Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, September 3, 2018, 4:15 p.m.
Glory be. I awakened happy on Labor Day morning.
It had been a rough weekend. Laurens County’s three football teams lost by a combined score of 142-13 on Friday night. Fortunately, I could only be at one of them, and it was the closest, 42-7.
The Furman Paladins got clobbered at Clemson, 48-7, and I was one of few mildly surprised or even moderately disappointed. An old Paladin called while I was watching the game on TV and said the line couldn’t do anything with the Tigers’ front.
“Nobody else can, either,” I said.
The White Sox clubbed the Red Sox on Sunday, but the Yankees lost, too, so that was a good sign.
Fortunately, the Bojangles’ Southern 500 was on the horizon like an orange and purple sunset. Literally. Darlington Raceway had an orange and purple sunset. Undoubtedly, Clemson fans claimed responsibility.
For the Southern 500, in the Palmetto State, the sky wasn’t Carolina blue.
My daddy, rest his soul, took me to Darlington when I was a young’un, and there’s still no way any race there is going to disappoint me. I am both wrapped and rapt in the lore.
I was watching on TV, of course. I don’t venture too far for my live sporting events these days. At about 3 p.m., I said to myself, Self, if I got in the car right now, I could be there live and in person. Then Self pointed out that I didn’t have a ticket, a pass or the money to spare.
Self has more sense than I, and it’s a good thing that Self is a convincing debater.
Not surprisingly, I wanted Kyle Larson to win, and Self was rooting for Brad Keselowski.
Some tracks cast a spell on me. I become hypnotized watching the cars slide around, inches from the wall, in Darlington’s narrow turns. If there’s no battle for the lead, it doesn’t bother me as much. There’s always something fascinating to watch. If I was there, I could pick and choose, but TV does a better job at Darlington than other tracks because there’s more to choose from, and the producer can’t go wrong as easily.
Neither Larson nor Keselowski had won this year. Larson dominated all night long, and then Keselowski beat him at the end. Larson slipped back third, behind Joey Logano, at the finish.
The character of Barrie Jarman in my two racing novels, Lightning in a Bottle and Life Gets Complicated, was not intentionally modeled after anyone, but, coincidentally, Barrie has a bit of Keselowski’s outspoken personality and Larson’s driving style.
Also coincidentally, I (not to mention Self) like Keselowski and Larson.
I’m prone to forget what some deem significant and remember small moments that fire the synapses of my brain.
Nothing this year has set off the mental fireworks as much as the interactions of Larson and Austin Dillon at the ends of stages one and two. Dillon managed to stay on the lead lap at the end of the first by treating Larson’s Chevrolet a bit rudely with his own.
At the end of the second, Larson returned the favor by taking advantage of Dillon’s traffic woes and beating him at the line by inches, thus costing Dillon, uh, that lap.
I like the way that kid thinks. I can’t understand how in the world he manages not to win more races.
Damned if Keselowski didn’t beat Larson out of the pits and dust him in the final laps. Self likes the way he thinks, too.
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