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NASCAR fan to perform in Hampton

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

The City of Hampton will celebrate the Labor Day weekend auto races with a special musical performance by a long-time race fan.

Monte Dutton, who has written about NASCAR since 1993, is scheduled to play on Friday. Dutton will perform at the Hampton Farmer's Market, from 3 to 6 p.m., said Candy Franklin, Hampton Main Street Director.

Franklin said Dutton has written 30 songs, one of which, "Martinsville," is about NASCAR. The song, she continued, was written in 2007, and was loosely derived from the experience of several friends who attended a stock car race in Martinsville, Va., for the first time, and told Dutton of their adventures.

"I never picked up a guitar until I was in my 40s," said Dutton. "That song came about because some of my musician friends went to their first race."

Dutton, 52, has made his living writing about NASCAR, first at the Spartanburg (S.C.) Herald-Journal, then the weekly trade paper FasTrack, and for the past 14 years, at the Gaston Gazette in Gastonia, N.C., said Franklin. Dutton also authors a weekly syndicated page, "NASCAR This Week," circulated by King Features Syndicate.

She said Dutton has written a number of books about NASCAR, including "Haul A** and Turn Left;" "At Speed, Rebel with a Cause" (about Sprint Cup star Tony Stewart); "Jeff Gordon: The Racer;" and "Postcards from Pit Road."

Dutton edited and contributed to "Taking Stock: Life in NASCAR's Fast Lane," and won the George Cunningham Award as the National Motorsports Press Association's writer of the year in 2008. About two dozen writing awards adorn the walls of his Clinton, S.C., home, continued Franklin.

He also authored a book about music, "True to the Roots: Americana Music Revealed."

What appeals to him most about NASCAR, he said, are the parallels between the drivers and musicians. "Oddly enough, I like music and NASCAR for the same reasons," said Dutton.

Both groups of people have a tendency to acquire a significant amount of education, but fall "through the cracks" of society, managing to eventually find success for themselves, he said.

Dutton said be began performing on-stage after receiving encouragement from friends to step up to the microphone.

"I guess it's the kind of challenge that leads an accountant, or a shoe salesman, to go to an open mike night at some comedy club. People always tell him he's funny, so he decides to give comedy a whirl," he added. "People used to tell me I could sing, so I decided to give music a whirl, not because I'm going to be some big star, or even make a living at it, but because it's fun and I enjoy it, and everyone needs something to do on the side that keeps them sane in a stressful world."