MONTE DUTTON: IN TIME, THE WORLD PASSES US BY
Charlotte Motor Speedway was a mixed blessing, I suppose. It was my second visit this year. It’s the only track to which I’ve journeyed on assignment in the past five seasons. I enjoyed hanging out with old friends I don’t see much anymore. It rained a lot. The driving was tough, but I’m talking about my truck on the interstate, not race cars on the track. The racing is tough every week, but I don’t drive home in the backwash of a tropical storm often.
I didn’t spend any time in the garage because there weren’t many people there when the rain was falling, and the rain was falling for almost all the time they weren’t racing.
I talked a lot, which isn’t at all unusual, and I wound up meeting lots of very important journalists who had not been born the first time I wrote about a race at Charlotte. On Sunday night, one voice I didn’t recognize asked question after question, most of which were longer than the answers they elicited. I was in the press box. He was in the infield. I could only hear his words, and I finally turned around and asked, “Who is that guy?”
Someone said his name. No help. “For whom does he work?” Someone named a website. No help. The fellow must be important because he sounded like it, and sounding important is one of the big keys of success, media and otherwise. I’m sure he’s a good writer, but it’s far more important to sound good and look good than be good. That comes later. Give it 10 years.
This, of course, is all relative. When I started writing about NASCAR full-time in 1993, I breezed in like Johnny Cash and June Carter going to Jackson. The media have always had old battle axes set in their ways who think the kids are crazy. It’s only recently that I became one of them and, in fact, noticed that kids are, in fact, crazy.
It affects me. It makes me play a role. I first noticed this when I spent the winter of 1978-79 in Washington, D.C., and New York City. When I left the South, my southernness thickened. I laid it on extra thick because I felt as if people wanted to see a show. I played dumb when stopped by a D.C. cop.
“Awfuhsuh, back wheah ah come frum, ain’t nevuh seen no sign such as ’at.”
The cop let me go. He positively reinforced my deceit.
offer me a job? They’ve been
doing that for five years.
My greatest realization was that hard times are affecting the NASCAR industry in the same way they have already affected the newspaper industry. Veteran journalists have been shoved out, bought out, laid off and replaced by excitable boys and girls bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the prospect of working for a third as much.
That’s what’s happening to race drivers. Some good ones are being run out of the sport to make room for sweet birds of youth who are not unduly concerned about benefits.
“That boy’s good, B.W.”
“Sure is, Harley. Cheap, too.”
Like Merle Haggard, who finally had the good sense to die, I wonder if the good times are really over for good.