MONTE DUTTON - IT’S ALL IN THE MOVIES
I’ve been wrong my share of the time. I didn’t realize it in my idealistic youth. The only time a man thinks he knows it all is when he doesn’t know much. Fortunately, where NASCAR was concerned, I was a grown man when I got there. Back in the 1990s, I wrote columns that likened NASCAR to “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” a world where sycophants told the boss his threads were elegant in spite of the fact that he was naked. I also warned that the sport’s leaders were going on hunting expeditions every day to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs.
She was a tough old bird. It took them about another decade to put her on a platter and carve her up.
Sometimes NASCAR changes. It happens when they feel it in the wallet. FDR never changed the country half as much as desperate NASCAR execs who never made a change that worked and never made one they didn’t claim was brilliant. Then they’d reverse their brilliant change a week later.
Proposals of mine were generally met with such resistance that it was about a decade until they claimed them for their own. I thought it must be beneath them to read me. It turns out they just put a few of my ideas in storage.
It’s not like I was Nostradamus high on exhaust fumes. Come to think of it, that may have been what NASCAR’s geniuses thought. Most of my suggestions remain gloriously untried. The few that happened were anomalies. I came up with theories for changing the schedule by forming pools of tracks in which each would give up a single race every four years, thus making room for new venues. That was back when such a market existed.
I wrote that NASCAR ought to race cars that were cool in what was then the Busch Series. Young people might get excited about Mustangs, Camaros and Challengers, once those models started reappearing in showrooms. My idea was that a young driver piloting a Mustang on Saturday might bring some kids to those races. The notion of racing them in Cup, then Winston, seemed hopelessly radical then. NASCAR was full of climate-change deniers, the climate being that at the race track.
But, yes, I thought a Taurus was a seriously ugly race car, even when “aero-matched” for your protection. My sight had been calibrated by Butch Lindley’s red Camaro at Greenville-Pickens Speedway. The last Cup car I really loved was a 1969 Torino. The brave, new NASCAR that passed me by is the one that now draws the few, the proud, the ones who can see invisible clothes with the same skill that Dale Earnhardt used in seeing the air at Talladega.
Why in the name of MySpace did they tinker with Bristol, which was to golden eggs what Fort Knox was to the literal gold? Why did they stop using the best part of the track then known as Sears Point? Why did they reconfigure Atlanta, discontinue Rockingham and try their best to run Darlington out of business? Why did they tear down grandstands instead of try to fill them? Imagine if NASCAR had invented New Coke. It would have been on the shelves until absolutely no one bought it. Then, in a world dominated by Pepsi and Dr. Pepper, someone in Daytona Beach would say, “Hey, here’s an idea. Let’s bring back the old Coke.” Brilliant.
As a racer (Paul Newman) said to a codger (Wilford Brimley) even greater than me in the movie Absence of Malice: “Everybody in this room is smart, and everybody was just doing their job, and Teresa Perrone is dead. Who do I see about that?” “Ain’t nobody to see,” replied the codger. “I wish there was. You’re excused, sir.” If <1>Absence of Malice had been written as a NASCAR tale and not an examination of journalism ethics, it: (1.) would probably have been better, and (2.) Teresa Perrone would have been North Wilkesboro.