Runnin' with the Big Dogs

Tracy Dunham

I love that line, the one about "don't get off the porch if you can't run with the big dogs." This weekend's race at RIR, the deciding one in the lineup for the Cup chase, sure proved who could run with the BDs. Loved every minute of the action. Didn't love the squished seats (my excuses to the man who sat to my left, but he was taking up more than his share of our measly allotted 18 inches). My heart skipped badly when Truex rode the wall with all four tires during the Busch race. He and the 38 car did some paint-tradin', and Truex was hot under his fireproof suit, hopping out of his car and running across the track to shake his fist at Mike Wallace from the middle of the asphalt. Truex is the star, the points leader, and he didn't appreciate getting scared silly by an also-ran.

The racing stars get all the air time, all the interviews, all the fans. What about the guys who run at the back of the pack week after week? Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon have been getting a good taste of this, and I'll bet it's not sweet. They hit the wall in Turn Two on Saturday night like any back-of-the packer with a car that was too loose or too tight. Yet they retain their gentlemanly demeanors (at least they try...). They'll work harder for the next race. The BOTP gang are the same. Philosophical. Happy to be in the game in the first place. Grateful for any sponsors who show up with cash to buy gas and tires.

My bet is the BOTP gang - with no hope of winning - is out there because they love to race, pure and simple. Putting the pedal to the metal is enough for now. It's that way with writers, too, I'm realizing. We can't all be on the NYT list, or watch with glee as the bids ante up for our next book. Most of us are out here writing for the sheer love of the stories - the joy that runs through us when a chapter turns out just right, or we finally get to the end of the book and it's not half bad, if we say so ourselves. We write because we have to. We write because the stories won't leave us alone, they natter away at us like transmissions with bad tempers, until we release them onto the page. It would be nice to run with the Big Dogs, but it's okay if we're sharing our romp once we get off the porch with however many people read our writing and like it. It's more than okay, it's glorious. There's no downside.

I just want to thank each and every one of you who've read a book, a story, a poem, anything that pleased you, and you took the time to tell the author that you liked it. That's winning the Cup in my book.