‘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).

Same Old Stories, Time After Time

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, June 1, 2017, 9:53 a.m.

On Sunday night (and into Monday morning), I sat in a box high above Charlotte Motor Speedway and wrote about the world’s longest stock car race.

By Monte Dutton

On Wednesday night, I sat on the front row of the Clinton High School gymnasium – officially, it’s known as the Clinton High School Gymnasium – and took notes on graduation. I almost wrote “commencement,” but, of course, it’s not, and graduation sounds so much better than “termination.” “Concluding” might work.

Here’s the story on graduation at golaurens.com.

What do a NASCAR race and a high school graduation have in common?

Nothing. I’ll strain, though.

While teams pull stock cars out on the grid, the Indianapolis 500 is on the video board.

In Concord, N.C., where the track named Charlotte actually is, lots of the kids – and being young enough to be a kid makes one as eligible to drive a race car as kick a football – were home-schooled in the liberal arts of reciting sponsors and talking points.

The racing was unruly, though not as much as some fans wanted.

The graduation was organized and civilized. At the beginning, the student body president, Ashi Smith, set some ground rules, and one of her points was that she didn’t want any uncouth parents ruining everything for their graduation. Mainly the parents behaved, but some could not restrain themselves from yelling something like “woot-woot” when their young’un’s name was called.

“Yeah, that’s my baby!”

“Sshhhhhhhhhhhh.”

“I’m awful sorry, y’all.”

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Back in Charlotte, in the wee hours after marathon racing, Kyle Busch had been so put out by having to settle for second place that he went all churlish, conducted a glowering media conference of six ever-loving words – “I’m not surprised about anything. Congratulations” – and used his ability to transmit laser beams from his eyes to prevent anyone else from asking another question.

Had the manchild been in Clinton – and had more of a defense for the child part – the appropriate action would have been to have him write 100 times on the chalkboard:

I’m not surprised about anything. Congratulations.

I’m not surprised about anything. Congratulations.

I’m not surprised about anything. Congratulations.

I’m not surprised about anything. Congratulations. …

Except, of course, that I don’t think they actually make students write on the chalkboard after school anymore. They may not even have chalkboards, or if they have boards, they probably don’t have chalk. No one gets paddled, particularly not bare-assed.

I’m not going to be like others my age and bemoan the fact that kids don’t have to write on the board and be paddled. I wasn’t in favor of it when I was a kid. I’m glad they’ve gotten civilized.

Stock car racing? Not so much.

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).

When Monte Comes Driving Home Again, Hurrah! Hurrah!

(Monte Dutton photo)

Concord, North Carolina, Saturday, May 20, 2017, 3:12 p.m.

I’m back, and it seems relatively normal. Naturally, media parking is farther away. That’s a given.

By Monte Dutton

Almost four and a half years later, I’m back at a speedway, the motor one representing Charlotte. Many years ago, it represented Lowe’s for a while. I’m glad to be back. I rather like this one. I’ve probably put in more work here than any other.

Back in the days before sportswriters became fewer and less important, Charlotte was the workload capital of NASCAR, at least for those of us who worked for newspapers in the general vicinity. May near Concord – the track is officially in Concord, though Harrisburg is right behind the back straight – used to be a time of special editions and the accompanying gnashing of teeth.

Now it’s just a place to renew acquaintances. Next week’s workload will be heavier. Next week’s race will be longer. I am, in fact, writing more than just this tonight during the running of the fabled Winston Select Open Nextel Sprint All-Star Shindig Presented by Monster Energy of America the Beautiful.

Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson (42) lead the field. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

The day is already a success. During the hike in from the badlands, I managed to slip past a man I truly despise without him noticing me, and, of course, the people who can’t stand each other are the ones who most proclaim the opposite, so I’m happy I didn’t have to participate in this farce.

What you been doing with yourself? Space travel. That’s nice. How’s the family? Still nonexistent. Tell your daddy I said hello. It’ll have to wait. He died in 1993.

