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MONTE DUTTON: DRIFTING SLIGHTLY TOWARD ACCEPTANCE, IF NOT APPROVAL

 

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When I watch the races on TV these days, I can think about them. The down side is I don’t make much money. The upside is I don’t have to busy myself with scribbles on notepads about the running order for a green-flag pit sequence, why the driver of the 68 car is apparently a lunatic, and what in the wide, wide world of Smokey Yunick is Chad Knaus going to try next?

I can seek “the big picture.” I can think “outside the box.” I can find “where the rubber meets the road.” I can attain “transparency,” which used to mean I could see right through someone but now means, magically, that such a person is open and honest.

Honest emptiness. That’s our goal here in the modern world of fits and starts, phases and stages, and a NASCAR point system that veers close to the fictitious card game of TEGWAR (from Mark Harris’s Bang the Drum Slowly).

TEGWAR stands for “The Exciting Game without any Rules.” This is actually “The Exciting Game with Inexplicable Rules.” TEGWIR.

I’ve read it, okay? They’ve got stages, bonus points, playoff bonus points, repair clocks, mandatory cautions, lug nuts worth $20,000 apiece if you don’t use them, not to mention rural scenes, magazines and truckers on CB. Oh, yeah. And Richard Pryor on the video.

NASCAR for Dummies isn’t pertinent anymore. Dummies need a guidebook, or, at least, a scanner.

All that having been noted, it was nice to see a guy win in Fontana who was supposed to. It broke a four-week pattern of the guy supposed to win either running out of gas, or making a pit-road call that didn’t work, or driving too fast, for chrissakes (okay, on pit road) or … something else that eludes me at present.

With Kyle Larson’s fairly perfunctory triumph -- even in a race that was notably less exciting than the Xfinity win that preceded it by a day -- the season has a sensation. Larson’s last four finishes are 2, 2, 2, and 1. The victory was his second in career, as well. For No. 42, 2’s were wild, and, this week, NASCAR World (let’s eschew “nation” just this once) is wild about Larson and all that he suggests. He is young, diverse and astonishingly proficient.

Five races in, I’m starting to acclimate. Not approve, but acclimate. One of the tiniest of factors in why NASCAR is changing so rapidly is that I don’t care for much of it. Not only am I so 2012 (the last season I covered most of the races), but I’m really so 2003, when men were men and Kenseth consistent.

I’m getting too old for all these trinkets and gizmos. I still don’t care for the designated hitter, but I’m not going to yell for kids to get off my lawn until I get it cut.

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