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).

Surprise, Surprise

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, April 22, 2017, 11:14 a.m.

Spring is full of surprises. Maybe that’s true in general. Growing up on a farm makes me think of newborn fillies and calves at the thought of spring.

By Monte Dutton

The major surprises of this season go in opposite directions. One I sprung. Another sprung me.

No one else but I — and my editor/proofreader, and two other people I really trust, one of whom is my mother — knew about Lightning in a Bottle until it struck at the end of March. I wanted to write a stock car racing novel, and I didn’t want anyone to know it was coming, right down to publishing it myself because I didn’t want its submission to be circulating through the publishing industry.

Barrie Jarman (Monte Dutton sketch)

It’s a quick read. It’s simple. It’s just a funny tale about what I think the sport needs. Barrie Jarman is a brilliant, outspoken, brash 18-year-old with a spirit FASCAR — which stands for Federated Association of Super Car Automobile Racing — can’t break. His story is told mainly through the eyes of Charlie, his uncle, with whom he has lived for two years.

Barrie doesn’t lose his innocence. He’s well past innocence when the story begins. In a span of less than a year, Barrie finds success, popularity, controversy, mortal danger, and true love. He is a precocious rogue who is hard to dislike.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

This week’s surprise was an unexpected offer from Jeff Gluck to write about NASCAR events in May at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Charlotte Motor Speedway. (HHP/Garry Eller photo for Chevrolet)

I put out the word early in the year that I might be willing to go back to the track every now and again. I was down because Bleacher Report ended the NASCAR columns I had been writing for several years. Being a journalist nowadays means constantly trying to outrun budget cuts and layoffs. I got run down by the combine — maybe hay baler works better — over four years ago. I think the anniversary of the Gaston Gazette day of infamy, January 4, 2013, fell at about the same time of the “we’re cutting back on our NASCAR coverage” message from Bleacher Report this year.

What created Lightning in a Bottle were deep ruminations about how racing changed during the 20 years I traveled the circuit, coupled with a wide range of “we might be interesteds” and “we’ll be back in touches” from sources of racing dissemination.

Bristol Motor Speedway (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

I missed racing. I started writing a novel about it, confirmed in my oft-stated view that everyone wants me to write about racing again, non-fictionally, except anyone who can do anything about it.

You don’t have to be a race fan to enjoy Lightning in a Bottle. I doubt I can convince many readers of that, but my racing following is considerable on social media, and I’m desperately hoping that fans will give an entertaining novel about stock car racing a shot.

When I drive through Charlotte Motor Speedway’s tunnel, I am going to be as curious as Barrie Jarman is every day.

How many people there do I still know? How many still know me? Is my perspective needed? Or has the sport, not to mention the profession, passed me by?

Kentucky Speedway (Getty Images for NASCAR)

I won’t be writing about those races and racers halfway. I’ll bear down. I’ll have something to prove. I don’t want anyone to think I don’t still belong. I’ve no desire to dive back into racing at the level of saturation. Hell, I’ve no desire to get back on a plane.

I wouldn’t mind the occasional Darlington, or Bristol, or Martinsville, or Richmond, or Atlanta, or Talladega. I like a good drive. I might even like to go back to Kentucky, because the one time I went there was cataclysmic, and I probably owe it to the good folks of the Commonwealth (I have created a good many, fictitiously) to give the track another shot.

Or, after Charlotte, I may get it out of my system. I never said never, but I thought it a few times. Maybe I’ll say never after this one. Or, more likely, I’ll say, occasionally.

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).

Gleaned from the Borders of My Obsession

(Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, April 10, 2017, 5:05 p.m.

I haven’t blogged here in quite a while. I just haven’t had anything to write. I’ve been overwhelmed with the completion of my new stock car racing novel, Lightning in a Bottle, and I’ve written several times about it on my other site, www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com. What is the difference between a blog here and a blog there? More here are about sports and are non-fiction. More there are about books and writing fiction. Sometimes I write a blog for this site and decide it fits the other better, and vice-versa.