All in all, though, seeing people I haven’t seen in 54 months – a few, once or twice – has been pleasant. Yes, friends, I used to be Monte Dutton.

Tell the story about you missing the start in Texas. What was that place in Michigan where you used to play your guitar on race weekends? Remember that time we went to Austin and saw Billy Joe Shaver?

The best aspect of the day was that Howard A. Wheeler Jr., better known as “Humpy,” enjoyed a separate, more noteworthy, return. Hey, did you hear? Humpy’s outside. Humpy correlates as positively to Charlotte as its high banks – everyone says the place has humps — and it hasn’t seemed like the same place since he left.

Humpy and I share many views about what NASCAR needs, and I expect my new novel, Lightning in a Bottle, races right down the middle of his front straight. We talked for quite a while, and he left with a copy.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, May 21, 2017, 10:43 a.m.

The good old days have returned. This I concluded on the way home.

After I completed my writing – I’ve already “written through” the Competition Plus notes I filed late last night, I hit the road home and, fueled by a vat of truck-stop coffee, my eyes were still wide open when I hit the dirt road to the house at roughly “oh-dark-thirty,” an old David Poole term, which computed to about 2:15 a.m.

The long drive was marred by an unfortunate decision to buy a biscuit pinning together egg, cheese and sausage, all of which were virtually tasteless.

I listened to a lot of bad country music, which translates to what is on the radio, and thought about the racing I had witnessed on monitors in the infield media center.

Kyle Busch (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Joe Gibbs Racing is not on top officially, but his Toyotas did sweep the exhibitions. Kyle Busch’s All-Star victory was his first in a Cup car at the 1.5-mile track residing in the unofficial NASCAR capital. It wasn’t like Busch ever had any problem figuring it out. His victory in Friday’s night Camping World Truck race was his seventh. Throw in the Busch/Nationwide/Xfinity Series, presently the latter, and he’s won 15 times at CMS.

(Getty Images for NASCAR)

The Open is a mere gateway to the varsity on this weekend, but Daniel Suarez, the rookie from Mexico, won it and thus made it historic. It was a better race than the main event.

A triumph in the Open is no clear harbinger of greater success. In the past, it has been won by David Ragan, Sam Hornish Jr., Scott Riggs and the late Dick Trickle. It has also been won by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Burton and Tony Stewart.

It could be Suarez’s springboard. It could be his zenith. Time will tell.

Ever since I started writing fiction, fans have asked me to write a novel about stock car racing. I kept it a secret while I was working on it. Now it’s out. Lightning in a Bottle is the story of the next big thing, 18-year-old Barrie Jarman.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced. Lightning in a Bottle will be in stock shortly.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are also available at Emma Jane’s, 105 East Main Street on the Square, Clinton.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

(Joe Font cover design)

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

The Two Chaps, Starring in ‘Another One of Them Dutton Deals’

Martin Truex Jr. (left) and Brad Keselowski were appropriately on the front row. Truex won. Keselowski should have. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, March 13, 2017, 10:24 a.m.

Every man has a lodestar. Most men have several. I have many, in part because I am my late father’s son.

By Monte Dutton

This isn’t the first time I’ve cited this favorite saying of Jimmy Dutton.

He would be sitting in a grandstand, watching a football game, probably of the junior (high or varsity) variety, and, when the action got overheated, he would fold his arms and take on a countenance of wisdom, and, after as pregnant a pause as a male can make, say, simply, “Chaps love to play.”

It’s what he would have said had he been in Las Vegas on Sunday, which, by the way, is a frightening scene to ponder. It’s what he would have said a hundred times in all the years his older son wrote about NASCAR for a living, because Dear Old Dad was a man of many clichés that he used a lot.

“Chaps love to play” – it was pronounced chaps LUHHHH-tuh play – was my favorite. Number two was “if that ain’t a Dutton deal …” and, at the bottom of the bracket, was his reply when I told him I was sorry about something (“You damned right you are.”).

