The Frontstretch: Racing And Politics: Not A Good Mix by Tommy Thompson -- Wednesday October 22, 2008

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Racing And Politics: Not A Good Mix

Thompson in Turn 5 · Tommy Thompson · Wednesday October 22, 2008


Who will win the 2008 presidential election is still anybody’s guess. But when it comes to NASCAR, who they want to win isn’t even in question these days.

Considering the rash of “honorary” guests from John McCain’s presidential campaign team recently attending Sprint Cup events, the sanctioning body clearly is supporting the Republican Party ticket, and is willing to offer its services to their effort to win the White House. What NASCAR is serving up to their political party of choice is a captive audience of 100,000 motorsports fans that really came to watch a race, but are getting — whether they want it or not — a low-key partisan political rally as well.

However, truth be told, the majority of fans in attendance have no objection to the not-so-subtle support of the Republican presidential ticket at the races. Demographics show supporters of NASCAR to be overwhelmingly conservative and white, not dissimilar from the general makeup of the stereotypical Republican. All and all, Republican Party candidates and their surrogates are in “safe waters” when campaigning.

Oh, and by the way, Richard Petty offered his endorsement of the McCain / Palin ticket at Lowe’s Motor Speedway ten days ago amongst the festivities leading up to the Bank of America 500. In the meantime, the grounds of the track were heavily laced with campaign stickers, signs, and buttons for the Republican hopefuls. “What we need right now in these uncertain times is a steady hand on the wheel, a leader we can trust to put country first ahead of politics,” the King said in a prepared statement.

That possibly the most liked and known figure in NASCAR offered his public support to the Republican nominees is not at all surprising, as Petty has never made any secret of his political persuasion. He, in fact, ran for election as the Republican candidate for the Secretary of State of North Carolina. Further, Petty’s endorsement is on par with what has become the norm for other NASCAR drivers as well. During the previous presidential election cycle, nine of the Top 10 drivers openly supported the re-election bid of President George W. Bush. Additionally, many of NASCAR’s top drivers from the present and past worked to get out the Bush vote during both of his successful presidential campaigns.

To be sure, NASCAR is a bastion of support for the Republican Party, dating back to the days of the sport’s founder, Bill France. Between NASCAR, ISC, and individual France family members, public records show that about 90% of financial contributions find their way to individual Republican candidates or directly to the GOP.

So, what about the Democrats? A Democratic candidate at a NASCAR event is a rare sighting. That’s not to say there haven’t been attempts, but the reception by race fans has been less than lukewarm, as former President Bill Clinton discovered when visiting Darlington in 1992 in an attempt to ingratiate himself with the NASCAR community.

Perhaps Eddie Gossage, the Vice President / General Manager of Texas Motor Speedway, gauged the reaction best. “It was rude, to be honest. I’m talking in terms of booing and airplanes flying over, saying, ‘Clinton is a draft dodger.’ Banners on the back of planes and stuff. He got a very cold reception from the fans, competitors – everybody.”

Clearly, a NASCAR race is not the best venue for a Democrat to make friends and influence voters.

Does NASCAR really have much to gain by supporting partisan political campaigns, especially one considered by many as futile?

Well, Republican-friendly or not, it is puzzling as to why NASCAR allows itself to become involved in the no win game of politics. Republican fans of the sport will support Republican candidates regardless of whether John McCain, Cindy McCain, or Todd Palin are given a meaningless “honorary” title for a race and allowed to say hello over the PA system and give a wave to the crowd or not.

And without a doubt, should a candidate supported by the racing organization get elected, there may be some rewards for the aid and comfort lent them during their campaign. Yet, how much consideration can they expect on political matters important to the sport by a Democrat that defeats their candidate?

The risk that comes with betting on the wrong horse is greater than you think.

From simply a strategic standpoint, it would only seem prudent for the organization to cover its bets and spread the support. NASCAR is big time sports now, and they might take a lesson from their sports entertainment peers whose athletes and executives are generally reluctant to publicly support either side.

