A brief history of me: I am stuck in Iowa. Have been for the last 12 years. A good thing if you want to grow corn… not so good if you are a NASCARnatic. However, I, and other NASCARnians (I’m making these up as I go along.) here in our very small town have found a great way to cope with our geographic isolation. We secretly gather (after church, of course) at our local tavern, which, by a totally unrelated quirk of geographic isolation, is called The Finish Line, to watch NASCAR on RBTV (Really Big TV) and consume cold beverages.
As one may suspect, we have Gordon fans, Jarrett fans, Earnhardt Jr. fans, Kenseth fans, a Busch fan, Labonte fans, Stewart fans, and ceiling fans. (It was once rumored that there was a Bodine fan in town, but that was never proven. We do have the number for Ripley’s if he/she is ever seen, though). Of course, along with all these fans comes a lot of vociferous, if not slurred, opinions and pontifications. During one particularly successful gathering, I found myself leaning against the men’s room wall, wondering two things: 1. How can we share our opinions and feelings with the rest of the racing world?… and 2. Why is my leg getting warm? Turns out, I was standing next to the heat vent.
The very next afternoon and four aspirins later, I searched the web until I found a racing site claiming to be in need of writers. The owner/editor agreed to my terrific idea of me writing a weekly post-race opinion piece and, after a hastily negotiated contract consisting of “do it for free” was settled, Voices From The Heartland was born.
It has been almost exactly six years since that first edition of Voices graced the front pages of the rapidly growing website known as Frontstretch. Since that time, a lot has happened, to me personally, the site itself, and more importantly, NASCAR, the sport we love.
On the personal side, fortunately, my two daughters have graduated, grown up, and are making their own way in the world. Unfortunately, I have been through a divorce and a foreclosure. The Finish Line Bar and Grill where it all began is no longer, with the secret weekly gatherings a thing of the past. On a happier note, I have begun a new relationship with a wonderful Canadian nurse that I met through this site (who needs eHarmony?!). Most recently, my oldest daughter and her husband have seen fit to make me a Grandpa as they brought their son, Reid Cain Doyle, into the world (we call him ‘Two Sticks’…reed-cane…) and he happens to be a Carl Edwards fan!
As for Frontstretch, the editors that hated me when I started have either grown to love (OK, tolerate… maybe) me or have left the site. The site itself has gone through a change of ownership, and “do it for free” has been replaced with “do it for a little bit of money” as it’s grown. The site has not been sued, despite my best efforts, even though I once managed to get the late great David Poole, to personally (via email) call me a moronic twit (nice version). Although I never harbored any ill will towards David, even after our exchange, I don’t know how he felt, as he never did accept my friend invitation on Facebook before his tragic passing.
As for NASCAR, well, we all know about the changes there. The Chase, the CoT, the wing, Brian France, Fontana, and most recently, Danica (insert eye roll here).
I reminisce about such things because I am here to announce yet another change that will drastically affect me, the site, and hopefully (yeah, right!) NASCAR itself. Voices from the Heartland is taking a sabbatical. For my normal readers, the ones who have made this column so popular (and most of whom are looking that word up right now,) it means a “red flag!”
The reason I choose to take a break is simply this; I just don’t have the “fire” for it anymore, not like I used to. Unfortunately, I am not alone. In his never-ending quest to capture the “casual fan,” Brian France has made casual fans out of millions, one of which is now myself. He got his casual fans – just not the ones he wanted.
On that note, I do want to go on the record to say a few things. The changes that NASCAR has implemented so far for the 2010 season are a huge step in the right direction. I also say, the reason they have made the changes are NOT because it was the right thing to do or because they are “listening to the fans!” Yes, they are listening to us, but ONLY because we finally spoke with the one thing they would listen to – our wallets! I hope we, as fans, continue to speak in the same manner, and they continue to listen. Perhaps in the future, we will not be taken for granted.
Now, just because I am taking a break from writing Voices, that does not mean I will be leaving the site! I will continue bring you the Top 10 list every other week, as well as the odd smart remark to be found in our Mirror Driving sessions.
Writing for Frontstretch has afforded me untold opportunities that I never dreamed would happen. I’ve had the ability to interview, ask questions, and just hang around the top names in the sport. I got to kick Krista Voda in the shin (she sat across from me while working my first race in Milwaukee. I apologized, she smiled!) I have met wonderful people and made lasting friendships.
Just because I am taking a break doesn’t mean I am dumb enough to give all that up!
But for now, as I stop I honestly cannot express enough gratitude to ALL the people that have read this column over the years. If you all hadn’t done that, whether you loved or hated me, I wouldn’t be here now.
Like I said, I’m not LEAVING, just taking a bit of a break. There will be Voices again; after all, I have no choice. They are in my head!
Stay off the wall (and THANK YOU ALL!)