Joey Logano (Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Never were there two chaps more loving to play than Kyle Busch and Joey Logano, who tangled on both the track and pit road after Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that was won incidentally by Martin Truex Jr.

This wasn’t the Clash of the Titans. It wasn’t Ali-Frazier. It was more like McLovin-Ichabod Crane.

But it added some flavor to a race that was low-fat vanilla ice milk. (When I was a kid, an early brand of low-calorie ice cream was officially called Ice Milk. This was too accurate. I’m confident it’s now called Blameless Decadence.)

Kyle Busch (John Clark photo)

What I liked best in the video shot by Soon to Be Francis Ford Coppola of NASCAR Jeff Gluck was the way the fight started. Kyle Busch, undoubtedly amid shouts of “uh, oh, uh, oh, here he comes (boogie down, boogie down),” walked right up to Logano, while several of his crewmen were standing nearby going “dum-de-DUM-dum,” and punched him. He … punched him. Then, reacting to what others saw coming, the pale-yellow-clad Logano entourage wrestled the slightly-golder-yellow-clad Busch to the iron-gray pavement, and Busch dusted himself off and strode away, leading late-arriving television agents on a testy and breathless chase.

Maybe NASCAR will change this chase to a pace-off.

This type of carnival occurs nowadays more than ever before, in part because, back in the allegedly uncivilized days of NASCAR yore, a man had to be seriously wronged before he deemed it necessary to take on Soapy Castles or Tiny Lund.

Oddly, it would make more sense if Kyle Busch and Joey Logano were named Soapy Castles and Tiny Lund. The names would fit, but they would otherwise be miscast.

Bunny Rabbit versus Kitty Cat. One must die.

(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).

A Triumph of Persistence, Not Skill

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

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, July 16, 2016, 9:38 a.m.

I have squandered an early rising. Damn that British Open.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

So far, I have sipped coffee, wished people happy birthday on Facebook, cooked breakfast, played lots of Hank Williams songs, and finally gotten around to powering the laptop to start molding this day into something coherent.

At this hour, Phil Mickelson is still leading at Royal Troon. Next year will be at Royal Birkdale. Royalty will be avoided at Carnoustie in 2018. Among the more significant reasons while Mickelson is still winning is that he hasn’t started playing yet.

With the weather blazing hot and prone to thunderstorms here, Troon looks like a rainy November football game. Watch the golfers. Shiver a little. Open the front door. Feel blast of natural furnace.

Jimmie Johnson (48) is on the pole in New Hampshire. No. 88, meanwhile, is Alex Bowman. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson (48) is on the pole in New Hampshire. No. 88, meanwhile, is Alex Bowman. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

9:33 p.m.

The above was intended to be a full blog. It was, at about 10 a.m., almost a full blog. That’s when this error message popped up informing me that my laptop would have to be restarted, and it, in fact, did so before I could get what I had written saved. When all was safe from Chechnyan hackers again, about three quarters of what I had written was gone forever, already bouncing around the outer reaches of the solar system and retrievable only by Chechnyan hackers, whose service charges are outrageous.

Why I quit golf. (Vince Pawless photo)
Why I quit golf. (Vince Pawless photo)

So crestfallen was I that the whole project was abandoned because, at the time of technical despondency, I preferred to play my guitar and read Rolling Stone more than I was inclined to rebuild a blog that was dubiously constituted from the get-go.

Similar to what I’ve written since.

Friday was a creative day. Writing the first chapter in yet another novel was a rush. Getting the manuscript of Cowboys Come Home ready was a relief. It was an eventful week. Some plans may be in the works.

Today the most creative accomplishments were washing the dishes and folding the clothes.

Jacoby Ellsbury. Now a Yankee. (Monte Dutton photo)
Jacoby Ellsbury. Now a Yankee. (Monte Dutton photo)

The Red Sox won their sixth straight game, and second straight in Yankee Stadium. They are 6-2 so far against the Ugly Americans, which, if they do not manage to prosper in the postseason but do manage to dominate New York, will leave some mild feeling of warmth from the season.

Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race in New Hampshire, though it was almost like a loss because he failed to lead several laps.

I drove around a while listening to people who know almost nothing about concussions speaking about Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s prognosis as if they’d worked for decades at the Mayo Clinic.

Mickelson isn’t leading the The Open Championship, but he’s right there, a stroke behind Henrik Stenson. I sort of wish a golf tournament was on TV every morning when I awaken.

On The Golf Channel, come to think of it, it’s possible there is.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is ailing. Maybe he'll be back next week. Maybe he won't. Generally, those who know aren't saying, and everyone who doesn't is. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is ailing. Maybe he’ll be back next week. Maybe he won’t. Generally, those who know aren’t saying, and everyone who doesn’t is. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)

As I told a friend over a beer Friday night, I love the British Open because the greatest golfers in the world look approximately like they were me. At times. Not really. My last round of golf was at least five years ago. I can just relate to their ineptitude better than to their proficiency.

Everybody gets to hack.

That’s two kinds of hackers I’ve mentioned in one blog. It makes me think of that old Merle Haggard tune, “My Own Kind of Hat”: There’s two kinds of lovers and two kinds of brothers and two kinds of babies to hold / There’s two kinds of cherries and two kinds of fairies, and two kinds of mothers I’m told, and told …

There. This blog isn’t much, but it is done.

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

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy either Forgive Us Our Trespasses or Crazy of Natural Causes, and you’ll get a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs, absolutely free. Tell ‘em Mr. Monte sent you, y’hear?

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is the latest. It’s a tale about crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

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

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

 

The Roller Coaster in Daytona Beach

Dale Earnhardt Jr. drives to victory in the first of two Can-Am Duel races. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. drives to victory in the first of two Can-Am Duel races. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett for Chevy Racing)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, February 19, 2016, 10:35 a.m.

Sure. I watched the Can-Am Duel, which was dual because there were two, as there have been since there was a Daytona 500, which led to the commonly held opinion that there is a town called simply Daytona, which there is not. It’s Daytona Beach, though, as for that, it’s unimportant personally because I am not there, and if I still went, the odds are I would be in Ormond Beach, and there’s no issue there over there not being an Ormond.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

With the South Carolina Republican Primary coming up, I kept having to answer the phone during the races. Oh, I answer, because the only time my “land line” rings is either my mother or someone wanting me to answer a questionnaire that ends up being a request for money, of which I don’t have that much presently. How do they get results to polls, by the way? Everyone I know hangs up.

To make a long story short, they got my position right.

The parking lot. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
The parking lot.
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

As is the case an alarming number of times, I digress.

I already wrote, about another race, that Dale Earnhardt Jr. would probably win it if he’s around at the end. In the first Duel, I was right prematurely. What I wanted from the race was for Earnhardt to have to show what he has. He did. It’s a lot. He’s the clear favorite in the Daytona 500. In terms of this particular sweepstakes, the best jockey is riding the best horse. He’s got to guard against getting his trusty steed pinched into the rail.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Kyle Busch, not exactly a big surprise, either, won the latter race by a piece of paper. Matt Kenseth, Busch’s teammate, had to give up the lead so that he could use the turbulence of riding around another car to get the paper to fly off the nose of his Toyota and stop unduly heating up its innards.

This set in motion a series of events. Busch won, and Kenseth’s car got destroyed and, as a result, it will not start on the front row of the Daytona 500.

Both races provided pertinent information regarding the likely outcome of NASCAR’s most prestigious race. At this point, with the actual running of the qualifying races little more than a formality, the best that could be expected was valuable information, which we got.

The second Duel even had a dual duel of its own.

The Camping World Truck Series race is tonight. I’m thinking of having a safety harness installed in my easy chair. It’s probably already too late to get that done. I guess I’ll clench my teeth again.

Xfinity Series practice. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to watch the opening scenes of Days of Thunder. Speedweeks is a roller coaster. The ride starts out with gentle ups and downs, just to get the squealing cords cleared out vocally. Now it’s gears grinding, pulling everyone up a ponderous grade. From here on lie free falls, loops that turn us upside down, and such pure speed, at long intervals, that, after a while, it seems as if a parking lot, perfectly aligned, is going nearly 200 miles an hour.

