Discover more from The Writing Shed with Tommy Tomlinson
Inspiration in desperation, plus Links of the Week: A crazy cyclist, bookstore comebacks, and Johnny Cash gets "Hurt"
Even those of you who don’t follow NASCAR might have seen the move Ross Chastain pulled in the race at Martinsville, Va., last weekend. If you didn’t see it, prepare to be delighted.
A quick setup: Chastain was in 10th place halfway through the last lap. He needed to pass at least two cars to become one of the four drivers to race for the NASCAR title this weekend. Martinsville is a short track—just a half-mile loop—and it was basically impossible to pass two cars through any kind of normal racing.
So Chastain chose to become a legend.
He jammed the car into fifth gear. He slid the car sideways until it was hugging the wall. He mashed the gas all the way down. Then he took his hands off the steering wheel.
Jesus take the wheel. Or, physics take the wheel. Whatever you believe.
This was the result:
He didn’t pass two cars. He passed FIVE cars, sealed his spot in the finals, beat out a driver he’s been feuding with all year, and cemented his place in Crazy Car Guy history.
That move, by the way, is well-known to gamers who play various racing simulations—the first comments I saw online were variations on HOLY HELL IT REALLY WORKS. It’s just that nobody had tried it in real life, in a spot like that, with so much on the line.
I’m wary to project too much of a life lesson onto the end of a NASCAR race. But I will say this: Drivers spend a lot of energy trying to find the right groove on a track. There’s usually one path around the oval that produces the fastest laps, and the winning driver is often the one who finds that groove and holds the car there.
Feel free to insert your metaphor for the well-worn path to success or love or happiness here.
The point is, you don’t always get to work the groove, and even if you do, sometimes the groove becomes a rut. Sometimes the only thing that makes sense in a given situation is to go a little crazy, to mash the gas, to let go and let God (or physics, whatever you believe).
By and large, day to day, I’m not taking my hands off the wheel in my life. But I do hope I’m able to channel my inner Chastain in a key moment or two. It’s scary to get out of the groove. Sometimes it’s the only way to win.
10 things I wanted to share this week:
From Kim Cross, who writes about the outdoors better than anybody: A bike trail in Utah called The Whole Enchilada is known for its brutal downhill path. One biker looked at it and had an insane thought: Why not try it UPHILL?
From Michael Kruse, who has written about Donald Trump better than anybody: A brilliant profile of the most famous reporter on the Trump beat, Maggie Haberman.
I don’t know why we’re so worried about Elon Musk and Kyrie Irving when there is a CORNHOLE SCANDAL unfolding as we speak.
DOG NEWS: While I work on my book, I’m devoting this slot to dog stories. This week: What will it mean for corgis now that Queen Elizabeth is gone?
Malcolm Gladwell on Jack Welch, the CEO who was revered for all the wrong reasons.
A great little story I’d never heard about the connection between Martin Luther King Jr. and Julia Roberts.
Tom Breihan on the 20th anniversary of the Johnny Cash album that included his brilliant, brutal version of “Hurt.”
RIP Jerry Lee Lewis. Here’s Rick Bragg on the time he spent with the Killer.
I spent last weekend with an incredible group of writers and friends at a retreat down in Georgia. Several people in the group are also wonderful musicians, especially my friend Tony Rehagen. Tony played a song that just floored me one night—it’s called “Watch Over Us,” originally by the Lone Bellow. I came back home and found a version of the band playing it with the Blind Boys of Alabama, and was floored all over again.
See y’all next weekend, everybody. Go Dawgs.
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