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).

A Stop on an Old Road

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, May 22, 2017, 11:15 p.m.

I’ve about got the reacquaintance out of the way. Last Saturday and this Thursday have exceeded my Charlotte Motor Speedway budget for handshakes.

By Monte Dutton

Huh. It just occurred me. No one bumped fists. High school athletes bump fists regularly.

The famous line from The Mary Tyler Moore Show comes to mind. It was the slogan of Chuckles the Clown:

A little song. A little dance. A little seltzer down the pants.

I find myself seeking out some and avoiding others. I remember the time, a little over four years ago, when my job was eliminated. Many peers rushed in to offer their encouragement. Others haven’t communicated as much as a word in all the time since. Some probably saw my plight as an unpleasant sign that the same fate might befall them. In the intervening years, it has happened, in many cases, but those people aren’t at the track now. Writing as a way to make a living has become a trip west on the Oregon Trail, and the business is run by Injuns. My dried-up skeleton is a symbol of impending woe.

A few probably don’t give a rat’s ass what became of me. There’s that.

I walked through the garage on Thursday at the end of Monster Cup practice. Many of the drivers retire quickly to their motorcoaches or the lounge in the transporter, or somewhere away from the madding crowd.

Lots of looks said, variously: (1.) “Don’t I know that guy?” (2.) “What’s he doing here?” (3.) “Is he still covering racing, and I just haven’t noticed?” and, of course, (4.) “He’s baaaaack.”

Then there’s the rash of the nicknames people use when they can’t remember a name:

Hey, there, buddy?

How you doin,’ sport?

What’s hap’nin,’ big time?

Hot shot, didn’t you used to be somebody?

Oh, yeah.

Then there are those who are vaguely aware of something about me. They might ask if I’m still playing guitar. When I say yes, they might say, “I heard you was.”

It’s been four and a half years.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Len Wood waved at me, but he was talking to someone who must have been important because they talked and talked. He smiled when he saw me, though.

Ryan Newman (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

I chatted with Ryan Newman a little, told him he ought to read my racing novel. I managed to squeeze that in several times. It was pretty easy because people kept asking what I was doing now.

I’m sure a few may have scratched their heads and asked somebody else, “Seems like I recognize that old fat-ass. What’s his name?”

“Well, it ain’t David Poole. Remember him? I think he died.”

That was in 2009. David and I used to keep tabs on how many times people thought he was I, and vice-versa. A heap of people think fat folks look alike.

A while back. (John Clark photo)

There’s so much to learn about those who have advanced since I retreated. The only times I’ve asked Kyle Larson questions were in media conferences. Ryan Blaney? I think the world of his father.

Chase Elliott? I feel like I know him, but I don’t. When I met his father, Bill was a big star. When I met his mother, Cindy was a photographer. I see Chase, from a distance, as a combination of his father’s skill and his mother’s pragmatism. Had Bill understood NASCAR, the media and fans as well in 1985 as his son does now, gosh, he’d probably be in the Hall of Fame. Oh, yeah, he is. Bill was Bill, still is, and his son came along in a different world, the same way Davey followed Bobby, Kyle followed Richard and Junior descended from Senior.

Unlike north and south, and east and west, the twain often meets in NASCAR. Take that, Kipling.

Here’s the column I wrote on Thursday at jeffgluck.com.

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).

 

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.

 

A Glut of Games

So, like, what's the deal? (Monte Dutton photo)
So, like, what’s the deal?
(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, January 3, 2016, 12:13 a.m.

I’m watching West Virginia play Arizona State in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl, which is aptly sponsored, and I feel I can say this with fairness because I’ve stayed in a few Motel 6’s in my day, and particularly over the past three years since my NASCAR-affiliated expense account ended.

In truth, I have probably slept on a friend’s couch just about as many times as I’ve spent the night in a motel room during that period, but, while Motel 6’s aren’t particularly memorable, I believe my most recent stay was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

All of which has little to do with the bowl game at a baseball stadium in Phoenix.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

What has kept me awake for this sad occasion is the possibility that West Virginia (7-5) and Arizona State (6-6) might wind up having a good game. The most inglorious bowl season ever — this would undoubtedly be hotly disputed by the orange-wearing throngs I encounter each time I venture outside the manse — is getting a little better.

