Friday, September 21, 2012
I am pleased to inform you that yet another blow has been struck against terrorism and godlessness and that it is, once again, NASCAR that is leading the way. Next year there will be mandatory drug testing of all drivers and pit crews, and I, for one, say it's about time. This most emblematic of American sports has lain in tatters for far too long. With the help of our Savior and by "working the steps" we can right this ship, and once again hold our heads high.
Because these are a proud people, these devotees of the stock car, with their gargantuan sticker-laden RV's, their American flags saturated with Budweiser and countless patriotic tears, and their courageous attempts to bring the philosophy and techniques of horse breeding into the human realm. So you can imagine how these Daughters/Sisters/Daughters of the American Revolution felt when they found out that their beloved NASCAR had turned into a breeding ground for ketamine freaks, meth-heads, pillbillys, go-go boys, blacks, and communists; God, Home, and Country indeed.
A little background might be useful here. Dr. Winston Sinclair III ("Please, call me Cooter") is the dean of History at Duke University, and the foremost authority on NASCAR's murky beginnings. Cooter's den is a veritable shrine to all things stock car, from the Dale Earnhardt memorial plates to the gentle hum of the copper whiskey still; and it is whiskey that played the predominant role in NASCAR's early stages, much the same way it did for organized crime.
To hear Cooter's heroic tales of bootlegging (high-speed drunken car chases through residential neighborhoods) which eventually worked its way from the backstreets of South Carolina to the magnificent stadiums of North Carolina, was nothing short of inspiring.
"Well, in the beginning, there was Billy-Ray (Billiam) Dixon, and he drove a Ford. And there was William (Billy) R. Horton, and he also drove a Ford. And, of course, Willy (Big Willy) Williams, who was cousin to Billiam, and he drove a Ford as well. But it was the Kennedy's who came and fouled things all up. They drove Packards."
With this historical perspective firmly in place I thought it best to check out a NASCAR show myself. I contacted Del Minkin, of the Atlanta branch of the John Birch Society, and set up a meet. Much to my delight he chose the Mecca of stock car racing, the Daytona Speedway; an improbably massive metallic mosque of a stadium that practically shrieks: "Submit to the will of NASCAR."
Del met me in the parking lot with his daughter May. She was fifteen; had, at least, thirty-eight double D's; and her cut-off jeans shorts were so tight that I could just make out her fallopian tubes. Del shook my hand, tossed May onto his shoulders, and led us into to the stadium.
"I knew there was a problem back in the sixties when some of the drivers stopped getting drunk and started getting high."
Del stared off into the distance as he said this, clearly moved by the tragic state of affairs. We had worked our way to the inner area and were now completely surrounded by the track. May jumped off her dad and onto the shoulders of a passing stranger and disappeared into the crowd. I handed Del a Bud-Light and asked him to continue.
"Well, it was that damn LSD. It made it god awful difficult to drive those cars at such high speeds," Del said, as he continued to tell me stories of those dark days. Stories like the one where A.J Foyt was found on his knees, naked and crying, in front of a Woolworth's store, in Lexington, Kentucky, at three in the afternoon. It took several doctors, a priest, and a frantic call to Ken Kesey, to get A.J. back into his truck. "We finally got him home, but all the whiskey in the world couldn't bring him back down that night."
And so you might wonder why it has taken NASCAR so long to deal with this problem. From the sixties through the nineties there had been 135 official complaints; most of them from local churches, all of them drug related, all of them terrible. Tony Stewart's obvious track marks and Jeff Gordon's public dalliance with PCP are just the most well known instances. But the nightmare is over.
As Del went off in search of his daughter, I took a last good look around. A permanent haze of gray exhaust hung over a sea of shirtless fans, lumbering clods of flesh grown pink with alcohol and indifference to the sun, as engines, pushed to the high pitched point of collapse, whirled around and around to the thunderstruck awe of everyone involved.
"Yes," I thought. "This is worth saving."