Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, July 22, 2016, 10:20 a.m.
NASCAR visits Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend, and I remember just how big that used to be.
Indy didn’t allow fans in the infield because it didn’t want the crowd to be larger than the 500. NASCAR required that Indy hold down the purse so it wouldn’t be larger than the Daytona 500. The first time the stock cars tested at the Brickyard, the crowd was larger than the race will likely draw Sunday.
I’m surprised Donald Trump didn’t mention the decline in his speech Thursday night. It was probably because Mike Pence is from Indiana. The decline doesn’t mirror NASCAR’s general decline; it magnifies it.
I take no pleasure in this sorrowful realization.
Let me confess to an unpopular view. I like watching stock cars race at Indy. I like a track with a high degree of difficulty. It makes me laugh when someone says, “Indy wasn’t designed for stock cars.” Indy was designed in 1911. It was designed for Marmon Wasps, which were closer to the wasps under the edge of my roof than the vehicles in the garage.
Darlington wasn’t designed for the brave, new world of NASCAR, either. It’s one of the reasons I love it so. Old school. Darlington is the Big Ten. Indy is the Ivy League.
Passing is hard at Indy. I enjoy watching a trailing driver stalk the one he’s behind. Darting a little here. Pulling out down the straightaway there. Making the prey nervous. Then … pouncing. Dale Jarrett was good at that.
How could Indy have been so breathtaking in 1996 and so B-O-R-I-N-G 20 years later? It’s the same track. The cars? Oh, they got worse for a while, but recently they’ve gotten better, and the two decades in between have left us, at the moment, in about the same place. Plus, NASCAR has inserted bells and whistles that weren’t in place back in the giddy early years, when men were men and the Busch Series was racing at IRP.
Maybe part of this confusion is derived from the fact that the world has changed and I haven’t. I am mindful of these consequences of age. Social media keep me abreast of the country’s growing impatience and anger, but sometimes my upbringing betrays me. On rare occasions, I still display an annoying taste for patience.
Somehow we have gotten in the habit of accentuating what is bad. We know so much about so many things that are bad. We forget that they were just as bad 50 years ago. Or yesterday.
Jeff Gordon is substituting for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Winning another Brickyard couldn’t possibly be harder than competing for attention in a TV booth with Darrell Waltrip. No way Gordon backs down to Joey Logano the way he does to D.W. In the eye in the sky, Waltrip always has plenty of ‘splainin’ to do.
My eyes will be on the Magnavox.
I’ll miss the pomp, the pageantry, dinner at St. Elmo’s, a baseball game at Victory Field, and random conversations in the track cafeteria with people I’ve never met and have never met me, but both of us wanted to correct that oversight.
I won’t miss the Yellow Shirts, the indescribable hassle of getting anything whatsoever done, the fact that waiting for the winner rivals the time of the race, and the corporate paranoia that descends upon any proceedings when the chief topic of conversation is “gee, whiz, there’s nobody here.”
In summary, I’ll get by.
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?
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.
The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.
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.
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