After Houston beat Florida State by 14, and Clemson throttled Oklahoma by 20, and Alabama rolled past Michigan State by 38, and Tennessee devastated Northwestern by 39, and Ohio State clipped Notre Dame by 16, and Michigan decimated Florida by 34, and Stanford broke Iowa’s hearts by 29, and Ole Miss throttled Oklahoma State by 28 …

… Things picked up. Georgia held off a tepid rally by Penn State by seven, and after the Arkansas conquest of Kansas State by 23, TCU came from 31 points behind to edge Oregon in triple OT, and that — and a mug of strong coffee — got my adrenaline circulating enough to endure late-night triviality in Phoenix.

This is pointless, of course, if I touch-type my way through the rest of the game. A more prudent course would be to watch this game until I get sleepy and then resume this inelegant prose on the morrow, except, of course, it’s already after midnight, so the morrow has become today.

Wonder if he'll play today? (Monte Dutton sketch)
Wonder if he’ll play today? (Monte Dutton sketch)

12:48 p.m.

Now the pros are about to start. The early games here are dreary: Cleveland and Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Atlanta. The Panthers and Buccaneers are at 4:25 (EST). Carolina should win and had better, but that was also true last week. Green Bay and Minnesota tonight.

The Mountaineers managed to eke by the Sun Devils last night, 43-42, according to my DirecTV ScoreGuide. I didn’t make it. I tumbled off to sleep with the game on, but I was lying in bed, so that was inevitable. The games are blending into one another. By January 11, I’ll probably think Clemson is playing Oklahoma again instead of Alabama.

For years, I saved this old Shoe comic, in which the Perfessor was typing a pro football roundup on his typewriter (from which, presumably, it would be sent to a typesetter; I’m trying to roll back to newspaper days of antiquity): “The Packers pummeled the Bears, the 49ers shot down the Jets, the Rams trampled the Cardinals,” etc.

Then he scratched his head, thought a moment, and pounded out, “… and the Colts dekrelnificated the Browns.”

I’ve watched so many ballgames, it’s got me inventing words, too. Judoglious. Etatatapieish.

 

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

I’ve got to marshal my resources. It’s time to spread the word. This next novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is the best one yet because I’m gradually getting better at writing them. As a general rule, readers like my novels. I just need more readers. It’s a big pie out there — egg custard, I imagine — and the slices keep getting smaller. If you’re of a mind to help, whether by emailing, retweeting, sharing, reviewing, direct messaging, texting, or mentioning it to the English professor who’s pumping his own gas at the same time you are, by all means, do so. Left to my own devices, I’m a whiz at everything that doesn’t make money. I’m not greedy. That’s obvious, me being a writer.

Check out my other page, www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, every now and again. And join my Facebook group for loyal readers of my books, Similarly Crazy, or become my close personal friend through monte-dutton. I’m on Twitter @montedutton, slightly more irreverent @wastedpilgrim, and slightly more literary @hmdutton. Instagram? Why, Tug50, of course.

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

I ask a lot for a person from South Carolina.

Crazy of Natural Causes has only been out since late summer. It’ll only set you back $3.49. http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436215069&sr=1-1&keywords=Crazy+of+Natural+Causes

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

My first novel, The Audacity of Dope (Kindle version $2.99), is about a songwriter who gets on a plane a free-thinking stoner and gets off it a free-thinking national hero. Complications ensue. http://www.amazon.com/The-Audacity-Dope-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B006GT2PRA/ref=pd_sim_sbs_351_2?ie=UTF8&dpID=51zCT-MrcFL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_UX300_PJku-sticker-v3%2CTopRight%2C0%2C-44_AC_UL160_SR105%2C160_&refRID=0G1646HCQ562QP6C7JCP

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

The Intangibles (Kindle edition $4.99) is set in the 1960s, with an integrated high school football team at the epicenter of the local civil-rights volcano. http://www.amazon.com/The-Intangibles-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00ISJ18Z6/ref=pd_sim_351_2?ie=UTF8&dpID=51JrJlU8vKL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_UX300_PJku-sticker-v3%2CTopRight%2C0%2C-44_AC_UL160_SR107%2C160_&refRID=0RG9JJ51G715SBNV9BZH

 

Tales of Tvlvteke

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

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

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

Tvlvteke Superspeedway! Who’s with me?

