By Monte Dutton
On my way to Charlotte Motor Speedway, I learned from a radio personality that, up ahead, it was “pouring mist,” and I picked up the pace because I wanted to experience the phenomenon of mist that would pour.
My God, it’s misting sideways! Alert Jim Cantore!
Here I sit, at 4:32 p.m., in the CMS infield media center, and Top Gun is showing on the monitors, now that Duke-Virginia is over, along with Cars and, according to tweeted reports from chums who were here, Speedway with Elvis Presley before I got here.
If the advance of this storm gives us a worst-case scenario, I may get to watch Rory Calhoun in Thunder in Carolina by, oh, Tuesday.
Surely not. The Bank of America 500 is optimistically scheduled even earlier than before!
This morning I arose sorrowfully, knowing that even though I haven’t experienced one of these long, rainy journeys into night in a while, a few of them remain vivid in my psyche. It’s not like the old days when NASCAR officials waited to announce a postponement until Dale Earnhardt was safely out of the track and boarding a plane. The discerning scribe could simply find a vantage point where he could see Earnhardt climb into a black limousine, then he could go to his rented Ford Contour and beat the traffic a short distance behind the seven-time champion. He could then wrap up the day’s activities from the motel room while his ears were ringing from less astute scribes, ensnarled in traffic, cussing him from afar.
Everyone from that era misses Earnhardt. That’s my reason.
It was long ago and far away (Pocono), when men were men and race tracks had traffic.
It rained in varying degrees, from the regular, non-pouring variety of mist to the kind that made me cuss every driver on the road who didn’t know how to turn his lights on, from the South Carolina Upstate to the grandeur of the Queen City. I stopped at a truck stop for gas and considered a hoodie that was day-glow yellow but sold for a mere $14.99. Instead, I bought a Diet Coke and a corn dog because not even a truck stop can mess up a corn dog.
I still own a Winston Cup Series umbrella. As I walked into the media center, a fellow looked at it and said, “Duude, that’s, like, serious old school. Cool. I like it.”
I looked at him and didn’t say a word. He probably thought I was a serious sort. It was just the umbrella that’s been behind my seat since I bought my truck and the one before it.
The word has just come down from Imperial NASCAR that the driver introductions are going to take place momentarily. Technically, no announcement has been made regarding the running of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Drive for the Cure 300 presented by Blue Cross Shield of North Carolina, but, as a general rule, one is not held without the other.
I’ve left the infield now because I like press boxes, never more than the present, because I watch races the way they do in the infield – on TV – every week. I like to watch a race without conforming to television’s judgment. Sometimes I use primitive instruments such as stopwatches and radios that just go one way.
Besides, before the race, I heard Dale Jarrett say that this race –- because of all the rain and all the hocus-pocus stick’em and unexpected nighttime running (when all the goblins come out) — would have more uncertainty and pure madness than any race he could remember (and he remembers a lot).
What about the 1954 Carrera Panamericana, won by Umberto Maglioli? Dale might have to ask Ned.
They’ve completed a stage now, and the field seems full of professional drivers unfazed by the predicted madness. Literally hundreds are in the stands.
Tomorrow – if a scheduled Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is run ahead of a tropical storm with a bigger advance team than a Trump golf outing – the 40 greatest drivers in Cabarrus County will take to the track without having practiced on Saturday.
I’m sorry I am unable to provide you, gentle readers, with more hard-hitting, gritty racing coverage, but I’d have had a better chance of bumping into Tiger Woods at the Family Dollar than a prominent driver in the garage. They were all holding virtual practice on simulators somewhere.
It’s after 11. Alex Bowman is in Victory Lane. It’s all been worth it … for him. I’m hoping that coffee at the truck stop I visited earlier is hot and plentiful, but truck stops are more reliable in coffee than day-glow hoodies.
What I miss most about the racing lifestyle is the glamor.