I Don’t Never Have Fun Like That No More

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, July 4, 2017, 10:55 a.m.

In the early 1970s, the banks of the Little River overflowed in Laurens. A photo on the front page of a newspaper is etched in my mind. A rowboat was making its way through a parking lot, with Edwards department store in the background. I don’t remember if Edwards ever reopened, but if it did, it didn’t stay around for long.

By Monte Dutton

Laurens is the county seat. I live in Clinton, eight miles away. On Monday night, I took in the Laurens Riverfront Freedom Festival at an amphitheater situated along the banks of the Little River, which has an apt name 99 percent of the time. Levees have been constructed along the banks. A few other floods have occurred over the years, but no one’s had to row around a shopping center.

The flood, well over 40 years ago now, is indirectly responsible for the existence of Little River Park, Laurens Amphitheater and the Laurens Riverfront Freedom Festival. Laurens Sings, a competition whose finals took place, would probably be held in an auditorium or a sports facility now. On the eve of The Fourth, families brought their kids and tried in vain to keep them under control. The members of a triumphant Little League baseball team scurried around collecting contributions to pay for the state tournament. A rising Laurens District High School senior, Malashia Cain, was judged the singingest singer in the county and earned a gigantic $1,000 check for kicks and a normal one she plans to use for a downpayment on a 2009 Malibu. She sang a song, “Summertime,” from Porgy and Bess.

I haven’t seen that kind of joy since a kid won a go-kart at the Easter Egg Hunt at Cavalier Ballpark in Clinton. That was even longer ago than the Little River flood. Besides, I couldn’t enjoy it because I wanted that go-kart.

When I was in college, others used to ask me what there was to do back home. I said, well, sometimes we’ll get a lot of beer, and we’ll go park in the edge of the woods, and we’ll put some music in the tape deck, and sit out in the moonlight on the tailgate or hood of my daddy’s pickup truck, and we’ll sing along with the music, and drink the beer, and talk about life.

My friends would say, “My God.”

And I’d say the funny thing is I don’t ever do anything I enjoy that much anymore.

In a small town, little things mean a lot. Even a Little River.

I watched little girls who were much more adept at raising money than their brothers on the ball team, who basically wanted to wear their uniforms and let everybody know they were district champions. Other little girls wanted to teeter and totter along the little granite walls that separated the terraces in the viewing area. One daddy came over and said, “Nikki, git! You git back over there where me and your mama are a-settin’.” To which Nikki replied, “Noooooo!” She pointed. “You git! You git back over yonder. Me and Britney’s having fun.”

Somehow, Daddy didn’t tan her little hide. Fifteen minutes later, Nikki was hugging him, and they were both trying to convince the other than each loved the other better than vice-versa.

The names have been changed partly to protect the innocent but mainly because I don’t know them. It was sweet. And funny. And wholesome. And small-town American.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

 

There wasn’t any drinking. If people wanted to smoke, they could go over to the bridge, where, according to the master of ceremonies, sand had been “put out,” apparently so cigarettes could be put out.

They had food trucks just outside the gates, and snow cones next to the inside concession stand, which was only barely farther away than the gates. I watched the main show, by a local classic-rock band named Outshyne, from behind the crowd, and then I bought myself a smoothie, which cost a dollar less because I didn’t want anything uber-healthy like kale in it. Just regular healthy things were fine.

It all ended with a fireworks display, but I slipped out early to beat the traffic. The adventure was figuring out a way to get out of the parking lot, which was something of a maze. The best move was going left instead of right, and driving up the hill past Smith Chevrolet, which used to be Smith Brothers long ago when a fellow could buy something called a Pontiac. That way I didn’t have to interrupt the folks smoking on the bridge.

Then I processed some pictures, and wrote a story about the evening, and it took as long for email to move my photos as it did to write the story, and the Red Sox won in 11 innings in Texas, and Dustin Pedroia made an amazing, wildly unusual play in a moment of Boston need, and I ended up going to bed earlier than usual because the late-night talk shows were all reruns, and until now, I haven’t done much today other than look at social media and fix breakfast.