The sports support for the “The Grand Old Party” is not without risk to its own best interest, either. Supposing that a typical NASCAR crowd does, in fact, overwhelmingly sway towards the Republican candidate by a margin of 70% to
30%, what about the minority of non-Republican fans in attendance?

At Daytona during the last two presidential election periods NASCAR, drivers, and owners have politicked hard for Bush, with an estimated crowd of 200,000 spectators subject to the overt campaigning. At the 70%-30% number, there would be 60,000 paying race fans sitting amidst a mini-political rally for a candidate that they may well be opposed to.

Now, that’s certainly not a situation that many are likely to appreciate or find particularly enjoyable. Remember, a lot of race fans come only to watch a race! I know I’m not the only one that has been advised by my elders to not discuss politics or religion – especially in a crowd of strangers. Wise advice, indeed.

Besides … why does NASCAR want to mix such an honorable and enjoyable endeavor as auto racing with the nastiness of politics, anyways?

And…That’s my view from Turn 5.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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10/22/2008 07:15 AM

I always find it interesting that anyone pays attention to any endorsement that a celebrity makes . NASCAR drivers for example . What would Richard Petty know that the rest of us don’t about what makes a great presidential candidate ? As far as intellect goes , race drivers on average are no smarter than the general population . So why would their endorsements of anything sway us ?
The constant drumbeat for the GOP over the years is odd , but looking at the tax breaks they’ve gotten from it , i’d say it works .

10/22/2008 08:21 AM

Well, I think you might have missed the key issue here on why NA$CAR supports “politicians”, mostly of the republican persuasion!

According to my information, embedded in the $700 billion “bailout”, there was some $150 million in tax breaks for race track owners!

Of course NA$CAR is going to “honor” politicians, it is more money in the bank!

Ken in Va.
10/22/2008 08:28 AM

The reason race fans tend to be Republican is not difficult to figure out. Republican support is strongest in small town and rural America and that is where most race fans live. Democrats are strongest in ultra rich Hollywood and poorer inner city areas where race fans are few and far between.

10/22/2008 10:58 AM

NASCAR has always pandered to certain things. The “family values” thing is so phony. Do people really believe that Democrats as a whole don’t have families or family values? Come on…Anyone remember Jim BakKer, Jerry Falwell, Ted Haggard (now there’s a christain family values man if there ever was one), etc. And when Jeff Gordon was under NASCAR’s and his ex-wife’s thumb he used to preach at every victory lane ceremony…“the lord drove that car for me today not me.” That is a direct quote. It used to bother me to no end. What message did that send? So the guy in 15th place who is just as much of a believer (aka christain) as Gordon who spun out and hit the wall, so the “lord” wasn’t driving that car? Hmmm, guess not cause “the lord” only supports winners.

And as far as Richard Petty? Well I love him as a racer and he has done more for this sport than anyone except France and Bruton Smith and a few others. But Petty has been hard-core Republican for a long time. And even the great RP showed us he was human when his road rage took him slap out of that Secretary of State race back in the 1990s. Did the “bump and run” on I-85 in NC thinking he was at Daytona just gave that one right away to Elaine Marshall. And she still has that office today. Gawd love him but political advice from him ain’t like racing advice.

And what about Michigan Speedway? Are the vast majority of those fans Repubs? I don’t know but that’s Union country and I would think that a lot of Michigan and Pennsylvania and maybe Chicago and maybe Upstate New York and Dover and New England could be homes for a lot of union workers, as in likely Democrats.

So to your point it’s a risky ploy to pander to Repubs—to any party really. But they are pandering to the ones that have a large part in getting us into this mess. Yea yea I hear it now, “it’s Nacy Pelosi and ‘that crowd.’”…Well let’s not forget that 8 of the last 8 years the White House has been under “R” control and hmmm, 6 of the last 8 Congress is under “R” control. Don’t tell me little Nancy Pelosi can screw up a country in less than 22 months…

Bottom line seems a slap in the face to many fans nationwide to pander to Repubs. And Todd Palin? Who is he? Just another Hilary Clinton, that’s all.

