Gimme That Old-Time Promotion, It’s Good Enough for Me

The Talladega draft. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, May 4, 2017, 6:25 p.m.

It occurred to me yesterday morning. What NASCAR needs is a ground game.

Monte Dutton

Just hand the ball to Jimmy Brown, or pitch it to Gale Sayers. (It’s not that I’m old enough to use the names of heroes many today know nothing about. I take relish in it. There was really no need to use this comparison at all. By ground game, I meant the kind politicians talk about, the one that used to be called “getting out the vote.”)

NASCAR needs to put fannies in seats. Empty seats don’t buy hot dogs. They don’t even stand up to hear Restless Heart perform the national anthem.

Oh, the excuses.

It was a tad warm. It was a little cool. The race takes too long. I might miss The Walking Dead. The wi-fi’s slow. Some tickets are cheaper than they were five years ago. All sports are experiencing a slump (which explains the 5,000 who watched Alabama play Auburn … in volleyball.)

TV is all that matters. Never mind that TV ratings are swooning, too.

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

NASCAR has managed to run off its once-loyal fans, and the ones who straggled in when it became fashionable are now really into mixed martial arts. Or, hell, they might spend all their free time watching President Trump.

For the umpteenth year in a row, the Emperor spent the offseason buying new clothes, and once again, more and more people notice he’s really naked.

If tracks disassembled, detonated, and melted more grandstands into scrap metal, they’d be phone booths. The goal, openly divulged, is to increase the market value of the remaining seats. In other words, it will be easier to charge $100 apiece for them if there are fewer.

What would I have done? I’d have left those desolate grandstands on the back stretch, recruited scout leaders, baseball coaches, bandleaders, Campfire Girls, Future Farmers of America, Beta Clubs and the Royal Ambassadors of the Baptist church to sell the tickets for 10 bucks a pop, let the kids keep $5 of each ticket for themselves or their organization, park the buses and expose them to racing, no matter if the whole program did no better than break even.Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

The first step in rebuilding this fan base is getting them while they’re young. If the only way kids watch is on TV, it’s the most they’re ever going to do. No one has to make them think that being there is important. Being there really is important. They’ve got to feel the vibrations, smell the fumes, hear the fury of powerful engines, and experience the pulse quickening that unfurls with the wave of a green flag.

It’s breathtaking. Take some breaths.

That’s what I mean by a ground game. Turn out the fans. Don’t just open the gates.

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).

What a Way to Run a Railroad

"It's just super to have another chance at an intimate conversation with you guys." (Sean Gardner/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
“It’s just super to have another chance at an intimate conversation with you guys.” (Sean Gardner/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Gotta an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, January 13, 2015, 12:03 p.m.

Soon, NASCAR will consist of more than lurid details of lawsuits. Soon, what you will find ascending through your social media feed will be more than the umpteenth list of “Biggest Stories of 2014,” “Ten Races to Remember,” “Who’s Poised for a Comeback in 2015?” and any other work of art that will enable its author to figure out a way to attach “#junior.”

There is a new car. It appears there will always be a new car.

mug Dutton Monte 2_WEBThings could not be better. As the concerted seat-elimination program continues, at some point soon, all the races will be sellouts again, and if that turns out to be thirty thousand, so be it, and it doesn’t matter, anyway, because NASCAR prefers to disseminate attendance by means of buoyant tweets.

“Wow. I must say, this is quite a crowd.” It’s like listing the time of an Olympic gold medalist as “extraordinary,” the silver “very fast,” and the bronze “fast.” In NASCAR, of course, the bronze would be “third quick.”

Remember, not too long ago, when it seemed as if declining demand would have the effect of greatly reducing ticket prices? That was supposedly the way capitalism worked, and, at Christmas time, ten-buck seats on the back straight, and free parking, danced in the heads of those whose incomes were fixed. They didn’t know NASCAR would fix the problem by turning free enterprise the other way. Raise the demand by reducing the seats! Has a nice ring to it, sort of like, oh, Remember the Alamo!

Henry Higgins said to Eliza Doolittle, “By George, you’ve got it!”

I want conditions to get better! It is my fondest goal that those hundreds of thousands of seats will be needed again, and they’ll all be stacked in some deserted railyard, rivets rusting and paint fading. Is there a way to use old grandstands for fracking? For building a Keystone Pipeline? For counter-terrorism? I can’t say. Maybe they traded them, even up, for canvas and vinyl, the better to make huge banners.

Alas, a great deal of melting down is probably required. It might cost NASCAR a dime.

This was my favorite race of 2014. Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning at Martinsville when Jeff Gordon, his teammate, needed it more. (Garry Eller/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
This was my favorite race of 2014. Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning at Martinsville when Jeff Gordon, his teammate, needed it more. (Garry Eller/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Times will never be happier than for the next month, while Casey Mears is a Chase contender, and, if everything falls just right, those kids, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick, could be right there in the hunt.

Of course, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, and Tony Stewart aren’t just going to move over. I could have included others, but then Junior wouldn’t have been first alphabetically.

Forgive my pessimism at a time of optimism. I should be more mindful of potential web hits. I should be trying to get the season off to a great start, writing stuff that will make the rich and powerful smile. Oh, guess what? I won’t even see any of them. The most rich and powerful person I know is, oh, probably, the local sheriff, and I try to see him even less than Brian France.

I must make the same adjustment everyone else does. I’ve been watching football, ice hockey, basketball, and several other sports where occasionally broadcasters criticize. The NASCAR form of criticism is the dull silence in the booth while all hell breaks out. I’m not trying to be mean. It is my honest belief that shameless boosterism is killing the sport as much as anything else.

NASCAR is no different than any other sport, only faster. It leads the way in vacuous marketing, not-so-subtle media control, and human beings who might as well be the machines they guide and the tires they roll.

To his credit, Kevin Harvick is among the last of the red-hot humans.  (Christa L. Thomas/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
To his credit, Kevin Harvick is among the last of the red-hot humans. (Christa L. Thomas/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

The way out is with humanity. NASCAR has trained professionals. Folk heroes went the way of the buffalo, and mainly it’s a result of habitat change. There’s room for newcomers, but only those who have been brain-scrubbed, teeth-straightened, and bored with a high-powered list of talking points.

NASCAR loves Dale Earnhardt so much that it has informally decreed never shall there be another. There were Jimmie Johnsons in 1965. There were Howard Spragues on The Andy Griffith Show, but only when they started showing it in color. Where once the sport had Barney Fifes, now it has Michael Scotts. And Brian Scotts. And a Larry Mac in a pear tree.

And I might as well watch it all from home because there isn’t nearly as much to gain from being there.


Quick-Draw and Babalooey

If my non-fiction doesn’t infuriate you enough, perhaps you can find a short story at that will make you apoplectic.

I’ve written two novels, but I once wrote books about NASCAR, and, to tell the truth, I’m thinking about writing another one. There’s a way, but, maybe, not a will. Here’s where you can buy my books, some of which are approaching antiquity: