Archive for category Columns

My Brain on NASCAR: NASCAR loves the troops

Cathy Elliott

Cathy Elliott

By Cathy Elliott

The story I would like to tell this week is not my own, but I believe it is one we can all embrace.

I could go a different route. We could talk about how, although I do believe NASCAR needs an annual All-Star Race, I’d prefer that they come up with a format that isn’t completely incomprehensible and yes, I’m gonna say it … boring.

I could dredge up my ancient joke about I’ve had marriages that didn’t last as long as the Memorial Day weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. We could talk about how you could read a sizable chunk of War and Peace and actually find it more exciting than the event, or hop on a plane during the pre-race show and be in Costa Rica before the checkered flag drops.

This race is LONG … but it’s also very meaningful to the body that sanctions it. When it comes to recognizing and very publicly honoring our military, no one does it better than NASCAR, who considers it not only necessary, but a top priority.

This year, activities to honor those who have sacrificed their lives have been ongoing throughout the week, with probably the best-known being the #NASCARSalutes social media campaign.

This is much more than just another of the many ubiquitous hashtag campaigns constantly popping up on our various platforms like dandelions. NASCAR takes this program very seriously. The names of fallen military service members are placed on the front windshields of all the Cup Series cars in the Coca-Cola 600, and specially-prepared Honor and Remember flags are displayed  throughout the garage area, representing those who have died in service from each of the 50 United States.  Read the rest of this entry »

Leapfrog Progress for S.C.?  Focus on Innovation/Digital

Phil Noble

By Phil Noble

For hundreds of years, we in Western society have thought about things with a lineal and increment mind set. Progress – in society, commerce, science, engineering, etc., – was believed to be something that happens sequentially, usually slowly, with one step leading to another. This mindset is embedded in how we think about things and express ourselves “steady as she goes… one step at a time… the tortoise wins the race, etc.”

Yes, there have always been breakthroughs that brought big change but they were rare and it usually took years for the effect of the breakthrough to have a widespread impact throughout the general population. But digital innovation has now changed everything. A few examples:

Adoption: When electricity was first harnessed in 1873, it took 46 years for it to reach 25% of the U.S. population. The first television was invented in 1926 and it took 26 years to reach this 25% mark. The first mobile phones hit the market in 1983 and only 13 years later 25% of us had one. Invented in 1991, it took the internet only 8 years to reach 25% of the U.S. population.

Nature of Business: Consider this – the largest transportation company in the world, Uber, has no cars or trucks. The largest accommodations company in the world, Airbnb, owns no hotels or motels. The largest photography company, Instagram, sells no cameras or related products. The largest US retailer, Amazon, has no stores. The largest media content company in the world, Facebook, produces no content.

Companies Growth: Uber began in 2009 and in five years their valuation of $66 billion was greater than General Motors, Ford or Honda. Airbnb began in 2008 and has a $31 billion valuation, greater than Hyatt or Inter-Continental Hotels. Instagram started in 2010 has a $37 billion valuation and Kodak is now bankrupt. Facebook began in 2004 and its current valuation is $430 billion. And the ‘old digital company’ Amazon started in 1994 and is now worth $959 billion and Walmart’s valuation is $78 billion.  Read the rest of this entry »

Living on Purpose: Living in the awareness of God’s presence

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

Here is a touching story found in John chapter 12 about humble servants love for her Lord. Verse 3 reads, “Then Mary took a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.” Judas managed the finances for the ministry of Jesus and was angry about how the perfume should have been sold and the money used to help the poor. Jesus spoke up and said, “Leave her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor, always you have with you; but me you have not always.” We can picture this scene in our minds as a beautiful example of the importance of having our priorities in the right place. Mary was not intimidated by the criticism of the world because she was mesmerized in the holy aura of God’s presence. She discarded what this realm considered logical and practical and was only concentrating on the revelation of who He was. Her personal relationship with Jesus was her highest calling and nothing was more important than becoming one with Him. This is a glimpse of humility that has made the bold decision to be free from embarrassment and fear and is determined to live and serve God whatever the cost.

Pure and love are not two words that we often connect together because much of what we know about love in this world is not always pure. We are flawed humans and realize that love many times has a slightly twisted angle or ulterior motive. Within our dysfunctions, it’s common to feel that we need to earn someone’s love as we learn how to exchange and trade love in order to receive it. However, the wonder and beauty of God’s love is not based on how much we can do or how well we perform. He loves us with a pure unconditional love which means that even in our worst moments – He loves us just the same. When we receive this revelation of His pure love for us, we are broken and drawn to express our sincere love back to Him through worship. When Jesus was on the cross, we were on His mind and we will forever bow before Him in gratitude. To recognize who He is and to love Him with all of our strength, mind and soul is all that He has ever wanted. What more can He say, what more can He do?  Read the rest of this entry »

My Brain on NASCAR: Almirola

Cathy Elliott

Cathy Elliott

By Cathy Elliott

It bugs me more than a little bit that, prior to the recent Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway, most of us never gave much more than a passing thought to Richard Petty Motorsports driver Aric Almirola, if we ever thought about him at all.

That all changed on May 13 when, rather than enjoying racing under the lights at Kansas, we watched Almirola being cut out of his mangled car, strapped to a backboard and airlifted to the University of Kansas Medical Center. The incident was the result of a fiery, terrifying collision which also involved Joey Logano and Danica Patrick.

What bothers me the most is the reaction that most of us probably had as we watched the aftermath of the wreck: “He’ll be OK.” It seems we have become so inured to watching drivers walk away unscathed from horrific accidents – usually the most exciting part of any race – that we take it for granted they’re going to be fine.

Thankfully, this was true in Almirola’s case, more or less. The hospital kept him overnight for observation, then released him with a diagnosis of a compression fracture to the T5 vertebra. He is currently recovering at his home in North Carolina, and according to an RPM press release, his driving status has yet to be determined.

There’s never a good time to be cut out of a car, but from a professional viewpoint, the incident was particularly unfortunate for Almirola. He’s been having a pretty good year. Prior to the Kansas race, he was 23rd in the Cup Series standings, just 62 points outside of the current cutoff with 17 races left in the regular season. He has posted a pair of fourth-place finishes this year, at Daytona and Talladega.

As they always seem to do, things really got interesting when the drivers involved were asked the literal burning question after being checked out and released from the infield care center – What happened?  Read the rest of this entry »

FOI reform comes at last

Bill Rogers

By Bill Rogers

It’s been a long time coming, but citizens of South Carolina will soon have faster and cheaper access to public documents.

For seven years, the Legislature has for one reason or the other not passed an FOI reform bill.  They did so on the last day of the session this year, and it offers some real improvements in our state’s open government law.

The House, led by Reps. Weston Newton and Bill Taylor, pushed hard for the reform and in the end concurred in a last-minute Senate amendment doing away with establishment of an FOIA hearing officer.  But the good of the law far outweighs the loss of easier enforcement.

Perhaps the most meaningful part of the reform deals with response time.  The new law changes the amount of time an agency has to respond from 15 days to 10 days.  That’s a pretty good compromise.  Note that Georgia requires a 3-day response, but they have exemptions.

The law also sets up a specific time for an FOI request to be fulfilled.  In the past, a few agencies abused the law by dragging out their response for months.  Now they have 30 days in most cases.

The law also limits how much an agency can charge for documents.  In the past, some charged outrageous amounts to discourage release.  Now, they can charge no more than the prevailing commercial rate for producing copies.   Agencies may also require up to a 25% deposit before beginning a search.

The law encourages electronic transmission of public records and says copy charges may not be made for electronic records.  But the agency is not required to create an electronic version when it does not exist. Read the rest of this entry »

S.C. Political Corruption, Part 4: Image, Ethics, Business and South Carolina’s Future

Phil Noble

By Phil Noble

This is the latest in a continuing series on the ethics scandal that is unfolding in our state. See others in the series at

Image –

After World War II, a fierce but civil rivalry developed between Birmingham and Atlanta as to which would become the unofficial Capital of the South.

Founded in 1871, Birmingham was a coal and steel town with much of the ownership of the principal industries being in Pittsburg and other northern cities. The symbol of the city was and is a large statue of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and the forge. In 1950, the city’s population was 326,000.

Atlanta was founded in 1837 as a railroad junction and was known as the crossroads of people, commerce and ideas. The Atlanta newspaperman Henry Grady coined the term New South. In 1885, a local former Confederate Cornel name James Pemberton invented Coca Cola and his partner Asa Candler and his dependents led the growth of Coke to become a global brand. In 1950, the city’s population was 333,000.

Then came the defining issue for not only Atlanta and Birmingham but the South and the nation as a whole – the issue of race. How these two cities dealt with this issue defined their future.

Bull Connor, police dogs, firehoses and violence became the image of Birmingham. The out of state economic ‘big mules’ cared more about their profits than Birmingham’s image or the city’s people and they let the Bull Connor crowd do what they pleased.

In Atlanta, the local economic leaders and Mayor Ivan Allen proclaimed Atlanta as ‘the city too busy to hate.’ Birmingham jailed Martin Luther King; Atlanta held a dinner in his honor when he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Read the rest of this entry »

Living on Purpose: The memories of our loved ones live within us

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

Through the winter months, I had been thinking about how I was going to tackle the huge project of replacing our privacy fence in the spring. I have built this type of fence before and those of you that are familiar with this, will understand when I say it is very hard work, especially when you are doing it by yourself. Digging post-holes are not for the faint of heart – ha! I retired in 2014 and have not really been involved with strenuous activity for a while, so when I started tearing down the old fence, I knew the first day this was going to be rough. Yes, there were days I thought about calling a fence company to take over, but to be honest, as I kept going, the better I started to feel. I would start early trying to come up with a game plan for the day, drinking coffee as I contemplated. The weather was cool and it was very peaceful listening to the breeze flowing through the trees and the birds in all their glorious and enthusiastic singing seemed to be encouraging me to keep pressing forward. I finally finished the other day and I am very grateful to be able to mark that from my list and now I can move on to other projects I need to accomplish.

When I was growing up, my dad was a custom home-builder and he taught me a lot about construction. He passed away last year and my mom gave me some boxes of tools that he had saved from the past and I put them in my shop. The other day I was looking for a drill bit and noticed dads old set of bits and as I opened that old familiar yellow plastic box, I remembered the good times we spent working together. The flood of emotions took me by surprise and I just sat down and allowed the memories to roll like I was watching an old movie. My dad was very talented and I was always amazed at his strength and what he could do when it came to building things. He was creative and had an ability to problem solve and was not afraid of hard work. He was respected for his high level of expertise and was definitely a true craftsman.  Read the rest of this entry »

My Brain on NASCAR: The Big One

Cathy Elliott

Cathy Elliott

By Cathy Elliott

If the success or failure of an event — oh, let’s say a NASCAR weekend, for example – can be measured by the sum of its many moving parts, then the May 7 race at Talladega Superspeedway was an official doozy.

Daytona International Speedway, despite all its glory and success, didn’t quite satisfy its builder, NASCAR co-founder Bill France, Sr. He wanted something bigger. So, after failing to secure a location in the Raleigh, NC area, in 1968 he ended up breaking ground on an old airfield in Alabama, officially giving birth to NASCAR’s longest, fastest and arguably most dangerous track.

Talladega Superspeedway is, in pretty much every way you can think of, literally “the big one.”

The Geico 500 on May 7 was no exception. The wrecking ball started rolling during qualifying, when Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., driving the No. 17 Fastenal Ford Fusion for Roush Fenway Racing, won the pole position, only the second of his career.

That was pretty exciting. Despite his obvious talent behind the wheel, Stenhouse hasn’t quite managed to reach the levels of success and fan popularity enjoyed by some of NASCAR’s other “young guns,” most notably our usual suspects, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson. Winning the starting spot at Talladega was a great moment for him … except for the small issue of who he took it from.

