NASCAR (Pennsylvania 500 at POCONO, July, 1998)
To: Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, giving a guest politician's dull monotone delivery of the command, "Gentlemen, — start — your — engines," at the start ofthe Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono –
From: the young freckle-shouldered man on my right, wearing an old black Darrell Waltrip tank top, holding his second half-quart of Bud –
"He just doesn't fucking get it, does he."
It's a gathering of Americans from New York,
Boston, Rochester and
an uncountable crowd
of over one hundred thousand, come to celebrate
the thrill of freedom we feel in working, saving up
for a car,
settling into the seat and sensing the weight of driving a steady 70, tank after tank of gas, across the country
on the Eisenhower
We come in a brotherhood and sisterhood
of things we know how to use
every day –
tobacco, beer, furniture, guns, candy, pop
and soap –
gas, oil, Ford, Pontiac, and Chevrolet.
And we come to worship
of the open road — Dick, Darrell, Jeff, Dale, John, Bill, Jimmie and Rusty, Kenny and Mike — who, like us,
have the same names,
and who, like us,
come from hometowns no one
outside the family has ever heard of –
Chemung, Kannapolis, Hueytown, Batesville, Owensboro, Pittsboro, Spanaway, Dawsonville,
Fenton and Randleman.
in a uniform of caps, and T‑shirts
with the soul
of the full-bodied American carburated V8, and to hoist
our rebel civilization
up to the whole world's broad sky,
and we flip the finger to sissy
and to those who
just don't understand the tradition
of outrunning the law.
We come to celebrate our country's ways — R and D in a smudged spiral notebook,
Terry and Bobby's proud mother
signing her autograph in the pits,
to thank the Lord for winning
a race and then dance destruction
into the roof
is the common poetry of hardworking America's
industrial and corporate roar, that lets
each of us live the tingling thrill of being one
in a river of many, swirling around together with deafening power.
I have led a long, charmed life – parents who gave me freedom and a love for wide open spaces, a wonderful job where they let me do what I wanted as long as I did it well, good grown-up kids I keep learning from, a fine wife and a few good friends who've helped me become me through many sad and happy times.