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MONTE DUTTON – BY THE SEAT OF THE PANTS

As these words are written, Charlotte Motor Speedway is scheduled to host four races in three series over the next four nights including this one. Thunderstorms are forecast to one extent or another in all four of them. Thunderstorms are hard to predict. They’re always cropping up and dissipating, hitting and missing, causing delays mainly in stock car races because there isn’t much else going on now.

The so-called “vortex theory,” which is kind of NASCAR’s version of hydrochloroquine, has fallen into disfavor since Darrell Waltrip has become less ubiquitous.

2020 COCA-COLA 600 - EVENT NOTEBOOK

IT'S QUEEN CITY TIME - Now with two races completed in NASCAR’s return to racing following the stoppage due to the COVID-19 outbreak, NASCAR moves on to Charlotte Motor Speedway for a pair of NASCAR Cup Series races over four days.

The homestand starts off with the traditional Memorial Day weekend Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, May 24, at 6 p.m. ET (FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). That race is followed up three days later by the Alsco Uniforms 500 in a mid-week prime-time race on Wednesday, May 27, at 8 p.m. ET (FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

While the Coca-Cola 600 is taking place during it’s originally scheduled slot in the schedule, the Alsco Uniforms 500 is replacing what would have been the road course race at Sonoma in June.

This marks the third of the three Cup Series race realignments announced by NASCAR earlier this month. The two Darlington races earlier this week took the place of Chicagoland’s June date and the spring Richmond race that was originally slated for April.

In a statement, NASCAR said, "Due to the current pandemic, NASCAR has faced several difficult decisions, including realigning race dates from several race tracks. These decisions were made following thorough collaboration with local and state government officials from across the country, including the areas of the affected race tracks. We thank all our fans for their support, and we look forward to our return to racing."

NTT INDYCAR SERIES GENESYS 300 MOVES TO PRIMETIME ON NBC SATURDAY, JUNE 6

 
NTT INDYCAR Series Genesys 300 Coverage from Texas Motor Speedway on NBC Begins at 8 p.m. ET as INDYCAR Gets #BackOnTrack
 
NBC Sports announced today that the 2020 NTT INDYCAR Series Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway will now be televised in primetime at 8 p.m. ET on NBC on Saturday, June 6, moving from its originally scheduled window on NBCSN.
 
This marks the first time NBC Sports has showcased the NTT INDYCAR Series in primetime on NBC, and the first INDYCAR race on broadcast television in primetime since 2013.

DENNY HAMLIN BLESSES THE RAIN DOWN IN DARLINGTON

 
Only one person prays for rain late into the race; that person is the leader, and while it doesn’t always go their way, sometimes they hit the Mother Nature jackpot. On Wednesday night’s Toyota 500, Denny Hamlin got the lead late and got the rain he asked for, but it was not an easily earned win.

KEVIN HARVICK RINGS IN NASCAR’S RETURN AT DARLINGTON

 
It’s back. The clashing steel and burnt rubber of forty screaming cars that can only be the NASCAR Cup Series returned with a squeezed in schedule to make up for the races postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. NASCAR made its official return after two months of waiting at the Lady in Black herself; Darlington Motor speedway.

MONTE DUTTON – TOUGH AS A PINE KNOT

One of the drivers who most changed over the years was Mark Martin.

When I first met Martin, he was wound tight as a spring. I learned that the best times to talk to Martin were when times were bad. When he won a race, he sort of “humbled out.” I’m not sure I can count the times he said his favorite homily, “In order to finish first, first one must finish.”

I always admired his work ethic. I just had a hard time figuring out how to write about it. Once I wrote a column in which I wrote Martin didn’t really understand the word “fun” the way most people did. To him, fun was winning, and it was mainly joyless.

Shortly after, Martin’s longtime crew chief and friend, Jimmy Fennig, became angry at me in the garage, telling me I didn’t know what I was talking about.

MONTE DUTTON – THE INCREDIBLE VARIETY OF ROAD COURSES

One of more amusing personal characteristics of young drivers – and, I trust, Kurt Busch – is making ridiculous comparisons.

As I was watching the simulation of modern drivers racing at long-closed North Wilkesboro Speedway, I wondered what they’d say about the glorious anachronism of the Brushy Mountains.

I’m still wondering. I checked email and only a transcript of race winner Denny Hamlin’s remarks had been sent me, and most of the questions asked Hamlin – I assume there may have been some form of interview because it was different from what he said on TV – were about such red-hot North Wilkesboro topics as social distancing and other forms of pandemic life.

Over the years, I’ve head the young, the brash, the desperate to get their words in a blog, opine all sorts of far-fetched declarations.

MONTE DUTTON – HAPPY, HAPPY, JOY, JOY

May 17. Real racing is scheduled to return.

It’s the biggest thing on May 17 since Brown vs. Board of Education.

Darlington Raceway is not just the Track Too Tough to Tame. It’s my favorite track. It’s where my daddy took me to watch the Silver Fox arrive and conquer.

MONTE DUTTON - SOMEHOW THE HOPE MUST SPRING ETERNAL

Many years ago, before Brian Zachary France abdicated the NASCAR throne, before he even wore it, when he was being groomed for it and quite obviously thought he was ready, I asked the young prince about the how big stock car racing could be.

At the time, he thought it could be bigger than pro football. Worldwide, he thought it could be bigger than futbol, not to mention the Indianapolis 500, Grand Prix of Monaco and 24 Hours of Le Mans combined.

As a young man, France lacked neither confidence nor ambition.

MONTE DUTTON – WHERE DOES THE VIRUS TAKE US NEXT?

The novelty of iRacing ran out for me. I didn’t even watch the one in would-be Richmond, Va. The unexpected melancholy probably had more than a little to do with Kyle Larson, who threw his career away racing in a silly, make-believe race, leaving me and quite likely him with a sudden need for a swig of Pepto Abysmal.

I know iRacing must be hard, but I also know it requires no heroism, no responsibility, no knowing the pain of actually hitting a wall or having to fix what the driver tore up, or pay for it.

Of course they drive like lunatics. Talking like one was unexpected.

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