What a Way to Run a Railroad

"It's just super to have another chance at an intimate conversation with you guys." (Sean Gardner/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

“It’s just super to have another chance at an intimate conversation with you guys.” (Sean Gardner/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, January 13, 2015, 12:03 p.m.

Soon, NASCAR will consist of more than lurid details of lawsuits. Soon, what you will find ascending through your social media feed will be more than the umpteenth list of “Biggest Stories of 2014,” “Ten Races to Remember,” “Who’s Poised for a Comeback in 2015?” and any other work of art that will enable its author to figure out a way to attach “#junior.”

There is a new car. It appears there will always be a new car.

mug Dutton Monte 2_WEBThings could not be better. As the concerted seat-elimination program continues, at some point soon, all the races will be sellouts again, and if that turns out to be thirty thousand, so be it, and it doesn’t matter, anyway, because NASCAR prefers to disseminate attendance by means of buoyant tweets.

“Wow. I must say, this is quite a crowd.” It’s like listing the time of an Olympic gold medalist as “extraordinary,” the silver “very fast,” and the bronze “fast.” In NASCAR, of course, the bronze would be “third quick.”

Remember, not too long ago, when it seemed as if declining demand would have the effect of greatly reducing ticket prices? That was supposedly the way capitalism worked, and, at Christmas time, ten-buck seats on the back straight, and free parking, danced in the heads of those whose incomes were fixed. They didn’t know NASCAR would fix the problem by turning free enterprise the other way. Raise the demand by reducing the seats! Has a nice ring to it, sort of like, oh, Remember the Alamo!

Henry Higgins said to Eliza Doolittle, “By George, you’ve got it!”

I want conditions to get better! It is my fondest goal that those hundreds of thousands of seats will be needed again, and they’ll all be stacked in some deserted railyard, rivets rusting and paint fading. Is there a way to use old grandstands for fracking? For building a Keystone Pipeline? For counter-terrorism? I can’t say. Maybe they traded them, even up, for canvas and vinyl, the better to make huge banners.

Alas, a great deal of melting down is probably required. It might cost NASCAR a dime.

This was my favorite race of 2014. Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning at Martinsville when Jeff Gordon, his teammate, needed it more. (Garry Eller/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

This was my favorite race of 2014. Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning at Martinsville when Jeff Gordon, his teammate, needed it more. (Garry Eller/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Times will never be happier than for the next month, while Casey Mears is a Chase contender, and, if everything falls just right, those kids, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick, could be right there in the hunt.

Of course, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, and Tony Stewart aren’t just going to move over. I could have included others, but then Junior wouldn’t have been first alphabetically.

Forgive my pessimism at a time of optimism. I should be more mindful of potential web hits. I should be trying to get the season off to a great start, writing stuff that will make the rich and powerful smile. Oh, guess what? I won’t even see any of them. The most rich and powerful person I know is, oh, probably, the local sheriff, and I try to see him even less than Brian France.

I must make the same adjustment everyone else does. I’ve been watching football, ice hockey, basketball, and several other sports where occasionally broadcasters criticize. The NASCAR form of criticism is the dull silence in the booth while all hell breaks out. I’m not trying to be mean. It is my honest belief that shameless boosterism is killing the sport as much as anything else.

NASCAR is no different than any other sport, only faster. It leads the way in vacuous marketing, not-so-subtle media control, and human beings who might as well be the machines they guide and the tires they roll.

To his credit, Kevin Harvick is among the last of the red-hot humans.  (Christa L. Thomas/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

To his credit, Kevin Harvick is among the last of the red-hot humans. (Christa L. Thomas/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

The way out is with humanity. NASCAR has trained professionals. Folk heroes went the way of the buffalo, and mainly it’s a result of habitat change. There’s room for newcomers, but only those who have been brain-scrubbed, teeth-straightened, and bored with a high-powered list of talking points.

NASCAR loves Dale Earnhardt so much that it has informally decreed never shall there be another. There were Jimmie Johnsons in 1965. There were Howard Spragues on The Andy Griffith Show, but only when they started showing it in color. Where once the sport had Barney Fifes, now it has Michael Scotts. And Brian Scotts. And a Larry Mac in a pear tree.

And I might as well watch it all from home because there isn’t nearly as much to gain from being there.


Quick-Draw and Babalooey

If my non-fiction doesn’t infuriate you enough, perhaps you can find a short story at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com that will make you apoplectic.

I’ve written two novels, but I once wrote books about NASCAR, and, to tell the truth, I’m thinking about writing another one. There’s a way, but, maybe, not a will. Here’s where you can buy my books, some of which are approaching antiquity: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

About Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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8 Responses to What a Way to Run a Railroad

  1. Tim Welchance says:

    Very good blog!
    Advertising and TV coverage has taken over NASCAR and the actual track experience is about dead!
    I love racing and seeing the actual race, but the rules are changing to make it too easy to win when one actually performs badly. (Lucky Dogs, pass arounds, etc.)
    Keep up telling the way it is!

  2. tommy says:

    With attendance numbers where they are, North Wilkesboro would be a sell out. They had to let that old track go. The sport was just “too big”.

  3. Scott says:

    This is precisely why I miss your columns in the Gazette. You are one of the few in the NASCAR media willing to go up to the emperor and point out he’s buck naked! You put into words what so many of us long time fans are thinking and feeling. Keep up the good fight as we continue to hope that at some point common sense will rise above the BS and $ signs.

  4. russ says:

    Maybe as we get older, (ah more mature) we begin to see things that we didn’t earlier. Maybe the shameless huckstering and relentless boosterism was there when I loved Nascar as well. Or maybe not.
    Regardless it is in full flower now, to the point where it is almost insulting to your intelligence to watch.
    But they seem to still be making boatloads of money, and as long as it doesn’t come from me I don’t care.

  5. Tim S. says:

    Variety will come back into the sport when the big money starts going away. As long as the sanctioning body is raking in $800 million a year no matter what happens on the track, they’re just not going to care to make any real changes. They’ll just tout every rule change as revolutionary and let the hype machine handle it.

  6. John says:

    Brian and his gang better be prepared for some grim TV ratings for Cup in 2015. NBCSN is only in a fraction of the homes compared to any of the group of ESPN channels. Fox Sports 1’s ratings are, at best, equivalent to the reach of ESPN 2 – but only on a good day. As for the Xfinity Series, I expect sub-Indy Car-sized ratings.

    Then there is the strange economic practice of pulling seats out of race tracks to simulate sell outs?

    But I digress…

  7. bobi says:

    For anyone who really wants to help change NASCAR or at least Texas Motor Speedway, check out their application for their “Fan Council.” In addition to the usual name, address, cell, they want your Twitter, FB, and Instagram accounts and a 4″x6″ picture of you at their track. I doubt anyone over 30 should bother to apply. I’m sure all the new fans will find a way to save TMS and the sport.

  8. Dave Fulton says:

    Hope springs eternal.

Comments are closed.