MONTE DUTTON – RACING ON THE MIDWAY
It’s NASCAR’s state-fair week. The sport has its Speedweeks, its participation in the glorious racing month of May, its Bristol Night Race and its Labor Day Weekend at the Granddaddy of Them All.
Incredibly, NASCAR still has tradition left, even though, in Darlington’s case, it took it away, then gave it back.
Traditionalists have to take what they can get in this day and time.
Do you realize scaled-down facsimiles of pickup trucks race each year on a Thursday night in Rossburg, Ohio, which is barely a place, let along a “burg”? They race those trucks on dirt, which, for a man who grew up on a farm, is the only logical place they should race at all.
All I know is the place I learned to race on dirt was the road to the hog pen. Even as an adult, I got into a bit of a tiff with the man who then rented the farm by sliding around and around the edges of a pasture in a 1978 Chevy Luv.
It hurt his hay yield, as I recall.
That’s what truck racing ought to be, and Eldora Speedway is pretty close.
A friend and I rode over from Indianapolis, back when NASCAR’s race there was still big, and we watched the USAC midget cars race. The atmosphere was such that they could have warmed up the crowd by having midget people race. I loved it. There’s a grassy plateau behind the backstretch where, during the national anthem, a cowboy – one of those Ohio cowboys – cantered around the plateau waving the Stars & Stripes.
See why I think Eldora is close to a farm? I was a farm boy back before running water. It’s a compliment.
Then, after only a day to catch one’s NASCAR breath, which is now probably a cold Bud Light, cars take to the road, which is what most of the cars in America take to almost all the time.
Back in the days when races drew crowds, I enjoyed driving into Watkins Glen International early in the morning, with wood smoke in the air and shirtless young men already playing games with a beer in one hand and a football in the other. The womenfolk scrambled eggs with a beer in one hand and a spatula in the other.
That’s living the dream right there.