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

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 Season Is Off to a Typically Absurd Start

Who's idea was this, anyway? (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
Who’s idea was this, anyway? (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

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Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, March 23, 2015, 10:44 a.m.

Five races into the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, it seems worse than it is.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

For instance, it seems like the same driver wins every week, when, in fact, four different drivers – Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick (2) and, now, Brad Keselowski – have taken checkered flags. This is because, every race, if Harvick doesn’t win, he finishes second, which, contrary to what is sometimes claimed, is the next best thing, and the third best thing is, when Harvick finishes second, someone else necessarily wins.

Eight straight races count as a trend. It’s not a coincidence. Harvick won the championship last year, and he’s the best so far this year, by hook or crook, rule changes be damned.

Joey Mumbles. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
Joey Mumbles. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

The Chase is far away. In terms of importance, it will be far away the day before it starts. It won’t come down to Harvick the Happy, Danger Mouse, Little Daddy, Joey Mumbles, Citizen Jimmie, and the Second Coming of Dale. Hell, there’s room for a party of sixteen. They don’t even have to move any tables.

Harvick’s average finish is 1.6. Kurt Busch, with a statistical sample of two, which makes it less valid but still impressive, is at 2.5. They are teammates, driving Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolets. Two more Impalas are in that stable, divided each week among three champions, five championships, and Danica Patrick. Patrick has a significantly better average finish (21.8) than Tony Stewart (31.6). Kurt Busch, in two races, is higher in the point standings (28th) than Stewart (32nd) in five.

Stomp them grapes, Tony. (Jeff Curry/Gety Images for NASCAR)
Stomp them grapes, Tony. (Jeff Curry/Gety Images for NASCAR)

Thus far, for Tony, it hasn’t been a vintage year. If he doesn’t get better grapes, the Cabernet is going to suck.

If Stewart wins a race, and nothing else goes wrong, he’ll make the Chase. So will Busch. So, ahem, will Patrick, because NASCAR is a great nation, even though it’s not particularly free. Half the teams can’t even get their cars free. Ask them.

Getting “freed up” in front of a large crowd was no less important at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday than it was at Woodstock in 1969. It was reportedly easier at Woodstock because they didn’t worry about getting the balance right. As Richard Petty might say, them cats just let the good times roll.

If the race had been at night, Brad Keselowski would have been a thief in it. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)
If the race had been at night, Brad Keselowski would have been a thief in it. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Keselowski stole a race, and NASCAR can use a little criminal mischief every now and then. He took a chance that wouldn’t have worked had there been not one, but two, green-white-checkered finishes, which, of course, meant the former wasn’t a finish at all.

It took two debris cautions, including one in which the debris was race cars, to open that window of opportunity for Keselowski, and he didn’t just open it. He put a fan in it, plugged it in, switched it to wide-open, passed Kurt Busch’s Chevy in a Ford with fresh rubber, and then Busch got so flustered that his Chevy glanced off the wall, and Harvick slipped by, too.

It's enough to make a man Happy without even the hint of sarcasm. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
It’s enough to make a man Happy without even the hint of sarcasm. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

This is the plot most often used in modern Sprint Cup Stock Car Auto Racing extravaganzas:

Dum, de, dum, dum. Dum, de, dum, dum. Ooga, ooga, ooga, shocka. Duh, duh, duh, duh. Cue the Batman theme. Biff! Pow! Zowie! Holy wavearound, Caped Crusader!

It’s like watching the first 105 minutes of Wuthering Heights and the last fifteen of Liam Neeson Kicks Ass VII.

Then the winner has a media conference, and everyone goes home with “wow, that was really something” stamped into their brains by fiber-optic impulses. Little-known fact: An average of twelve heads explode during every NASCAR race. Fortunately, most are cylinder heads, just as most of the car lengths on the radio are railroad cars.

Matt Kenseth is nonplussed by the whole situation. (John Clark photo)
Matt Kenseth is nonplussed by the whole situation. (John Clark photo)

Amazingly, in a sport based on cars going as fast as possible, some things are still slow. For instance, it took NASCAR officials well over a year to determine that, if you make forty-something cars back out of their pit stalls as if they were leaving Chuck E Cheez, it’s aggravating. They rolled out their new “Nose First” initiative at Auto Club Speedway as if it were the New Deal. It reminded me of the old Geezinslaw Brothers gag about how Austin, Texas, had commissioned a six-million-dollar study to determine whether or not an Air Force base could be converted into an airport.