Amazingly, this formation flying will seem boring. It’s too much of a good thing, or, perhaps, too good of a much thing.

The ending will be whiz-bang, though. It will be swell, a humdinger and a ripsnorter. What few kids are watching will find it turnt, based and/or lit, terms that can be translated as “stoned” but also refer to most everything that feels good. Many are not about that life.

NASCAR, I mean.

(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 got a little news on Thursday. A release date will be announced in a few weeks. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time.

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font 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

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon 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.

 

In and Out, Up and Down, Left and Right …

(Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)
(Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)

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Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, June 29, 2015, 10:29 a.m.

A few observations from Kyle Busch’s victory in Sunday’s Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, the road course in California’s Wine Country:

The chief question raised by the weekend is whether or not Kyle Busch can make the Chase. His Sonoma win was, of course, preordained by the vast number of observers who said he had no shot when he placed dead last in Michigan. That’s, in small part, because God has a sense of humor.

The out-again, in-again Kyle Busch celebrates his Sonoma victory.  (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
The out-again, in-again Kyle Busch celebrates his Sonoma victory. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Now the chorus has moved from hopelessness to hope, from doom to destiny, and from “no way” to “he’s going to make it.” The numbers still don’t favor him. Precision is impossible because 30th place in the points is a moving target. The driver occupying 30th changes, but the best estimate suggests that an average of about 13th or 14th will get him in. It sounds reasonable, but his current average finish, even after Sunday’s win, is 20.0, and his average for the entire 2014 season was 17.6.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

As Joe Gibbs, Busch’s owner, said, “I think it’s a great sports story because, if you think about Daytona, and for Kyle to come back from, really, a broken right leg and a broken left foot, the race we were really worried about when he came back was this race because it was going to be, obviously, road racing. It takes a lot of pressure on your foot, so I think this is a great story for us.”

It could, of course, be the beginning of an even greater story.

Another major obstacle comes up right away. Anyone can crash at Daytona, and many likely will. If Busch finds trouble there, he’s right back in “no way” mode. The chorus will change for the third race in a row. Moderation is rare in the media center, TV booth, and grandstands, not to mention the social media and blogosphere.

Is the blogosphere social media? Or is it just yet another stakeholder?

Now, where does Busch go, now that he has a win under his belt? He could become cautious which will seem, in his case, like a lion cowering at a kitty cat, or he could press the advantage. Let’s say he crashes at Daytona, has another bad finish or two, in the 10 remaining races, but wins two or three of them?

The ball may wind up back in Brian France's court. (Monte Dutton photo)
The ball may wind up back in Brian France’s court. (Monte Dutton photo)

If Kyle Busch is a multiple-race winner but not in the top 30, it will be very difficult for NASCAR to let that lie. Brian France has already granted him one waiver. The old “EIRI” for which NASCAR is famous — “except in rare instances” — has never been truer than in recent years, when a previous Chase field was expanded from twelve to thirteen because the final regular-season race (2013) was determined not to have been on the up-and-up.

One of the intents of the current, bloated Chase field, and the maniacal rules governing it, is to get the winners in and let them prosper.

I think the NASCAR excitement manufacturers will sit back and watch, hoping Busch makes it on his own, but, if he doesn’t, they’re going to be powerfully tempted to blur the rules again.

For the first time ever, the brothers Busch finished 1-2  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)
For the first time ever, the brothers Busch finished 1-2 (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)

All right. Moving on, twenty years ago, coverage of races wasn’t quite so prone to overkill. Now it’s Kyle won, so let’s beat it to death. Let’s do what it takes to maximize the web hits. Kyle wins, and here’s what Junior and Danica have to say about it!

I remember when fellow could get his name in the paper by finishing eighth, as Kasey Kahne did at Sonoma. Now what papers are left don’t have much space, and Kahne gets on the web by having a girlfriend with a baby on the way.

