Monday, September 05, 2011


UPDATE: I'll guest on Sirius XM's post-Italian Grand Prix show Sunday, at about 10 p.m. EDT. Channels are 94/208.

As I've said and written many times, you can't be a good fan without knowing something about the business and politics of racing. Politics and business came together in an interesting way last week with the announcement that President Obama would host a Chase-related event at the White House -- but five of the 10 invited NASCAR drivers wouldn't be there.

One would think -- wish and hope -- that "journalists" would understand that words mean things. That' not how the coverage played out, with words like "rejected" and "refused" used by some controversy-thirsty writers as if it meant the same as "not able to." That, in turn, got picked up by some conservative media outlets. As far as I can see, this was completely bogus.

NASCAR’s first news release stated that Kurt Busch was among those who would not attend, but Busch said at Atlanta Motor Speedway he had been able to change his schedule and would be present. Carl Edwards serves on the presidential Council for Fitness Sports and Nutrition, so absolutely no reason to imply any snub, even though he won't be there. Kevin Harvick flat-out told the media "none of your business" as to why he won't attend, but made general references to scheduling conflicts. Ditto Tony Stewart. Greg Biffle thoughtfully explained a long-standing sponsor obligation that was built around him.

Now, I don't think there's a lot of Obama support in the NASCAR garage area, especially policy differences regarding business. This manufactured controversy came at the same time the federal jobs report revealed no new net jobs were created in August. And, with consumer confidence way down, that comes at an especially bad time for the NASCAR industry -- the Chase ticket-selling season is on and plenty of teams are trying to finalize 2012 sponsorship. Just as the NFL season kicks off.

But should that be cast as a presidential snub? No. Yes, there was a time in our country when a chance to meet the president -- regardless of party -- would trump everything. The reality is that's not the way it is these days. One reason is that some of these driver had their schedules set months ago. And, depending on Atlanta-area weather, the whole non-issue could be meaningless, anyway.

This was bad journalism, involving use of some inaccurate words, and I'll stand on that analysis unless I see video of Harvick and Stewart at a Tea Party rally at the same time the other drivers are at the White House. I find it especially unfortunate coming at the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11.

Here's a link to my Arizona Republic story last week on NASCAR tire testing at Phoenix:

FAST LINES: Yes, IndyCar needs to replace Brian Barnhart. Some of the prospective replacements floated by the "experts," however, are inane ideas. A few of those guys would make the Chris Kniefel era in Champ Car look good. If you want a smart/competent choice, here he is: Gil de Ferran . . . A recent story on was headlined, "Writing: The No. 1 skill for PR pros." Amen! Way too little of that these days. All releases I receive that talk about how "thrilled" a team is to sign a new sponsor, or how "excited" a driver is to be racing that weekend (both completely non-news) result in an instant press of the "delete" key by me . . . The "Danica is mailing it in" posts got postponed by her sixth place in Baltimore . . . TV coverage of the U.S. Nationals was dumbed-down by the dumb decision to add Just Horrible Jamie Howe to the "talent" lineup. Otherwise, a great presentation of drag racing's biggest event.

[ more next Monday . . . ]