By Monte Dutton

It’s hardly scientific.

Another reason is that I haven’t gotten out much. Not much free-lancing lately. Sitting in this chair all day and writing fiction, or doing layout, or writing media releases, is highly interesting for me, but writing about it wouldn’t likely be as compelling for you.

If my life suddenly gets more interesting, I’ll let you know.

Even though some of the changes don’t please me – if I could do away with the designated hitter in baseball tomorrow, I would – NASCAR’s changes have interested me.

It seems as every race is the Clemson NIT game. The Tigers led by 26 points with 15 minutes remaining and lost. The difference is that I watch all the races. When Clemson was prohibitively ahead, I switched channels and watched Katharine Hepburn charm Spencer Tracy for a while. I flipped back over and … Oakland was ahead!

Lots of strategy comes into play with all these byzantine rules and regulations.

As strange and different as it seems, I was talking to a friend this morning, and we agreed that David Pearson would have eaten this system alive.

5:45 p.m.

I had to put a load of laundry in. I should be cutting my mother’s lawn right now, but, when I went out to ship the novels and pick up some prescriptions at the apothecary, I forgot to get more gas, so I watched the Typhoid Red Sox lose, 2-1, in Detroit, Justin Verlander over Chris Sale. I suppose if your favorite team loses, and it’s a classic pitching duel, it’s not as disappointing, but, more likely, it’s because the season is young, and half the Boston team is either on bereavement leave, injured, or sick with the flu (hence the term Typhoid Red Sox).

Back to the freshly sanitized Fenway locker room and the Birds of Baltimore Tuesday night. The Red Sox are 3-3.

At the moment, the San Francisco Giants lead the Arizona Diamondbacks, 3-1, on Opening Day at AT&T Park. Ten minutes ago, the Giants scored three runs on a swinging bunt by pitcher Matt Moore that the D-backs redirected errantly three times. It was the type of play one normally associates with a Small Fry game.

That’s baseball.

6:00 p.m.

Each Friday, at a little after 7:30 p.m., I appear on South Carolina SportsTalk, which is aired on stations around the state and is hosted most weeks by Phil Kornblut, whom I have known for more years than either of us enjoy chronicling. Most weeks, unless I succeed in expending my allotted time, which is my goal, I’m asked to predict the winner of the upcoming race.

(Getty Images for NASCAR)

I do not consider myself any more of a prognosticator than any of the pharmacists at Sadler-Hughes Apothecary. As I have said (and written) many times, my training is in the field of what already happened. While proclaiming my ignorance, however, I will make an honest stab at it. Thus far, I have correctly picked the winner of three of the season’s seven races, meaning that I will undoubtedly miss at least the next 10.

Anyway, on Friday, I reasoned that changes in the Texas Motor Speedway track – new pavement, flatter and wider turns on one side of the track – would reward efficient drivers who were not overly aggressive. I was prepared to pick a Jimmie Johnson victory, but, a few minutes before I went on, Johnson spun out in qualifying. I knew he would have to start at the back of the pack. Matt Kenseth qualified eighth. I picked Kenseth, who finished 18th in a race Johnson did indeed win.

6:18 p.m.

I’m waiting for this new novel to take off. I’m waiting for word to get around about how funny, frank, and controversial it is. It’s been about a week now since I released it to the world, and I did so by not letting anyone know it was coming. Therefore, I suppose, it should come as no surprise that the word is slow getting out, even in this exponentially accelerating age.

Man, I know you don’t read many novels, but, hey, you gotta read this.

A few people have read it and communicated their feelings. If someone hates it, I don’t know about it, but I expect a segment of the stock car racing ruling class is less than ebullient.

I invented a kid who is the answer to stock car racing’s problems. A tale’s got to have a protagonist and an antagonist, or, at least, it sure works smoother in the telling that way.

See? That damned novel again.

I’m obsessed.

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.

(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).