In what has unfortunately become Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s farewell tour, Stenhouse’s moment in the sun clouded up the day for many fans when he snatched the pole from Junior and held onto it. For Stenhouse, whose career to date hasn’t exactly been full of stellar moments — although mark my words, that’s going to change — the moment was definitely a big one. Read the rest of this entry »

Gov. McMaster’s First 100 Days: Failure?

Phil Noble

By Phil Noble

This is an expanded version of a column that appeared last week in The State newspaper.

May 4 marked Gov. Henry McMaster’s 100th day in office. Since there was such a flurry of reporting about Pres. Trump’s first 100 days, it seems appropriate to look at what Gov. McMaster has achieved in his first 100 days.

The title of this column “Failure?” asks the question. Below is a simple recounting of the facts (not alternative facts) as reported by the state’s media. I then offer my opinion and I leave it to you the readers to decide for yourself if McMaster has been a failure.

Request of $5.18 billion from Trump – On Feb. 6, The Post and Courier reported “In his first major action as governor, Henry McMaster penned a letter to President Donald Trump on Monday, requesting nearly $5.2 billion to help fund a laundry list of infrastructure projects…” There has been no public response from Trump.

A Diet for State Government – On Feb. 22, McMaster announced, “State government is going to have to go on a diet as far as spending.” This was in response to the first draft of the state budget that did not give state employees a pay raise.

Pay Raise for Staff – On Feb 24, (two days after the above announcement) McMaster announced his Chief of Staff Trey Walker got a $30,000 or 23% pay raise – raising his salary to $165,000. The governor’s salary is $106, 078.

 Financial Shell Game as Chairman of S.C. GOP – On March 15, The Post and Courier reported that a long buried 2004 S.C. Republican Party audit revealed that “Powerful South Carolina operatives aided Gov. Henry McMaster’s political rise by running a financial shell game in 2000 that masked division and debt in the state Republican Party while he was chairman.”  Among those as aiding McMaster with in and out cash payments of $60,000 were Richard Quinn and his companies.

 McMaster Denies Kickbacks – On March 17, The State newspaper reported,S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster has not received any money personally – whether rebates or kickbacks (from Quinn) … McMaster has paid Quinn and Associates $504,000 since 2009…” Read the rest of this entry »

Living on Purpose: Optimistic thinking is a learned behavior

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

As a minister, I am always being updated about what is happening in the daily news and  regularly reminded about how the world is falling apart. I do appreciate the hard work from the news agencies to keep us informed, but we must also realize there needs to be a balance between constantly absorbing what everyone else is doing and concentrating on the life we have been called to live. While it’s true there are many bad things that happen every minute, we should also remember this does not mean that everyone is a criminal or that the entire world is a valley of death and darkness. There have always been bad people that do evil things but it just seems worse now because the population has grown and with advancing technology we can instantly know what is going on everywhere. Unfortunately, this constant flood of negative information can overload our emotions and cause fear, anxiety and stress. It is also not a coincidence that technology and anti-depressant medications have grown together.

Years ago, people lived somewhat isolated from the constant bombardment of bad news which by the way gave them much less to be upset and worried about. The average person was more focused on their family and investing their time working to make sure they had everything they needed. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “there is no substitute for hard work” and I believe the concept of perseverance and determination should be included in our education curriculum. Excuse me if my views are old school, but playing on a cellphone all day and watching television all night is not the formula for accomplishment. OK, back to our subject. Another point that we can consider, is there are many decent people that are doing good things. They may not receive the same amount of attention but they are out there. I see this side of the spectrum a little more than the average person because I am in and out of places where these individuals devote their time and resources. In my small community, I know lots of people that volunteer behind the scenes and are making a huge difference in the lives of others. Just imagine all the ones that support charitable organizations, those who work in the churches and others who are actively involved in community outreach and then multiply that around the world. Nonetheless, like I said earlier, we rarely hear about these secret agents that are driven with love and concern and are not afraid to act upon their convictions. To them, I say; Praise the Lord for you! Read the rest of this entry »

My Brain on NASCAR: The world of promotions

Cathy Elliott

Cathy Elliott

By Cathy Elliott

Just a couple of days prior to the race at Richmond International Raceway on April 30, I got an email from Jon Keller. Jon works for a global PR firm called Zeno, which according to its website, is “an independent, entrepreneurial team of visionaries, experts and achievers.

