Sunday, November 22, 2009


I had the interesting experience of interviewing Arizona Senator John McCain the morning of the Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500k at Phoenix International Raceway. McCain was the grand marshall. He took questions from national NASCAR journalists in the media center, then, by pre-arrangement, met with me and the Arizona Republic's Jim Gintonio.

The headline was McCain's comments on Chrysler and GM. He opposed the federal government financial bailouts to the automakers and McCain said he's not optimistic about the business future of the two NASCAR participants:

"It's not that I'm that much of an expert, but the ones I talk and listen to (agree). And I think it's going to be a near-thing with General Motors. Who is doing well? Ford. I have a Ford Fusion hybrid, and I'm very happy with it."

I was only able to include a bit of this in my Republic notebook. I thought you might find the rest of note:

On his interest in NASCAR:

"Having been an amateur high school and college athlete, I love all sports. And I enjoy NASCAR. But (fellow Arizona senator) Jon Kyl, he was here at the crack of dawn. He knows everything. He was even arguing the rules. I said to him, ‘Jon, people come to Washington all the time and try to change our rules.’ Last time I was here, Jon took me around, he knows all the drivers and teams."

On comparisons of piloting a fighter jet and driving a race car:

"There is a lot in common there. It requires enormous hand-eye coordination. It requires a great deal of training. It’s a game, sometimes, of inches. So, I think there’s a lot of common requirements, both physical and mental, to flying a high-performance aircraft, particularly in combat. I would point out that, in some ways, these guys are in combat. You make a mistake, and it could lead to serious consequences."

On NASCAR and its corporate-sponsored teams being a showcase for capitalism:

"I see it as a showcase about what’s good in America. These people come, average everyday citizens, who shape their schedule for the year to bringing the RV out, and cooking out, and doing all the things in what has become an American institution. I equate it to capitalism maybe in a different way. There are rules out here on the track. I just sat in the (drivers) meeting where they went over those rules. The rules on Wall St. were either not existent or weren’t enforced. Greedy people were able to violate fundamental rules and it caused an enormous impact throughout our economy. The same greedy people are being rewarded. If you violate the rules in NASCAR, you’re penalized, you’re thrown off the track, you’re suspended, the penalties are there. These guys on Wall St., they gamed the system, sold bogus securities, and now, they’re the ones profiting from it."

On the patriotism of NASCAR fans:

"I’ve been to NASCAR races in New Hampshire and North Carolina, as well as here, and the incredible appreciation of the men and women of the military is at a higher level than most other places I’ve been. All Americans honor the men and women of the military. NASCAR, we get this kind of passionate patriotism that is pretty remarkable."

On if Sarah Palin would be popular with NASCAR fans:

"I know she’s very popular. As I walk around they say, ‘How’s Sarah doing?’ Yeah, I am totally confident this is a big part of her fan base. Her husband (Todd) is a racer, a champion snowmobile racer across Alaska. I think the Palin family represents the NASCAR outlook on life."

On if Palin was on the pre-race introduction stage:

"They’d go crazy."

The least surprising part of Sarah Palin Week, as the former Alaska governor toured for the rollout of her book Going Rogue, was the anti-Palin media bias. Even less surprising was the epicenter was NBC. Andrea Mitchell has traveled with Hillary Clinton for most of her major overseas trips as secretary of state, but as Clinton went to in-the-headlines Afghanistan last week, where was Mitchell? Stalking Palin, sneakily looking for every op to get in a dig -- such as interviewing those in the book-signing line who might have been dressed in a way, or said something, that would serve Mitchell's own viewpoint. Meanwhile, Norah O'Donnell and The Ego injected race into their conversation of a Palin book event. The Hater-In-Chief, of course, just hated. There was a time in American journalism when such bias would have been considered an outrage, and employer-discipline imposed.

The total number for my The Race Reporters was up 147 percent in October vs. a comparable four-show month in August. THANK YOU!

Here's a link to my story in last Sunday's Arizona Republic, focused on how NASCAR got through the recession of 2009:

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

November 25 -- Best-of-show with Richard Petty, Mike Harris, Lewis Franck.

December 2 -- NASCAR 2009.

December 9 -- Season in Review, Part I.

December 16 -- Season in Review, Part II

[ more early next week . . . ]