Which is fine.

 

 

 

(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).

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).

‘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).

More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About Boiled Peanuts

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, June 17, 2017, 9:34 a.m.

This weekend I have in my possession one of those foods that Southerners consider delicacies and those from other places dismiss as gross, tasteless, backward, and lacking in redeeming value, social or otherwise.

Boiled peanuts.

I don’t often buy them. I prefer to, uh, boil them myself. I am a certified boiled-peanuts chef. I once studied under my grandfather, who ran a grocery store. Grocery stores were once the centers of boiled-peanuts learning.

On one of those rare days when the produce department at Bi-Lo has an availability of green peanuts – ripe ones won’t work – I greedily scoop a weekend’s supply into one of those cellophane bags that take five minutes to unfold, and head home a happy man.

By Monte Dutton

Occasionally, I buy some boiled peanuts at a baseball game. I rather like the Cajun-spiced ones. In general, though, my problem with “store-bought” boiled peanuts is that they are soggy. It’s one of those natural consequences of modernity. The sublime boiled peanuts of my youth were ruined by plastic bags.

Dutton’s Grocery — which inexplicably had Dutton’s Market on the sign after Granddaddy painted the whole outside in a combination of bright and pale orange, oh, in about 1969 or ’70, thereabouts — sold boiled peanuts. In those days, they were sold in small, tan paper bags. If soggy peanuts were placed in those bags, the bottoms fell out. Hence, we had to drain the peanuts before we bagged them.

Granddaddy would get on one side of a huge vat of boiling peanuts, grasp a handle with one gloved hand and place the other under the vat, while I, oh, 12 years old or so, would do the same on the other side. We then hoisted the container and dumped its contents into a basin in the store’s back room, the same location where chickens were chopped, bologna sliced and steak cubed.

Scalding was a possibility. That never stopped us. Neither of us, nor anyone else who worked there, ever got scalded, at least not during my youth.

We let the peanuts cool and drain for a few hours. Then I sat on a high stool in front of the basin and proceeded to bag the peanuts. They were arranged on a cardboard beer flat and placed on the counter, with several reinforcement flats stored in “the cooler” which was one of two refrigeration units, one out front and the other adjoining the back room. As a general rule, the outside cooler contained reinforcements of watermelons and the inside one contained reinforcements of beer.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

 

It is my recollection that a bag of boiled peanuts, at about the turn of the ‘70s, cost slightly less than a pack of cigarettes and slightly more than a Coke. Twenty-five cents.

I still prefer my boiled peanuts drained. They aren’t as messy. Salty water doesn’t leave stains on the front of the shirt. They taste better, or maybe that’s because it’s the way they tasted when I was but a lad.

Those from the non-boiled-peanut states sound almost exactly the way those from the non-grits states sound.

I don’t get it. They’re tasteless. So bland.

My answer is the same. You like potatoes? They’re tasteless, too, until you slather them in butter, salt and pepper, and/or ketchup.

Besides, my buds don’t taste for anyone but themselves.

 

 

(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).

What’s to Bless and What’s to Blame?

Brad Keselowski won a Pocono classic in the Xfinity Series. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, June 11, 2017, 11:35 a.m.

This week’s NASCAR Monster Cup shindig is at Pocono Raceway. Unsurprisingly, it’s in the Poconos of northeastern Pennsylvania. The mountains aren’t very high compared to the Blue Ridge. They are minuscule compared to the Rockies. They are scenic, though. I used to enjoy visiting.

My first visit was in 1989. I had gone to a friend’s wedding in Pittsburgh. I thought, well, the track is in the same state. The drive on Sunday was grueling. It’s a long way from Pittsburgh to Long Pond. It’s a long way back. I nearly fell asleep at dusk in Indiana. Indiana, Pennsylvania. I revived myself looking at the statue of James Stewart. He was from there.

