‘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).

Spring Can’t Come Soon Enough

The Blue Hose men didn't win, but I thought they looked cool warming up. (Monte Dutton photos)
The Blue Hose men didn’t win, but I thought they looked cool warming up. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, February 27, 2016, 2:05 p.m.

No, it was not I. I've never even driven a Lexus.
Monte Dutton (John Clark photo).

This is my coldest time of the year. When there’s snow on the ground, I always get bundled up, but when I trudge out in late February for the season’s first ballgames, I underestimate. It’s warm and balmy when I leave the house, but then clouds whip by bringing chill wind.

Last year, when Presbyterian College played Wofford in baseball, I put some sausage in the bed of the truck because I thought it would freeze sooner than at home. Behind the plate, I wished I could start a fire with my scorecard.

DSCF2057The Blue Hose are playing someone now – Towson, I think – but I’m watching the women’s basketball version taking on Winthrop. Well, I’m watching a little. Mainly, I’m writing this blog.

Duh.

DSCF2052Doubleheaders are rare at Templeton Center, but the men are playing High Point afterwards. It’s a lovely day outside, and I’d likely be at the baseball game, but I’ve been watching the basketball teams all winter, and I thought I’d like to see their final home games.

Besides, I got a nice dose of baseball Friday night. Both kinds.

Laurens pitcher Jared Cvetko records a third out.
Laurens pitcher Jared Cvetko records a third out.

Laurens eked out a 19-2 verdict over Spartanburg Christian Academy in a game in which the Raiders got all the offense any team could need in four and a half innings. Then the Clinton Red Devils trotted out on the same field and no-hit the Emerald Vikings. Two pitchers combined for 16 strikeouts out of a possible 21 outs. Clinton started lefty whipsaw Tristan Smaltz, who faced 15 batters and struck out 12. Two walked and one reached on an error.

Clinton's Tristan Smaltz: 4 IP, 12 K's.
Clinton’s Tristan Smaltz: 4 IP, 12 K’s.

It’s a season-opening round robin hosted by the Raiders. I was on assignment. It was a long evening. I have no commitments today, and I felt more like driving four miles to PC than 12 to LDHS. Then I had to make the call of basketball over baseball, PC division, and I was sorely tempted to stay home and watch the Xfinity and Truck races from Atlanta. I’ll pay close attention to NASCAR tomorrow.

DSCF2054The Blue Hose currently lead, 22-12, in the women’s game. It appears likely they will improve to 16-11 overall, 12-6 in Big South Conference play. Small schools are prone to hyperbole. Presbyterian considers itself “a mid-major,” in spite of there being very few majors that are smaller, and it is a member of the Big South, which, in the greater scheme of the geographic region, isn’t particularly big.

By the way, word has arrived from Ed Prescott Field that the Red Devils have prevailed again, claiming a 7-1 decision over T.L. Hanna. Laurens is playing Greenwood even as I write.

Last night, Clinton head coach Sean McCarthy did not know his pitchers had twirled a no-hitter until I informed him. That’s called a scoop.

I didn't mention the Musical Chairs at halftime.
I didn’t mention the Musical Chairs at halftime.

6:56 p.m.

My timing was good. The Blue Hose women clobbered Winthrop, 77-44, and the men hung in there for a half, but I got little sleep last night and inexplicably got up early this morning, and I suspected what was coming, so I packed up my stuff and headed home at halftime.

High Point won the men’s game, 80-60, so either I smelled it coming or I jinxed the Hose. The baseball team beat Towson, though, 6-2. It was over before I left the Temp.

I felt a bit guilty.

One Busch, Kurt, starts on the Atlanta pole because the other, Kyle, had a car that failed to pass inspection.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett for Chevy Racing)
One Busch, Kurt, starts on the Atlanta pole because the other, Kyle, had a car that failed to pass inspection. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett for Chevy Racing)

I saw an untidy ending in a Truck race, but it was tidy for John Hunter Nemechek to win. I expect he was about 10 or so when I had dinner with him and his father at the buffet of a Las Vegas casino. It wasn’t organized. I just bumped into them, and Joe said, “Hey, why don’t you join us?”

If you’re interested in my stories about the high school baseball games, here they are:

http://www.golaurens.com/sports/item/23035-laurens-overruns-spartanburg-christian-19-2

http://www.golaurens.com/sports/item/23033-two-red-devils-combine-for-opening-night-no-hitter

(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. In the interest of peace, love, and understanding, I’d love for you to give one or two or (soon) four of them a read.

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

Another, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be out soon. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time. It’s got sex, drugs, corruption, murder, and frank language. Very little, if any, rock and roll, though.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

The Intangibles (2013) is based on boyhood memories and is set in a small Southern town amid the tumult of the 1960s. The Audacity of Dope (2011) is a freewheeling yarn about a pot-smoking songwriter who somehow becomes a national hero, and that comes with complications.

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

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. 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

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.