Richmond: Start-and-Parkers

Although the weather played the rain-game off and on, it couldn't dampen the crowd's enthusiasm. Despite not selling out, the stands looked fairly full, and the parking lots sure were. Our tent was used by several tailgaters who forgot theirs,and we met some lovely people and had a nice time chatting during the off-and-on downpours. Friday night, we brought some Nascar-newcomers to the track, and I'm guessing new fans were born. Good racin' both nights. The entire weekend is a mini-vacation for us - we love the atmosphere, the camaraderie, and talking with people we'd never have met if we hadn't gone to the track.

A big shout-out to under-funded Jeremy Mayfield for his guts and stick-to-it-ness Saturday night in the Cup race. His car wasn't great - he was a back-fielder the whole night - but he kept pitting and working on it, and by golly, he finished the race in 35th place. (Ahead of Jimmie Johnson, I might add.) At least he was running. A handful of cars pulled into the pits after a few laps, clearly start-and-parkers. When the pit stall doesn't have one crewman or a single tire, you know they're not planning on racing. The economics of fielding a car are daunting - $250,000 for one race if you're going to do it right. There's no way the purse will cover those expenses, not if you tear up your lone car. I have a crazy idea. If Nascar insists on having 43 cars in the field, set up a S&P fund. It'll be used by those teams with more spirit than money, and allow them to at least buy tires to try and stay in the race.

A lot of writers are start-and-parkers. They rush into the first hundred pages with all kinds of enthusiasm, then reality sets in. There's not enough story, they haven't figured out where it needs to go, or the sheer labor of writing discourages them. While I don't believe in writer's block, I do believe in planning ahead so you don't run out of steam when you hit the first plot point. It's akin to having a crew, tires, and a crew chief in your pit stall. You need that backup, a plot, an outlines, characters planned ahead of the actual writing, to keep the car (oops, book) on the track.