to store a gas grill and an ice chest, a ladder on the side, railing on the top – and gathering all his working-class buddies to pretend together they are all still young enough to party, then the track is healthy.

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)

They can still be found at Talladega, Charlotte, and Darlington, where they are the heart of the crowd at the scene of the crimes, but the old riffraff is getting older and there don’t seem to be many young bohemians to take their places. I think they’re still there, but I haven’t been to those tracks in two and a half years or more, and the times are changing fast.

Some local kids probably don’t even go to the race. They cruise on the highway out front on Friday and Saturday nights, idling along with their sweet babies sitting alongside, whooping and hollering “Juuuuunyerrrr!” and either “Roll Tide!” or “War Eagle!”

Once I was leaving the track, stuck in traffic behind an old camper bolted onto the bed of a pickup, and a kid balanced himself precariously on the roof, carrying a water-filled condom in one hand and a can of beer in the other, and somehow, he kept his balance and managed to fire that balloon skyward with a huge slingshot. I was in a rental car that featured a sun roof, and I looked up through it, watching that water-filled condom soaring through the darkening sky and judging it as if it were a pop fly, and it landed on top of the Malibu stopped next to me. The man driving the Malibu was too old for that crap, and he yelled at the kids, and I thought for a minute there was going to be a scene, but the traffic moved, and the man settled down, I reckon, and it was probably another few minutes before those kids got in more trouble, but I’m guessing it happened because that was obviously their goal.

Auto racing fans don’t go to see death. They go to see death defied, and that defiance is so strong that it makes some of them want to live life at their own brand of risk. It’s a miracle more of them don’t get hurt, or at least arrested, but, like the risk takers on the big, coiled blacksnake of a track, they live on to pursue further adventures at rock concerts, Bama and Auburn games, hunting big game, and barbecues far enough out in the country that the cops will let them be to play their other games.

Some of the fans grabbed some Buds one time when Jeff Gordon won. (Monte Dutton sketch)
Some of the fans grabbed some Buds one time when Jeff Gordon won. (Monte Dutton sketch)

The last few times I wrote about Talladega, when I got through with my daily work, I drove over near turn two, where an old high school buddy had his tent set up, and his grill afire, and his cooler full, and I brought my guitar, and a few others, who always camped there and formed a brotherhood that got together twice a year, wandered over, and a few of them had instruments of their own, and then everyone got involved because someone had a karaoke machine, and I enjoyed the atmosphere, even though I didn’t stay all night and pass out on the ground. Before too late, I’d leave and go back to civilization in the form of a motel, and the next morning, I’d rise and have a nice breakfast, and some coffee, and I’d go back to the track and act responsible for the rest of the time.

Oh, the memories. Jeff Gordon’s winning car being pelted by full beer cans, landing like liquid grenades as the No. 24 whirled around and around in the grass. The little kid and his parents, sitting in front of the press box, making familiar, digitized gestures at Gordon. Several of us interviewed them. They were from Indiana, as I recall. The time Carl Edwards’ Ford almost sailed into the front-straight stands at the finish, and going down to that scene, and finding a man with red-and-purple welts up and down his left forearm, and holding up a yellow-painted spring from the wreck, and I asked him if he’d sit in that location again, and he said, “Oh, yeah. That’s part of it!”

I wonder if Carl Edwards ever signed that spring. (Jerry Markland/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
I wonder if Carl Edwards ever signed that spring. (Jerry Markland/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Then he asked me a question. “You reckon Carl would autograph this for me?”

“Oh, yeah,” I said. “I believe he would.”

My favorite Talladega moment occurred in 2002, when Tony Stewart was quoted in a magazine, FHM, as saying the fans at the track were the sport’s most obnoxious.

On race day, during driver introductions, in order to prove just how ridiculous Stewart’s stereotyping was, about 25,000 “mooned” him. I believe all those white buttocks might have supplemented the sunshine and made the track ever so slightly brighter.

Well, that showed him.

Tony Stewart probably wondered what was the big deal. (John Clark photo)
Tony Stewart probably wondered what was the big deal. (John Clark photo)

Call them riffraff if you must, but running off those rogues and rapscallions is part of the reason interest is down. NASCAR is no different from every other professional sport that has grown less interested in the sport of it and more concerned with everybody getting rich together except for those who are paying the tab.

Be safe down there, old friends. It’s too much to expect for you to be good, but be good enough. Have fun, but don’t get hurt and don’t hurt anyone else.

It’s about the same message the officials will deliver at the drivers’ meeting.

Give some of my short fiction a look at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, and I hope that – and this – will entice you to give a book or two of mine a read: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

The Usual Suspects Number Two

The No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson has a target on it, but it's too far away to hit. (Andrew Coppley/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
The No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson has a target on it, but it’s too far away to hit. (Andrew Coppley/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

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Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, April 13, 2015, 7:15 p.m.