NASCAR officials have commissioned marketing surveys, huddled with stakeholders, and concluded that it’s easier to drive on the track frontwards instead of having to back out of a parking space first.

Then there’s the broken record:

We’re thrilled by the way we’ve completely revamped the cars for the 2015 season, but, confidentially, the real changes are going to be in store for 2016.

We’re thrilled by the way we’ve completely revamped the cars for the 2016 season, but, confidentially, the real changes are going to be in store for 2017.

And, oh, by the way, we anticipate cost-cutting measures for our teams are going to be in the millions of dollars sometime in the distant future when we finally let them go through the offseason without rebuilding everything they’ve got.

All in the name of competition, it is. That’s why, over the past five seasons, inclusive, Chevrolet drivers have won eighty percent of the championships and just under half the races. The last time a Toyota won, Kurt Busch and Patricia Driscoll made such a cute couple. It was in the spring, less than a year ago, “when grass was green, and grain was yellow.”

Try to remember.

After another gala weekend here at the farm, watching music videos, basketball games, and stock car races, I’m trying to get back on track with bills, taxes, deadlines, and commitments. I’ll write some short fiction at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, and if I long for truth-based prose, I’ll write it here. What I’d really love for you to do is give my books a read: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Let’s See How Harvick Putts

Kevin Harvick is the reigning champion. The confetti keeps right on flying. (Christa L. Thomas/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick is the reigning champion (Homestead, 2014). The confetti keeps right on flying. (Christa L. Thomas/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

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Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, March 16, 2015, 9:37 a.m.

Kevin Harvick has lots of fans, and they’re happy today, as they’ve been happy for quite a while, and they’ve always liked that word. Their favorite driver has won twice this year, four times in the space of seven races dating back to 2014, and in the other three races, he’s finished second.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

It’s so hard to digest, Harvick’s accomplishments are comparable to a mouth full of peanut butter.

In the current young season, Harvick’s average finish is a nice, quaint 1.5. The co-owner of his team, Tony Stewart, has a big, fat 36.0. Another teammate, Kurt Busch, has more points in one race (39) than the boss (32) in four.

Then there’s Danica Patrick.

Kevin Harvick and his crew chief, Rodney Childers, are dominating the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Stewart-Haas Racing is not.

Let’s forget whether you’re a fan of Harvick or not. It matters not where your sentiments lie, whether you’re a card-carrying citizen of Junior Nation or you live in a shack near the blinking caution light of Gilliland Gulch. Let’s just assume you’re in favor of tight, competitive racing and duels for the lead that go on for lap after lap.

Also, nice, long walks on the beach at sunrise.

A sense of deja vu must be familiar to the great Richard Petty. (John Clark photo)
A sense of deja vu must be familiar to the great Richard Petty. (John Clark photo)

It could be worse. Harvick’s finished first or second in seven consecutive races. Big deal. It’s been done before. Just 40 years ago, and Richard Petty, when he had his big, bad seven straight, heck, when the year was over, all he had to show for it was 13 victories.

And a championship.

Compared to the past, the significance of Harvick’s valiant early exploits, in terms of the hallowed Sprint Cup Trophy that will soon have another name, is minuscule. It’s said that golfers drive for show and putt for dough. (And, as Kurt Busch once said, everybody knows that NASCAR is just like golf.)

Yes, Harvick is pulling in his share, but the real dough is in the championship, and, by that standard, Harvick isn’t going to reach the green until September, and the putt that matters won’t be struck till Thanksgiving is nigh.

It just doesn’t matter … much.

Harvick's going to wear that right arm out with all those fist pumps. (HHP Photo for Chevy Racing)
Harvick’s going to wear that right arm out with all those fist pumps. (HHP Photo for Chevy Racing)

Harvick could finish first or second in the first 26 races of the season, and a week later, he’d still have 15 other drivers, fortified by The Truly Great Wave-Around Also Known as The Chase. He can finish first or second nine more weeks in a row, and when it all ends at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he’s still going to have three other drivers dead even with him.

Resistance to the Chase is futile.