By Monte Dutton

I hope this 400-miler isn’t anticlimactic, but it will be hard not to be. Brad Keselowski brilliantly won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, and it’s not often I use such an adverb to characterize a race in that series. Keselowski, who was the Sprint Cup champion the last year I wrote about it full-time, passed Kyle Larson on the final lap, culminating a stirring comeback. I was glad I got finished mowing the lawn in time to watch it.

The IndyCar race from Texas dragged on until past midnight. The term that comes to mind is “too much of a good thing.” That race was run as if a bunch of fighter pilots decided they wanted to have a dogfight without leaving the ground. It was won by willpower in the form of Will Power.

Some say IndyCars ought to be equipped with canopies in the interest of safety. I think they ought to be run inside laptops because that’s what it looks like. The real race appears to be run using special effects. How do they manage to photoshop the action with only a seven-second delay? It must be the way that a sporting event in my high-definition living room occurs two seconds later than the regular-definition screen in the bedroom.

It would have been a perfect time to go live to Pocono and ask a NASCAR driver if he’d like to “do the double” (Indy-Charlotte) next year.

Hell, no. The Coke 600 is exciting enough for me.

An astronaut would say this. The only man who ought to “do the double” was Evel Knievel, and he’s gone.

It was must-see TV, though the ratings are unlikely to support this view.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

 

Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck race was in Texas, in the form of an IndyCar undercard. The winner was Christopher Bell, though the replays seemed to show Chase Briscoe ahead when the track’s flashing yellow lights were activated.

(Getty Images for NASCAR)

It turns out those yellow lights, which have been in use at Texas Motor Speedway for many years, were just a publicity stunt. They weren’t hooked into race control, as the small, non-flashing, lights were. In order to justify the awarding of the race to Bell, not Briscoe, NASCAR officials basically had to reveal that the track’s rolling lights – they make it look as if yellow bands of light are chasing each other around the track’s catch-fence perimeter – were little more than a spectacular hoax.

No one ever disclosed that as long as their accuracy wasn’t an issue. When the high-ranking NASCAR official with his hand on the switch yells “put her (yellow flag) out!” and flips it, the fancy light show doesn’t activate. Apparently, that requires some other fellow to say, “oh, yeah,” and flip another switch as soon as he gets around to it.

This whole, convoluted story is emblematic of the way NASCAR does business. No one ever knows how things work until they don’t work well.

On the one hand, I’d like for today’s race in the Poconos to be without such drama. Other drama, such as the last-lap pass in Keselowski’s Xfinity victory, would be marvelous. Races like that don’t happen at Pocono Raceway often. It’s not a bad place, though. It’s an interesting place. A fan has to pay attention.

Fortunately, the Red Sox aren’t on until tonight.

 

(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).

Looking at the World Through a Windshield …

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

Concord, North Carolina, Saturday, May 27, 2017, 11:50 a.m.

About 15-20 years ago, one morning, barely light, I was driving up Interstate 85 between Spartanburg and Cowpens when a blue station wagon roared past me in the right lane. It was taxicab with orange lettering on the sides and back. It was a big Ford that brought scale-model aircraft carriers to mind.

By Monte Dutton

I thought it odd when I noticed that the driver, a Latino, appeared to be asleep. He must have been doing at least 85. I hadn’t moved over because he overtook me so quickly I didn’t see him coming.

The station wagon then careened across in front of me and into the grass separating the lanes. At this point the driver apparently awakened.

He yanked the ungainly vehicle back to the right, skidded across in front of me — I had prudently backed off to give him some room — cleared the two-foot guardrail with little resistance and disappeared into some sort of dry wash or creek bed.

Undoubtedly, I cursed aloud and took several deep breaths as I brought my own vehicle to a stop. A great deal of smoke and dust arose from the undergrowth and, in time, so did the cab driver, blood streaming down the front of his shirt from his busted mouth and nose. I’ve heard of people spitting teeth, but it’s one of few times I’ve actually seen it and the only place that didn’t have chalk lines across it.