I had a bit of a “Eureka moment” this morning.

The racing at NASCAR’s intermediate tracks has fallen into disfavor, and I was wondering why. By intermediate track, I’m referring to those that are intermediate in several ways. They are 1.5 to 2.0 miles in length, ovals by approximate configuration, 14 to 24 degrees in banking, and unrestricted in power.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

They comprise about 44 percent of the tracks and 39 percent of the races, the difference reflecting the fact that not every track has two annual points events.

As seems the case with every great burning issue in NASCAR and a goodly percentage of those elsewhere, it’s much easier to list the problems than it is to assign importance.

Among the reasons frequently mentioned are, in no particular order: (1.) the simple, intuitive “the racing stinks”; (2.) whoever is in front invariably pulls away; (3.) not enough passing; and, (4.) too many tricks designed to make it look better than it is.

We now live in a world where some approve of debris cautions even if they are bogus. If they bunch up the field for a few laps and inject some strategy, more and more fans are basically saying to NASCAR, “More power to you.”

I’m not willing to call for institutionalized corruption myself. If they’re waving a caution flag for competition reasons, be honest about it. Early in races, they have “competition cautions” many weeks. I often refer to them as “lack of competition cautions,” but at least they’re honest.

Kevin Harvick has won three of the past six races on intermediate tracks. Johnson won the other three. (Garry Eller/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick has won three of the past six races on intermediate tracks. Johnson won the other three. (Garry Eller/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Forget about all that, though. What occurred to me, lying in bed, half asleep, pondering whether or not I ought to sleep a little longer, was that what is most wrong at the intermediate tracks is their predictability. I think Denny Hamlin’s post-race remarks at Texas may have spurred my thought processes.

Perhaps Hamlin was a bad influence, but here’s what he said:

“Stats don’t lie, and the stats say that those guys (Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson) … [are] going to be capable of winning right now. To be realistic, we need stuff to go our way. We need cautions and track position. We just can’t drive through the field like that — what those guys are capable of — and we’re a work in progress.

“From ideas to design to on the race track is six months, and sometimes it’s a year, and I’m confident, though, that by the time we get to the Chase, we’re going to have something that’s capable of running with those guys. We don’t right now.”

Why is Kurt Busch smiling? He seems fast enough but hasn't managed to pull off a win yet. (Garry Eller/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Why is Kurt Busch smiling? He seems fast enough but hasn’t managed to pull off a win yet. (Garry Eller/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

I’d add Kurt Busch to the “cut above” category. The Penske Fords, driven by Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, are close. The remaining Hendrick Chevys – Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, and Kasey Kahne – are within range. So is the sport’s most notable underdog of the moment, Martin Truex Jr., and the Gibbs Toyotas of Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, and, at present, David Ragan. The Ganassi Chevys of Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson have their moments.

Still, when a race starts on an intermediate track, right now, it appears as if either Harvick or Johnson is going to win. This has some basis in fact, particularly if one narrows the track definition to the 1.5-mile tracks, where either Harvick or Johnson has won the past six. Each has won three.

It will get better. It could scarcely get worse.

Here’s my theory. The biggest reason for the dreary expectation is that there aren’t enough drivers and cars, at present, that can win.

The tracks aren’t made from one “cookie cutter,” as is often claimed, but three: (1.) the Bruton Smith model (truncated tri-ovals with sharp angles), (2.) the D-shaped model (rounded trioval, less banking), and (3.) the Michigan model (similar to No. 2 but slightly longer). Homestead-Miami isn’t a tri-oval but belongs in the class as the only unique one.

At Atlanta, Charlotte, Vegas, Texas, Kansas, Chicagoland, Auto Club, Michigan, Kentucky, and Homestead, the favorites are Harvick and Johnson. Someone else might win. Strategy affects the outcome, but if the end of the race is near, and Harvick or Johnson is out front, the heavy odds are that Harvick or Johnson will win.

The field of contenders is much broader at the plate tracks, the flat tracks, the short tracks, the road courses, and Darlington, which, of course, is a marvel unto itself.

Martin Truex Jr. leads Ryan Newman at Kansas Speedway last fall. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex Jr. leads Ryan Newman at Kansas Speedway last fall. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Someone like, oh, Clint Bowyer might win. Or Truex. Or Ryan Newman.

He might even do it by outrunning Harvick and Johnson.

At the tracks that most affect who will win the Sprint Cup championship, most teams are trying to pull rabbits out of hats.

Read my short fiction at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, and when, invariably, you love what you read there, undoubtedly you’ll want to buy some of my books here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1