Inquiring minds want to know!

Same season, different team for Carl Edwards.  (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Same season, different team for Carl Edwards. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Not only is it noteworthy that Kyle and Kurt Busch finished 1-2 for the first time in their careers, but that one race earlier they “bookended” the standings by placing first (Kurt) and 43rd (Kyle) in Michigan. The two have often been either close together or far apart, and it’s not chassis setups I’m noting.

Before the final restart, a social media acquaintance asked if I thought Jeff Gordon had a shot, as he was third at the time. I replied in the affirmative. Gordon finished 16th. Tony Stewart, who finished 12th, drives No. 14 and has led the same number of laps this year. I take no comfort in pointing out such details.

Clint Bowyer finished in the top five (third) for the first time all year.

Last year Carl Edwards somehow managed to win two races, and that’s how he made the Chase. This year, with a different team, he has already won but is 17th in the point standings, which, under the current format, is no more pertinent to the Chase than his 11 lead-lap finishes and his average qualifying performance of 9.6. In spite of switching from declining Roush Fenway to elite JGR, Edwards is having the same year.

No one is happier to be leaving California than David Ragan, in spite of the fact that Michael Waltrip had his back in the TV booth. The two know each other, I think.

“You have to hold your own,” Ragan said after being involved in two significant crashes. “If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change anything.”

Ragan wasn’t being facetious or coy. He was being honest. He has a reputation of being uncertain on road courses, and other drivers expect him to get out of their way. He’s got the best ride he’s had in a while. He’s trying to keep it. He did his best. It’s what we should expect.

Had the cards fallen a little differently, either Jimmie Johnson or Kurt Busch might have won. No change there from oval to road.

A.J. Allmendinger and Kurt Busch started on the front row. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
A.J. Allmendinger and Kurt Busch started on the front row. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

When I started writing about racing on a regular basis, road courses were often dreaded by fans who now adore them. When I started going to Sonoma and Watkins Glen, few were the drivers who could plausibly win. The biggest change is in the transmissions. The Jerico transmission showed up in the 1990s and made the footwork, the heel and toe switches from brake to clutch, two feet doing three jobs, unimportant. Changing gears is now greatly simplified. Now the road courses are such than most drivers, given track position, are capable of winning.

Guess who won last summer at Daytona? (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Guess who won last summer at Daytona? (Getty Images for NASCAR)

An obviously skilled road racer, Marcos Ambrose over the past few years and A.J. Allmendinger now, can surmount disadvantages in equipment that are apparent at other tracks, which, incredibly, is what last week’s Sonoma and next week’s Daytona have in common, not in terms of Allmendger or Ambrose, but in the case of other drivers who have exceptional skill at plate tracks.

David Ragan, for instance. And Aric Almirola, who just happens to be the winner of last year’s summertime race at vast, sprawling Daytona.

One final observation about both Sonoma and Daytona: These two tracks are bringing the fun back at a time when NASCAR desperately needs it.

 

For those of you obsessed by NASCAR, thanks for reading me here, but if you have other interests, if you actually still enjoy reading other things like short stories or books, give wellpilgrim.wordpress.com the occasional look. Better yet, consider buying one of the books of mine listed here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Rain Flexes Its Michigan Muscles

This is how they finished -- Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Martin Truex Jr. -- but not this closely.  (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
This is how they finished — Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Martin Truex Jr. — but not this closely. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, June 15, 2015, 8:49 a.m.

What are you going to do? The race at Michigan International Speedway may have quickened loans, but it didn’t quicken the pulse.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

It rained. Mother Nature cannot be stopped, only contained. At best.

It’s a lovely song, sung in my mind by Jimmie Dale Gilmore but written by David Halley:

Rain don’t fall for the flowers if it’s raining / Rain just falls.

Kurt Busch won the Quicken Loans 400 by being in the right place, ahead, at the right time, which was the end of 138 of a scheduled 200 laps. Kyle Larson must have felt like Agent Maxwell Smart, in the unlikely event that the 22-year-old ever heard of Get Smart.