“We love to see our work break through and disrupt thinking, perception and markets,” the description continues. “First, we explore the roots of people’s emotions and motivations, then we apply that insight to our thinking and to the ideas we generate for clients.”

In this particular case, the disruptive breakthrough involved generating ideas about Busch beer, the primary sponsor of 2014 Monster Energy Cup Series Champion Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Chevy. Race fans who stopped by Busch’s activation kiosk in Richmond could enter for the opportunity to win a million bucks, if Harvick takes the checkered flag at the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 20. Not a bad payoff just for dropping your name into a box.

NASCAR and the speedways that hosts its events are no strangers to the world of promotion. Sadly, the days when raceway staffers, from the guy who cut the grass right on up to the directors of public relations and marketing, would cruise around town, sticking signs in the ground on sticks, or hammering them onto light poles or any other empty surface just begging to be filled with a crafty sales pitch.

Read the rest of this entry »

S.C. Education: The good, the bad and the hopeful

Phil Noble

By Phil Noble

There is probably no other topic that has been the subject of this column more often than education. And the reason is very simple: if we don’t fix education in this state, nothing else really matters.

The road to a prosperous future for South Carolina runs past the school house door.

Unfortunately, in South Carolina this road (like our highways) is full of potholes and in great need of repair after suffering from years of neglect. As a recent US News and World Report ranking showed, overall our state is 50th in education.

This week’s column is about some education milestones on this road to a better future. These milestones are a small sampling of recent education news – some good, some bad and some hopeful.

Requiring Computer Coding for High School Graduation – A bill was recently introduced in the S.C. House of Representatives that would require all students in grades 9 -12 to take courses in computer coding as a requirement for their high school diploma – and it would take effect as soon as 2019. The initial response to the bill, S.C. Computer Science Education Initiative, was very encouraging as it passed the S.C. House by a 106-1 vote.

Today, only one credit in ‘computer science’ is required for graduation but this can be something as basic as keyboarding – a long way for the type of coding skills required by the new legislation. This new initiative is part of what has become a veritable national movement to encouraging high schools to require coding for graduation. It is estimated by the U.S. Department of Labor that in just three years – in 2020 – there will be a shortage of over one million computer coding jobs in the US. If ever there was a great opportunity for our young people, this is it.  Read the rest of this entry »

Living on Purpose: Having compassion on those less fortunate

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

In today’s world, it’s common to see people standing on the corner holding signs that declare how desperate they are for financial assistance. In our small town, we also have individuals that walk up and down the streets at all hours of the day and night and over the years they have become familiar simply by being continually visible. I along with others have spoken with them and assist in whatever way possible. Most of them have a place to stay and receive social assistance but still need help in many different ways. They suffer from various health problems and dysfunctional family situations but unfortunately are also exposed to harassment as people honk their horns and laugh.

One older gentleman in particular pushes a shopping cart around town and it’s usually filled with empty cans and various items he has found. His skin is weathered and wrinkled and occasionally someone will stop and talk with him and bring him a sandwich. In speaking with him I discovered he receives social security and has a modest place to live, but he seems to enjoy walking the streets and is free to do whatever he wants as long as he is not bothering anyone or causing a problem. We have a number of other colorful characters that do the same thing and remind us there are people who live a much different life than we do. I’m sure there are reasons and circumstances that would explain their situation but we are not to look down or be cruel with those who have experienced a difficult and disappointing life. Colossians chapter 3 describes the attributes that Jesus is hoping we will realize and develop. “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, a heart of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; showing patience and understanding, and forgiving one another.”

