MONTE DUTTON – EVERYTHING CHANGES EXCEPT CHANGE ITSELF
We, as NASCAR, or auto racing, or just auto enthusiasts, or citizens of this blue marble of a planet, tend to think it’s never been as good or bad as it is right now.
Right now. This instant.
Good Lord. Maybe it’s because I’m getting old and really have damn near seen it all. I try not to tumble into some geriatric purgatory enclosed by what was “back in my day,” but I have to fight it off at times. I am ready to turn over the world to the young folks, but that’s only because they can’t possibly gum up the works worse than my generation and, quite probably, the one beneath it.
The world, NASCAR and beyond, is changing more and more rapidly. Scribes such as I have always overreacted to everything, but not as much as the folks who read what we write. I used to get in little spats with racers and sometimes, in the midst of it, I would opine, “You think I’m tough? Man, you ought to read my mail. I’m Fans Lite: tastes great and less filling at the same time.”
Now you’re thinking, what am I getting at? Stick with me. I’ll pull some coherence out directly, which, as Southerners know, means “indirectly.”
Matt DiBenedetto, however little I know of him, is a great guy. Now he’s about to lose his ride because there’s a glut of fresh-faced up-and-comers rising up to toss him aside. In NASCAR, bidness has always been bidness, and what is happening to DiBenedetto happened once upon a time to Tiny Lund, Darel Dieringer, Pete Hamilton, Ricky Craven and others too numerous to mention. NASCAR has more strange outcomes than science fiction.
What is happening to Jimmie Johnson also befell Buck Baker, Richard Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip and, well, Brett Favre. An athlete gets older, and experience balances out the decline, but not forever. Come to think of it, over a longer span, it happens to everyone, with the possible exception of Willie Nelson and Jimmy Carter.
It’ll happen to me. It’ll happen to you.
And, merciful God (as Tom Higgins used to say 30 times a day), it’s on to the next feeding frenzy.
Denny Hamlin won at Bristol, and people who hadn’t mentioned him in a month started calling him the inevitable champion while the checkered flag was still waving.
I’d love to see it. I enjoyed my interactions with Hamlin when I still frequented the speed palaces of the land. I used to say that no writer was any better than his most recent story. Now readers will turn on you based on a paragraph or a participial phrase, even. All that I don’t understand about Hamlin is why his owner, Joe Gibbs, doesn’t put a paw print on the decklid of his colorful orange and purple Toyota. South Carolinians would start FedExing Camrys to one another if he did.
In this brave, new world, changing at the same speed it remains the same, every fleet of shiny race cars is fleeting.