Right place. Wrong time.  (HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Right place. Wrong time. (HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Missed it by that much. Three laps. Five minutes. His kingdom for some gas. Which came first, the kingdom or the gas? On Sunday, neither.

“Yeah, we could see weather coming there off (turn) four and just praying it would get here in time for me to stay out and be in the lead when the rain hit,” Larson, as hungry for victory as a 22-year-old can be, said. “Hey, I applaud my guys for trying.

“We are pretty deep in points, so we have to take risks like that to make the Chase. I’m happy with the call, just wish the rain would have come three laps sooner.”

Larson made the right call, but he and the rain were improperly calibrated, and it’s hard to calibrate rain because it won’t let anyone in this world know what it’s doing.

Larson probably hasn’t heard of Dr. John, either.

I was in the right place / But it must have been the wrong time …

Kurt Busch had to get out of the rain to hoist his second trophy of the season and 27th of his career.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch had to get out of the rain to hoist his second trophy of the season and 27th of his career. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)

It cannot be said that Mother Nature loves the Busch family. She smiled on Kurt, and she sneered at Kyle, who may have crashed because a bit of rain fell when the field was taking the green flag way back on the 52nd lap, which was early even by the standards of this race. Kyle didn’t finish. He placed last, a Chase-killing 43rd that brought a grand total of one point with it.

It can be said that Mother Nature is fickle.

The race was book-ended by Busches.

The announcers kept talking about how the teams were “racing backwards” with their strategy, and that’s the way it is with Mother Nature. The difficulty is that it’s tough to race backwards without knowing where the end is.

Because rain … just … falls.

I’ll have a new book out soon. It’s called Crazy of Natural Causes, and you’re going to love it. In case you have your doubts, read one of my other novels, which you will find, among others, here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Edwards the Overachiever

Overlooked is how much Carl Edwards has made of what -- AFLAC! -- is apparently a lame-duck season. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Overlooked is how much Carl Edwards has made of what — AFLAC! — is apparently a lame-duck season. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, S.C., Friday, June 27, 2014, 4:14 p.m.

Take a look at the Sprint Cup point standings, and it’s hard to make a case that Carl Edwards’ team is off.

He has two victories and is sixth in the rankings, 71 points behind leader Jeff Gordon.

Yet Edwards hasn’t had a dominant car in any of the sixteen races contested so far, even though he won two of them. Edwards and crew chief Jimmy Fennig have made more of what they’ve had than anyone else. In points, Edwards ranks higher than Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Jamie McMurray, and Kurt Busch, all of whom have been regularly faster. Edwards is eleventh in money earnings.

It’s no wonder his talents are valued. It’s no wonder he’s likely to leave Roush Fenway Racing. No one should blame him when he does.

Ryan Newman hasn't often been the top priority at the teams where he has worked. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)
Ryan Newman hasn’t often been the top priority at the teams where he has worked. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)

4:25 p.m.

Lots of great talents seem unfulfilled these days.

Kyle Busch, plucking Truck races like blackberries from the vine, but perpetually frustrated in the main events. … Ryan Newman, once the driver deemed worthy of Rookie of the Year over Jimmie Johnson. … Kasey Kahne, for whom nothing ever seems to work. … Denny Hamlin, whose last few years have been marred by injury in a sport where injuries have grown increasingly rare … Brian Vickers, his progress slowed by medical misfortune … and even Dale Earnhardt Jr., who, after all, has never won a championship.

It’s inevitable when one driver has won six championships in the past eight years, but it’s still painful to watch.

Kyle Busch seems so all alone. (John Clark photo)
Kyle Busch seems so all alone. (John Clark photo)

4:34 p.m.

There’s been plenty of time to think about the waste Kyle Busch has laid to the Camping World Truck Series. Lots of this time occurred watching Busch winning every race he enters.

My latest thought is that the biggest problem isn’t the presence of Busch. It’s the absence of another.