As a community chaplain and a member of our state and local emergency crisis response teams, I am involved with those seeking assistance especially during the wintertime. Our local leaders graciously open the schools and specific buildings for emergency warming shelters for the homeless and restaurants are always generous to donate food. Recently, a new emergency shelter has opened with a vision to provide 60 beds, along with washers and dryers where individuals can maintain their clothes and they also attempt to serve 3 meals per day. My sister Terri helps me each year with the holiday food boxes for the needy, was taking a tour of this new facility recently with her 8-year-old son Victor. He listened as she was explaining to him about generosity and how important it is to help others. Suddenly, he spoke up and said, “Mom, maybe the man that pushes that shopping cart around town can find this place.” The room fell quiet. He was trying to process this information and the innocence of a child had connected with having compassion on someone in need. This brings a tear to my eye as I think how important it is to teach our children to not take our blessings for granted and how Christ wants us to love and help others.  Read the rest of this entry »

My Brain on NASCAR: Earnhardt, Jr., the best-loved

Cathy Elliott

Cathy Elliott

By Cathy Elliott

Had you asked me a week ago, I would have said there have been only two occasions since this column’s inception when I have dreaded sitting down to write it.

Now, there are three of those occasions. After 18 seasons and more than 600 NASCAR Cup Series races, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. publicly announced on April 25 that his driving career would conclude at the end of the 2017 season. And for one stunned and very heart-wrenching moment, the world seemed to stop on its axis.

The news was very sad and slightly shocking, but not completely unexpected. Earnhardt missed half of the 2016 racing season while recovering from yet another head injury, the latest in a string of concussions that has beleaguered him for the past several years.

Obviously the decision was not made hastily – the beloved driver of the No. 88 Chevy for Hendrick Motorsports has been delaying contract extension discussions with team owner Rick Hendrick, and in a number of recent interviews has mentioned his desire to start a family with his new wife, Amy.

“Family” is a NASCAR lifestyle. There’s no law stating you have to spend the majority of your life in racetrack garages and infields to live it that way, but in Junior’s case, that’s what happened, He grew up under both the shadow and the tutelage of arguably the most revered athlete in NASCAR history, and even now, at the age of 42, it’s something that weighs heavily on his mind. To say that Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was a tough act to follow is putting it mildly.  Read the rest of this entry »

Noble Column: Plastic Bags, SC’s Home Rule and Dying Oceans

Phil Noble

By Phil Noble

Over the 40 years that I have known her, I have come to have great respect for my wife’s political antenna. When she says something about a politician or an issue, I have learned that it’s best to pay attention.

My wife is not a political junkie in the traditional sense. And, just living with me all these years has forced her to hear a lot more about a lot of people and a lot of issues than any sane and reasonable person should ever have to endure. My apologies, dear.

Like most normal people, she doesn’t follow this stuff on a daily basis. But, when she offers a strong and definitive opinion about someone or some issue, I’ve learned that she is usually right … even if it takes the rest of us a long time to see the wisdom of her judgement.

Just one example: many years ago, I became friendly with an overly ambitious eager beaver that wanted to run for Congress. After just one shared dinner, my wife judged him as excessively selfish and the type of person that would cut corners to get where he wanted to go. Years later, this eager beaver had made his way up the slippery pole of politics and was running for President, and during a heated TV interview he revealed the corner cutting side of his personality.

My wife just looked at me across the room and though she did not say a word, the message was loud and clear: “I told you so.”

