Oops again and Paperclip Racing

Tracy Dunham Well, that prior blog bit was supposed to go on my friend Jean Gordon's blog. (Jean writes wonderful romances, the sweet type, for Avalon Books, one of my publishers.) Shows you, I'm still figuring out this blog stuff.

I haven't posted about the races in Martinsville! I can't believe I've neglected to say how thrilled I was to sit right at the finish line as Jeff Gordon made his emotional charge across it to win yet another grandfather clock. His seventh, I believe, tying him with Rusty Wallace's wins. There's nothing like Martinsville for an exciting race for the fans. The track's a hair more than half a mile around, built like a paperclip, with a narrow pit road that's close enough for the fans to see every lug nut. I was covered with bits of tire and track junk - black clumps of rubber clung to my face and shirt. I even ate a famous Martinsville hot dog, which is colored a surreal pink. Now that's racing!

The thing I love second-most about Martinsville is its bucolic setting. Getting there is half the adventure. The police set up cones and direct traffic with perfect timing, but there's no getting around the fact you drive on narrow country roads to get to the parking area. All seventy-some-odd thousand of us. Hills aren't in short supply, either. You crest the ridge before turning into one of the grassy fields to park, and there, in the cradle of the valley below your tilting truck, looms this track, all modern and noisy as the dickens as cars take practice laps before the truck race. Even though the track has been there since before NASCAR was NASCAR, it looks as if it fell from outer space into a farmer's back yard.

Writers who can surprise me like that go in my "keeper" pile. Lulling me into thinking a story is a gentle adventure down a dirt road, surrounded by green hills and shadowed by nothing more than blue skies, those stories that give me a completely and utterly unexpected twist in the gut are rarer than Rusty Wallace's wins this year. Gasping aloud at a turn in a plot is almost as much fun as seeing Jeff Gordon take the checkered flag after a long and very bad string of races. Good writing is like good racing - wild yet controlled, fast yet paced, scary but safe.

Good racing and good writing to you all.