Gaston Gazette



Well, everything was fine until it rained

            CONCORD - On most race mornings, I drive to the track through multitudes of fans. They are bumper-to-bumper on both sides of me. They are lugging coolers and sweating as they walk from distant parking lots. They are tossing footballs and grilling burgers.

            I am around them but not of them. Usually.

            Usually, of course, when a race starts at 5:30 (oh, check that, uh, 6:03, uh, check that, uh, whenever, when we get around to it), I don't drive to the track in the morning. I might have a leisurely lunch with friends, quite possibly at one of Charlotte's overlooked gems, the Chicken Box on North Tryon.

            This time, though, I came to the track and enjoyed the company of fans. It's a distant memory, but I was once one of them. Once upon a time, I covered plastic plates of fried chicken and deviled eggs with tinfoil, refilled plastic bread sacks with pimiento-cheese sandwiches and headed off to the track. I parked a mile away and walked all the way to the grandstand with three platters balanced on top of each other in one hand and one side of a cooler in the other. (This, of course, required a friend to carry the other side.)

            It's but a distant memory. On Sunday, though, friends invited me to come see their camp. They had raw oysters with crackers and hot sauce. They had sporting competitions that required only a modest level of fitness. They had beer, lots of it, and they offered me some, but I had enough sense to know that this would not do for someone whose duties involved the sober pursuit of journalism. They provided food and fellowship. I provided music and humor.

            The ethical soundness seemed to have been useless four hours later, as I sat in the press box, looking through glass panels at rain falling. Ah, no good deed goes unpunished.

            But it was a great day right up to the time it started raining. I got to play my guitar and sing. The audience was appreciative. I drew a crowd.  I told many NASCAR anecdotes. In front of music-only fans, I'm mediocre, but in front of NASCAR fans, I'm premium entertainment.

I've found my niche.



You may contact Monte Dutton at


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