Recently, her antenna has gone up again. This time it’s plastic bags.  Read the rest of this entry »

Living on Purpose: With God, it’s all about our attitude

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

We know how important it is to have a good attitude and the correct motives especially when it comes to approaching God. Here are two Bible stories that expose the human conscience and identify why some people seem to overlook what is really important in their quest for satisfaction and security. Our first example is found in Luke chapter 18 and is about a wealthy businessman that has a meeting with Jesus. Verse 18 says, “And a certain ruler asked Him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” It’s easy to read over this and not discern exactly what he was asking. It seems “eternal life” is what everyone is always interested in, and the easy version of salvation has given the masses just enough false security to believe that all we need to do is just understand the story of Calvary and everything will be all right. We notice at the end of this conversation that Jesus perceived the pride and greed in this man’s heart and knew that He needed to become blunt with what true discipleship is all about. When Jesus explained that salvation was more about personal relationship than keeping a list of rules, the man weighed the cost against the scale of his love for materialism and decided that the price was too steep. Tragically, this is a very common reaction among those who are faced with yielding their independence. Allow me to say, we will never enjoy spiritual fulfillment while living in the bondage of selfishness and arrogance. Of course, we can settle for a socially acceptable religious facade, but again, God knows the intentions of our heart. Read the rest of this entry »

My Brain on NASCAR: Short Tracks

Cathy Elliott

Cathy Elliott

By Cathy Elliott

It is not uncommon, when one of NASCAR’s rare “off” weekends rolls around – the recent Easter weekend is a very current example — to hear the inevitable complaints, things like, “Aww, man, there’s no race this weekend.”

Or, as my friend Dianne put it (with her tongue planted firmly in her cheek) – “What’s up with that? Who needs family time?”

It is a fact that the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series does not compete every week, and they’re being particularly lazy this year. After having the audacity to enjoy a couple of rare and well-deserved days off to spend Easter with their families, NASCAR’s premier racing series will follow it up with yet another free weekend – at the end of August.

Yes, you read that right. In 2017, from February’s Daytona 500 to the season-ending championship weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November, NASCAR takes a whopping two weekends off. After the first one, they’ll surely be thankful for the short period of R&R they got during Easter, because the next stop on the circuit – Bristol Motor Speedway on April 23 – is anything but relaxing.

More than two decades ago, the late Jim Hunter, who then served as president of Darlington Raceway, took masterful advantage of what could have been a discouraging situation for a track promoter.

Read the rest of this entry »

Living on Purpose: Parents can guide but children make their own choices

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

How many parents have waited for the day when their child’s eyes would suddenly be opened and like the prodigal they will finally see the truth and change their ways? Mothers and fathers dearly love their kids, but unfortunately, things do not always go as planned and many difficult children have caused their parents much worry, sadness, and disappointment. It is easy to blame the parents, but I do not believe that all liability can be laid at their doorstep. Parents have the perfect opportunity to present constructive thinking, discipline and a sense of right and wrong into their children’s mind and spirit within the formative years, however this does not always guarantee the child will continue in the direction they were pointed. We guide and provide for our children, but they have a mind of their own.

Children are like sponges when it comes to learning and are very curious about what they observe, which gives every parent the duel opportunity to not only be the instructors but also the responsibility to demonstrate what they believe in front of them. We must also realize that children are vulnerable to other outside influences and have the ability to embrace whatever they want. So, how important is it to protect and guard the mind and spirit of a young child? Many experts agree that the first six years in a child’s life is his or her most important years of mental, emotional and spiritual development. It is believed that the foundation that is laid within the individual’s conscience during this crucial period of time becomes the decision filter they will use for the rest of their life.

Read the rest of this entry »

NOBLE COLUMN: One SC Woman Making a Difference – Globally

Phil Noble

By Phil Noble

This is another column in an occasional series about people in South Carolina who are making a difference. Jennifer Jones-Wood is our guest columnist and she writes about her work in South Carolina to help young girls around the world.

Today, 130,000,000 girls do not have access to education. Please let that sink in.

One hundred and thirty million girls do not have access to education. If you were to count from 1 to 130,000,000 without stopping it would take you approximately eight years. Now that I have your attention let me tell you about The ONE Campaign.

ONE was started in May of 2004 by U2 front man Bono and Bobby Shriver whose family started Special Olympics. ONE is an international, non-partisan, non-profit, advocacy group that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa, by raising awareness and encouraging political leaders to support policies and programs that are saving lives and improving futures.