Mainly, though, he was just shook up.

That morning I was on the way to Martinsville. Today I was on the way here.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

I thought about it this morning because race drivers are prone to say, “Well, you may have thought it was a boring race, but from where I was sitting, it was unbelievable.”

One would hope a man driving nearly 200 miles an hour in a closed circuit wouldn’t be bored.

The key point here is that racing is a spectator sport. Of course it doesn’t put a driver to sleep. Batters don’t nod off, either, when fastballs are tracking toward their noggins. For the competitor, sport is certainly jarring. For the fan, it had better not be.

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).

 

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 Dimming of the Stars

Charlotte Motor Speedway. William Byron testing. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, May 19, 2017, 10:01 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

I’m not going to reminisce about past NASCAR all-star memories. Most of them are distant.

I was in the grandstands the first time it was run at night. I’ve told that story before. I’ve told all the stories before. I remember those heady days when The Winston – it’s had many names, no telling what it is now – rivaled the Coca-Cola 600 that followed it. The longest, most grueling test of NASCAR’s Finest followed a slam-bang, thrill-filled extravaganza.

Turns out it’s the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race. It’s Saturday night.

Back in the 1980s and ‘90s, race fans took great pride in their all-star race. The stock car racers all did it for love, but love was even better after a $1 million payday. They didn’t go through the motions the way they did in the all-star matchups of baseball, football, basketball and hockey.

Now, 25 years after I watched Dale Earnhardt, Kyle Petty and Davey Allison wreck each other on the final lap – Allison won, though the concrete walls of the speedway knocked him cold, and the makeshift victory lane was a hospital bed – NASCAR All-Star has gone the way of all the other all-stars.

Chase Elliott (24) racing Kyle Larson in last year’s Sprint Showdown. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Money’s still unimportant. This is apparent because no one talks about it anymore.

The Winston Select Nextel Sprint Monster All-Star Race, combining all the titles from nicotine to caffeine and a heap of talking on the phone in between, has ranged from 70 to 113 laps and from one to five segments. Seven-time champions (Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt) have won it seven times (Johnson 4, Earnhardt 3).

On the other hand, Michael Waltrip won it in 1996 before he ever won a Cup race anywhere else.

The last three years the winners have been Jamie McMurray, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano. I couldn’t have told you that without the Internet. The most recent I covered was in 2012. The most recent I remember was a year earlier, mainly because the driver who won that race, Carl Edwards, practically destroyed the winning car sliding through the grass when the nose scraped up a metal drain. Or something.

Joey Logano won last year. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

The Winston used to be as addictive as cigarettes, and it wasn’t that much of a coincidence. Tickets were cheap, a lot of free ones were floating around, and the idea was to get people there and send them home wanting more.

The ultimate significance of the All-Star Race is its effect on the sport as it now stands. The game-show format changed racing and was slowly, over three decades, integrated into the conduct of all the races. This is also the root of the race’s problems.

Some drivers are there already. Some race their way in. Some get voted in. It’s as complicated as a presidential election. So is everything else. A man who masters crosswords puzzles isn’t going to get excited about a mere game of checkers anymore.

The easiest way to resuscitate this Monster would be to ease off on the mad science everywhere else.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

This is unlikely to happen.

So where does it go from here? More, ahem, innovation?

One segment through the infield? A-racing we will go, a-racing we will go, high-ho, the derry-oh, a racing we will go.

Run the race backwards? Run the race in reverse? Parallel-park on pit road? A wall of flame at the finish line? One segment consisting entirely of pit stops?

The Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race has already stretched all bounds of credulity, civility and civilization, and had all the other races advance into the new territory, accompanied by bureaucrats carrying government regulations.

Where once the race sat at the foot of a mountain, now it is perched on the edge of a cliff.

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).