It's was a very interesting few days, coming off of the Labor Day holiday weekend, for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Following two days of unscheduled overtime at Atlanta, NASCAR went to the White House for a special reception that somehow managed to launch a completely unjustified political debate. Oh yes, there was also plenty of comments that deserve to be repeated.
"I have observed that there IS some trash talking in NASCAR, for a moment I thought I was watching the WWF"— President Obama
The participants of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase For The Championship, along with NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France, were invited to attend a special reception at the White House where President Obama praised NASCAR for their decades of success, their willingness to give back to the communities through a high number of charity projects and their high profile support of the members of our Armed Forces.
In a tongue in cheek moment the President looked at five time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and reminded him that if his team made just one mistake, in the upcoming 2011 Chase, the competition would be on him. "I have observed that there IS some trash talking in NASCAR," the President said adding "for a moment I thought I was watching the WWF", (World Wrestling Federation.)
Prior to the reception it was revealed that Sprint Cup drivers Tony Stewart, Greg BIffle, Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards were not planning to attend. That's when the NASCAR and political conspiracy theorists joined forces and ran amuck.
In a move that was completely unjustified, not to mention unfair, the theorists claimed that these four drivers intentionally snubbed the President's invitation because they did not agree with the administration's policies and were generally dissatisfied with the state of the union. Surprisingly this theory went well beyond the typical NASCAR media coverage. It became a topic of interest on national newscasts, politically themed television talk shows, the Internet and, needless to say, it ran rampant on the social networks.
These four drivers had to spend some of their very valuable pre race time at Atlanta assuring everyone that they felt the President's invitation to the White House was a true honor but they were forced to respectfully decline due to schedule conflicts that simply could not be avoided.
The life of a Sprint Cup driver is filled with tight schedules. There's a lot more going on in their world than just the annual 36 races plus the special non points events. They are constantly in demand for personal appearances for their team sponsors, TV commercial productions, special track events to help sell tickets as well as meet and greet sessions with the fans. Many of these commitments are scheduled months in advance. The process begins long before the start of the racing season and continues after the season has concluded.
A perfect example of this process involved Greg Biffle who had to decline the trip to Washington DC because of a very important two day appearance in Minnesota on behalf of 3M, his primary sponsor, that had been scheduled months ago.
Biffle probably put it best when he said "I saw some comments that we rejected the invitation. To me, that's not what we did. Rejecting means, 'no, I don't want to go. I'm not going to go. You can't make me go.' That's rejecting. Having a conflict and not being able to go is something different."
SPEED Channel analysts Kyle Petty also had an interesting perspective on this topic when he said "they just can't stop what they're doing just because the President called. It's not political. I don't stop what I'm doing just because my wife calls. This isn't "Face The Nation," it's racing. If you want politics turn the channel to "Face The Nation."
One of the special moments, from the NASCAR weekend at Atlanta, was watching Jeff Gordon celebrate his 85th series win that now places him in sole possession of third on the series' all time win list. After the race a grateful Gordon got on "Twitter" and wrote "(the) best thing about a big win like today is coming home, seeing my family and looking at all the congrats from the fans on Twitter. Thank U."
The Atlanta win allowed Gordon to break a three way tie, on the NASCAR win list, with Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison. Acknowledging the accomplishment in a "Twitter" message Waltrip wrote: "When I retired in 2000 I felt like Jeff Gordon was the only guy out there that might be able to catch me and Bobby. Jeff Gordon is worthy of all the praise he is getting for what he has accomplished, not only as a true champion but as a great person as well." This is exactly why everyone thinks "DW" is a class act.
The Atlanta Sprint Cup race was not devoid of some road rage controversy. This is especially true of drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Clint Bowyer who have had some memorable moments with each other in the past. During the Atlanta race there was some light contact by Bowyer to the back of Montoya's car which was basically a simple racing deal. However Montoya took the matter personally and retaliated. Boywer ended up parked along side of the retaining wall, had to settle for a 32nd place finish and quite possibly has seen the end of any hopes of getting into the Chase line up.
After the race a highly frustrated Bowyer said "you just can't race around a jackass. Anybody in this sport knows what you're up against when the 42, (Montoya), shows up. He dive bombs the starts, bullys his way up there and before you know it he's in the way and wrecking with somebody. Unfortunately I was his victim this week."
With the surliness of a tiger from a South American jungle, Montoya replied: "they all think we're supposed to back off because they're trying to get into the Chase and he's also looking for a ride next year and everything. He just needs to prove himself a little more."
Bowyer had nothing further to say about the Atlanta incident on his "Twitter" account but Montoya did offer the following "Tweet": "we made some real progress with the car. I heard Bowyer wasn't too happy. I guess next time he'll give me a little room."
Now for the final comments of the week. In one of her "tweets" Danica Patrick announced that she had something in common with veteran actress Betty White and wrote: "Betty White and I share the same mental condition: road rage. Scary to think that, as I grow older, it won't go away. My poor hubby."
DeLana Harvick was asked "do you ever just say ENOUGH to stop the craziness between the boys?" She replied "yes, but usually with a few F bombs."
Following the Atlanta NASCAR Nationwide Series race, Kenny Wallace flew to Chicago for a personal appearance in the windy city and sent the following "Tweet" : "I have landed in Chicago. I always think of Al Capone when I come here. I guess it's all the history I was taught. Sorry."
During a Sunday morning SPEED Channel interview, while waiting for it to stop raining at Atlanta, we learned that Brad Keselowski likes a pre race heaping bowl of Captain Crunch breakfast cereal. Explaining the tradition, he said "it's good for you, you have to say young at heart."
NASCAR "Twitter" fans are well aware that SPEED Channel analyst Kyle Petty has a rather large "Twitter" following. Most of them are also aware that sometimes Petty tries to rattle our cages with some of his responses because he finds that amusing. However, recently he received a "Twitter" question, that even he chose not respond to, that read: "do you believe in God or (actor) Tom Cruise's God?" (WHAT????)
Absolute item last is a comment that made the ESPN air waves during their coverage of the Atlanta Nationwide Series race. Following a multi car crash, the voice of an unidentified spotter came over the air telling his driver "yellow flag, watch out for debris. There's s**t flying around all over the place." Apparently ESPN's official censor couldn't activate the kill switch before the S word made it on the air. That prompted the network's broadcast anchor, Marty Reid, to say "we're certainly sorry about that."
From toddlers developing their new found vocal skills to great grand parents, that's a word that is used probably a billion times per day in America. However, the word is frowned upon when it glides through the public air waves. You may have noticed that my very fine editor prefers me to place two stars in the middle of the word rather than spell it in its natural state. To coin a well used racing phrase: "it is what it is" and sometimes it just plain old s**t !