Busch’s record in Trucks and Nationwide competitition — wait, that’s the wrong word, competition – in Trucks and Nationwide activity, is amazing. Those numbers would count for more if others with his talent were interested.

Some balance has been restored to the Nationwide Series by the rise of Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson, not to mention the participation of Cup hands like Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, and Busch. The young stars of Nationwide are exciting to watch. The young drivers in Trucks watch Busch excitedly as the back of his Toyota gets smaller and smaller. It often looks as if he is racing Jamaican bobsledders.

It’s not Busch’s fault that he wins. The chief problem is others being unable to stop him.

Another is the resources of prominent Cup organizations being put in the field like Chinese infantry against the bedraggled militia of the regulars. A third is the utter domination of Toyotas in the Truck Series.

In Trucks, Busch doesn’t play for the Yankees. He plays for the Harlem Globetrotters.

If you’re interested in other aspects of my writing, take a look at wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, and consider buying your copy (or Kindle file) of my novels, The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope.

Who Knew?

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Dale Earnhardt Jr. pits at Richmond last fall. (Christa L. Thomas photo for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. pits at Richmond last fall. (Christa L. Thomas photo for Chevy Racing)

Clinton, S.C., Friday, April 25, 2014, 10:15 a.m.

One opportunity the NASCAR schedule seldom affords is simply “to take a breath.”

It’s not easy to pause and consider. Most often the talk turns to speculation when NASCAR takes a siesta. Changing the schedule, for instance. To my knowledge, no one has suggested the schedule is going to be radically altered, though given the apparent futility of current changes to move the attendance/ratings needle, it wouldn’t be a shock.

Already the Lords of Daytona have very nearly made points – points! – irrelevant. The championship is going to be decided by an engine-driven game of Jeopardy. I’m not sure whether the host should be Art Fleming, Alex Trebek or Jon Gruden.

Occasionally, it reminds me of Alice in Wonderland. Or Monty Python’s Life of Brian. I can’t remember whether I’m in the Judean People’s Front or the People’s Front of Judea. (How’s that for obscure?)

Chase Elliott is taking off like a house afire. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
Chase Elliott is taking off like a house afire. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Who knew?

… That somewhere, right now, in Richmond, Kyle Busch is thinking, in regard to the Nationwide Series, Chase Elliott must be stopped!

… That, in spite of seven different winners in eight races and a general perception that the quality of racing has gotten better, NASCAR officials seem intent on making even more changes. Following the current trend, perhaps in two years, there will be a rule stipulating that each car must be set on fire sometime during the race.

Why the frown? Kevin Harvick is the only 2-time winner. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)
Why the frown? Kevin Harvick is the only 2-time winner. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)

… In some ways, this seems like a sport run by men and women intent on justifying their salaries. The cars are faster. Slow them down. The tires are softer. Harden them. The ratings still sag. For God’s sake, do something! Anything!

… Not everything can be fixed quickly. To a considerable segment of onetime fans, NASCAR just went out of style. The NBA was struggling before Magic Johnson and Larry Bird came along. Its leaders had enough sense not to raise the baskets. A sport does not get the luxury of multiple reinventions. At some point – in NASCAR’s case, some time back now – fans get confused, and if the changes keep coming, stay that way.

… I must have heard this at least a dozen times while driving around listening to the radio: “The fans can’t tell the difference between 195 mph and 180.” True. Drivers can, though. Faster cars are harder to drive. The best drivers should win at the Sprint Cup level. Nationwide racing is slower. It is a developmental series.

… There better not be any pine tar smeared on the front fascia of Jimmie Johnson’s car. A little around the edge of the grille, okay. But don’t flaunt it. Baseball has never looked more like NASCAR than this week.

If you get a chance, look up my novels at www.neverlandpublishing.com. There’s not much about racing in them, but lots of racing fans seem to like them. They’re available at amazon.com, bn.com and at several independent bookstores in the Carolinas. Send me a check (see “merchandise” above), and I’ll ship signed copies.

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]