High, Wild and Handsome, Part Five

 

CharlotteDover 005Word spread quickly that the great, mysterious Beau Farnsworth had deigned to grace Charlotte Motor Speedway with his presence. It was approximately a quarter to five, and he hadn’t turned a lap since winning The Winston four days earlier. The veteran Billy Hargitson, winner of exactly one race in the previous decade, had dialed in the car. If anyone knew where Farnsworth had been, they weren’t talking. Little of the speculation in the media center dealt with anything fit to print, but suffice it to say that the ink-stained wretches had little faith in Farnsworth’s nobility. They figured he’d wandered off into one den of iniquity or another. Besides, if he’d been off fishing, it would’ve been with Hargitson.

Beau strode forcefully to the team’s hauler, brushing aside the snowball of humanity building around him. He ignored fans no less than media. He kept walking and said “none of your damn business” several times. Chevy’s PR man, Bright Malloy, was waiting for him. On the way up through the hauler, Malloy asked him to hold a press conference. Beau said, “Hell, no.” Malloy asked him for a few quotes he could disseminate. Beau said no again.

“Shit, Bright, make something up,” Beau said. “Don’t make up nothing too good, though.” He went into the lounge and shut the door behind him. Malloy started thinking of innocuous phrases. It took him thirty minutes to absorb what Hargitson and the crew chief, Wendell “Windy” Capps, had to tell him about the 3,500-pound beast into which he would shortly climb. When they broke up, the NASCAR flack, i.e., vice president for communications, C.D. Baird, was waiting.

“Where you been, champ?”

“None of your goddamned business, C.D. Where you been?”

“Jacking off.”

“That’s what I figured.”

“Look,” Baird said. “Don’t be so damned pissed off all the time.”

“Why the fuck not? It don’t seem to do nothing but sell tickets,” Beau said.

“Just go easy, Beau. Act like you care about something now and then.”

“But I don’t, C.D. I don’t give a fuck about nothing except that checkered flag and that big-ass paycheck. That’s the main reason I get so damn many of ‘em.”

Beau made a big mistake, though. He went out early, and much to his surprise, the lap he ran held up, and he won the pole for the World 600, NASCAR’s longest race. Starting first in a 600-mile race was about as useless as beginning a football game with an onsides kick: it might help but it wasn’t really worth a risk. The mistake was that he couldn’t get out of talking to the media.

After the usual stupid photos of Farnsworth pointing at his time on a board where it had been etched in magic marker, he told Bright Malloy, “Well, shit, might as well get it over with.

“They want a piece of my ass? By God, I’ll give ‘em something to write about.”

 

The champ appeared exceedingly impatient. C.D. Baird asked several of the usual questions – “Talk about your lap” – that weren’t really questions. It all meandered uneventfully along until the very first sportswriter chosen asked him what he’d been doing since The Winston.

“None of your damn business,” Beau growled. “What you been doing? I won the fucking pole. It must not’ve been nothing what hurt me.”

After two more questions that didn’t please him, and two more terse replies, Farnsworth went off on what would be referred to in dozens of accounts as “a profanity-laced tirade.” It happened when a writer asked him about rumors that he was looking elsewhere and might even be entertaining the notion of starting his own team.

“What the fuck does it take to be a goddamned sportswriter?” Beau asked. “Ain’t you supposed to pay some fucking attention to the truth?”

He referred to one writer by name. “Garfield, who told you that shit?”

Ed Garfield, representing Roanoke, said, “Your business manager.”

Andy Eddings was, unfortunately, standing in the back of the room.

“You tell him I was starting up my own team?” Beau yelled.

Eddings gulped. “N-n-n-no.”

“See there, Garfield. He didn’t tell you shit.

“Maybe I oughtta be a goddamned sportswriter.” Beau left and started walking out. He passed by Garfield and another writer, Frank Follmer of Spartanburg.

“Sorry, Beau,” Follmer said under his breath. “Gotta have a degree.”

Asheville’s Lee Weddington started laughing. Farnsworth whirled around. “What the fuck you laughing at?”

“Ah, nothing, Champ.”

When Farnsworth got a safe distance away, Follmer said, “Hey, Beau, how’s that GED coming along?”

The room, relieved of Farnsworth’s nerve-wracking presence, chuckled appreciatively in unison.

 

TO BE CONTINUED

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