By the way, not even Harvick, the Sultan of Swagger, can maintain his current pace. This year he strode out onto the first tee flashing a “wood” made of rare metals and space-age polymers, and he’s hitting it so straight and true that the rest of the boys (and somewhere back there, a girl) are getting a little restless, but they all have the same wishful thought.

Let’s see how Harvick putts.

Last year he putted right well.

For more thought-provoking insight on the most recent race, you may find my latest Bleacher Report column instructive, or, of course, maybe not. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2398034-kevin-harvicks-early-nascar-domination-wont-do-him-much-good-come-chase-time

Take a look at my books (and, preferably, buy at least one) here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Fame and Fortune and Fate

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon are popular choices. (John Clark photo)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon are popular choices. (John Clark photo)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, February 20, 2015, 11:38 a.m.

I’m digesting the results of Thursday night’s Budweiser Duel(s).

And breakfast. The link sausage I bought at Sam’s Club is tasty.

Your blogger, the guy with .com at the end of his address.
Your blogger, the guy with .com at the end of his address.

I’m delighted David Ragan made the Daytona 500. His was the good thing that happened as a result of Danica vs. Denny. I’m glad Patrick made it. I found her post-race confrontation with Hamlin wildly amusing. This morning a friend called and remarked that he could see why Hamlin hasn’t gotten married. “Putting your hands on a woman’s shoulder and saying, ‘Now, honey, settle down …’ that never works,” he said.

Perhaps I should now write “all kidding aside,” but, sorry, I can’t.

Though I'm sure the motorcoach is posh, Danica Patrick isn't a happy camper. (HHP/Rusty Jarrett photo for Chevrolet)
Though I’m sure the motorcoach is posh, Danica Patrick isn’t a happy camper. (HHP/Rusty Jarrett photo for Chevrolet)

What have we learned? Well, the front row is made up of Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. Johnson and another Hendrick pilot, Dale Earnhardt Jr., won the 150-milers. It appears to me that Earnhardt’s car is the fastest, but that’s not conclusive because I didn’t have Johnson’s presence in the first race to provide a direct means of comparison.

If someone else wins the Daytona 500, all this apparent gathering dominance will be quickly forgotten.

Watch Kevin Harvick very closely. He's sneaky. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Watch Kevin Harvick very closely. He’s sneaky. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Jeff Gordon could win because he’s fast and smart. The way he kept Joey Logano’s Ford at bay in the final laps of the former qualifier erased any possible demonstration by Logano that Earnhardt could be had.

Fate runs up front at Daytona like a green-flag pace car. The winner will be the driver who best latches on. Fate will smile on some and scowl at others.

Joey Logano, poised to swoop. (Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
Joey Logano, poised to swoop. (Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

At Daytona International Speedway, Kevin Harvick is a diabolical mastermind in addition to being the reigning Sprint Cup champion. Watch him. He’s sneaky.

Gordon and Matt Kenseth are fast and smart. Tony Stewart is overdue for Fate to smile. Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski and Logano also have the knack of being skillful at Daytona without the 500 victories to prove it to the masses.

Matt Kenseth knows what he's doing. (Getty Images for NASCAR).
Matt Kenseth knows what he’s doing. (Getty Images for NASCAR).

Just because they’re overdue, though, doesn’t mean this race will be any different. Each race is its own roll of the dice. They don’t tumble with knowledge of how they earlier tumbled.

Two who want it badly: Tony Stewart (left) with Kurt Busch. As it turns out, Busch isn't going to get the chance.  (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Two who want it badly: Tony Stewart (left) with Kurt Busch. As it turns out, Kurt isn’t going to get the chance, at least not this year. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

In the second duel, Ragan and Patrick made the race after seeming to have no chance with just a few laps remaining. Those races were 150 miles apiece. Imagine how many more Cinderella stories are possible amid the 200 laps/500 miles of Sunday, factoring in the scrutiny, the pressure, the emotions, the slings, the arrows, the miscellaneous other outrageous fortune, “the pomp, the pageantry, the human drama of athletic competition.”

For those who still remember where we once upon a time got our Daytona 500 coverage.

BUH, buh, buh, buh, BUH, buh, buh, buh … THIS is ABC’s Wide World of Sports!

I’m writing about Riley Mansfield (main character in The Audacity of Dope, my first novel) again at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com.

If you don’t know Riley already, you can buy the original story, as well as my other books, here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1#