The reason I initially joined the now nearly 8 million members was simple; I was at a U2 concert and Bono asked me to. I am now the ONE Congressional District Leader for South Carolina’s, 1st District.

Now, 12 years after that evening, I understand the power ONE voice can have. I have signed petitions. I have made phone calls. I have written letters. I have joined other volunteer leaders on Capitol Hill and met with aides, Congressmen and Senators. All with the same goal: to help the least of these!

There is a lot of loose rhetoric from politicians about how much we spend on foreign aid. A recent poll found that people think about 25% of the US Government’s budget goes for foreign aid; the simple truth is it’s less than 1%… and Pres. Trump’s proposed budget would cut this amount by one third. Read the rest of this entry »

My Brain on NASCAR: Tax season

Cathy Elliott

Cathy Elliott

By Cathy Elliott

Wouldn’t it be great if the IRS operated more like NASCAR?

When expending a certain amount of angst, effort, or both, it seems only right and natural to expect some sort of a payoff in return. This is never more evident than during (and before, and after) tax season, which for most of us has already concluded its annual fusillade of frustration.

I once read somewhere that from January 1 through May 10 – just a little more than four months — we work for the IRS. The rest of the year, we work for ourselves, meaning that about 30 percent of our $30,000, which is roughly the average individual American’s income, goes to the government.

From May 11 through the end of the year, you are generously allowed to keep what you earn for yourself. We all work just as hard from January 1 through May 10 as we do from May 11 until the end of the year. But where’s the reward for crossing the finish line? Where’s the dessert at the end of the meal?

In the best example of “getting what’s coming to you,” some Americans do receive refund checks from the IRS. In most cases, however, all that hard-earned money just keeps on headed in the wrong direction–away from the folks who worked so hard to earn it in the first place.

I consider this unfair. Don’t you want some reward to follow your labor? This is not a political statement. Someone has to pay the bills and make it possible to keep the government up and running, and I guess that job falls to you and me. Still, I can’t help myself; I continue to wait for my year-end party, my well-defined triceps after all those sweaty hours at the gym. I want my payoff.

NASCAR gives me all these things.

It is human nature to invest oneself wholeheartedly into things that we consider necessary, important or interesting. The definition of these categories may vary from person to person, but they usually boil down to work, family and fun.

Many people take their fun just as seriously as they take their work, if not more so. NASCAR fans are a stellar example of this principle in action. Very fast action.

The Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays provide a diversion during the weeks when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck series are not actually competing. A statement like, “It’ll be nice to have a little break” uttered in mid-November, however, quickly evolves into a question in early January: How many more weeks until Daytona?

On January 1, the new year fires up its engines in earnest as we start focusing our time and attention on the upcoming season. In other words, we go to work. The sport provides us with plenty of information on drivers, teams, sponsors and paint schemes. We give back our part — sometimes a sizable one — in the form of things like race tickets, travel arrangements and new merchandise purchases.

This outflow of support extends far beyond the first four months of the season. It literally never ends. As with governmental military spending or foreign trade policies, we may not always be completely happy with the result of our expenditures (i.e. the “wrong” guy wins the race), but prevailing opinion holds that the end can justify the means. Conduct a straw poll if a certain car sporting the No. 88 concludes the day in Victory Lane this season if you don’t believe me.

After reaping the benefits of all these cool bonuses along the way, the generous refund check at the end, of course, is the Chase for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition and the ultimate crowning of a champion.

NASCAR goes to work, and we pay them to do it. In essence, we also go to work for them, and in the end they give us exactly what we want and pay us back many times over. With very rare exceptions, we consider our expenditures, of time or money or whatever they may be, worth every penny. We feel rewarded. We are happy.

What a concept. Maybe the government should consider it.

Cathy Elliott is the former director of public relations for Darlington Raceway and author of the books Chicken Soup for the Soul: NASCAR; Desktop 500; and Darlington Raceway: Too Tough to Tame. Contact her at