MONTE DUTTON: THE NATURE OF THE BEAST
If a person could put himself (or, of course, herself) in the middle of a natural disaster and be guaranteed no harm would befall him, it would be the ultimate amusement park.
Therein lies the allure of Talladega, the speedway, the style of racing and the legend.
It’s a guilty pleasure. It’s too much of a good thing. It’s the perfect embodiment of the notion that racing fans do not go to Talladega or watch it on TV to see death. They go to see death defied.
All hell breaks loose. No one gets hurt. Whew.
There’s no need for hand wringing, which always occurs in the aftermath of a race like the most recent. I suspect many fans hang on the edges of their seats, waiting patiently for “a big one” and exulting when it finally occurs, and then they become angry at the notion that they like to see wrecks. They hate to see wrecks, but if wrecks don’t happen, they think the race was boring.
By that measure, Talladega is seldom boring.
Don’t sweat the hypocrisy. No one wants to see a football game without bone-crushing hits. If chasing a firetruck wasn’t against the law, it would be a form of Talladega. The most recent race was five-alarm.
During my 20-year matriculation in the NASCAR community college, Talladega Superspeedway was one of a handful of tracks where I maintained perfect attendance. In the first race I covered, a car sailed completely out of the track. At first, no one noticed it was missing. I focused on the site of that disaster with my binoculars, wondering why a gigantic orange cloud was hovering over that side of the track. It was the red clay dust of Jimmy Horton’s landing strip.
In those early years, I went there with fear and loathing. Over time, to paraphrase Dr. Strangelove, I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb. The action numbed my sensitivity. As a fan, whose forearm was black and blue from a flying shock absorber, once told me after a wreck, “Hey! That’s part of it!”
Most people remember the vacation trips of youth, when Dad, most likely driving a station wagon, took a turn too fast for Mom’s taste, and she yelled, “Jimmy, you’ll get us all killed.”
Jimmy never did, and, as an indirect result, I’m writing this column.
Somebody could get hurt. Change doesn’t occur unless somebody does. Deep within our souls exists a beast, and Talladega is its nature.