10/22/2008 11:12 AM

Were I to base my voting decisions on Who Richard Petty,or the France family, who least we forget, are billionaires. Or Madonna, or Michael Moore, for that matter. Then I should be disqualified from voting, by virtue of being too shallow, & uninformed. I am however tired of being beat over the head with someone else’s convictions. I can, however take comfort in the fact that they are pretty much preaching to the choir, & therefore wasting their time.

Vito Pugliese - FS Staff
10/22/2008 01:55 PM

“Don’t tell me little Nancy Pelosi can screw up a country in less than 22 months…”

Wait and see bud! San Fransicko soon coming to a city near you. America will soon know of the term, “Buyer’s Remorse” – A super-majority that is unable to be stymied; the rash of spending and tax increases might be “Change”…but the only change many will have is the loose change in their pants pockets and seat cushions.

Oh, and pry my guns from my cold, dead, bitterly clinging hands too.


: v ]

Kevin in SoCal
10/22/2008 04:01 PM

“Don’t tell me little Nancy Pelosi can screw up a country in less than 22 months…”

Why not? The liberal left have claimed George W. Bush screwed up the country in less time. And Pelosi is part of congress that actually does the spending. Bush only approves or denies that spending.

10/22/2008 04:28 PM

Kevin and Vito I knew I could draw you out. And the retort is almost verbatim what you have given. Go ahead “Bud” vote for McCain and Palin. You get what you pay for: more tax breaks for the wealthy; more war—the wrong war; more cozying up to lobbyists; more deficit spending (tax and spend Repubs, now that’s a new thing.); socialism (yep Repubs giving it to GM, Bank of America, JP Morgan because capitalism as it’s been practiced lately is bankrupt in more ways than one…but’s let’s bail out all those special interest who fund campaigns while sticking it to the little guy (me, obviously not you); and we need more than ever political leadsership like Karl Rove…Yep yall just vote for that crowd and we should all be OK in a few months…

Proves the point of the writer of this piece: politics and racin don’t mix. I wanna see side-by-side racin, not Palin. I wwanna see rootin and gougin, not COT plowin. And I wanna see the chrome horn givin not the chrome finger. Rough and tumble NASCAR has given way to sound-byte NA$CAR and loop data. Yep, that’s what I want to know, how many passes in turn three at Pocono. Where is Ramsey Poston when you need him. Better yet, where is Bill Jr. when you need him?

And by the way Tommy Thompson, weren’t you the governor of Wisconsin?

10/22/2008 06:20 PM

Hey Kevin in SoCal, where have you been hiding?

“And Pelosi is part of congress that actually does the spending. Bush only approves or denies that spending.”

Did you really say that?

Does the name “HALIBURTON” ring a bell?

And those famous words of G.W. Bush himself: “If you don’t believe me your un-american”! “Now, please pass me another $60 Billion to support my lies”! “Ooops, I meant $160 billion, sorry”!

“After all Congress, you MUST support our troops”!

Kevin, I am shocked, postively shocked, anyone would place the blame on this congress for spending money!

Vito Pugliese - FS Staff
10/23/2008 03:31 AM

Bush is by no means the best leader we’ve ever had, however my 2nd Ammendment Rights have remained intact the last 8 years. I will not be able to say that 8 years from now. That is a bit more important to me than cars going around in a circle for 3 hours. The 1st exists because of the 2nd.

And just for the record, I haven’t seen too many jihadist in our streets lately killing Americans civilians as they did 7 years ago. They’re over in another country being whacked by our military. If the enemy calls Iraq the frontlines of their quest to destroy us…then so be it. Because they’re losing.

Scoreboard: America

Even at our weakest, we’re still better than everybody else.

10/23/2008 08:19 AM

Hey Vito, actually the terrorists, at least the majority of them, responsible for 9/11 came from SAUDI ARABIA!


So, why did we not invade Saudi Arabia?

Saddam Hussein threw Osama out of his country!

Unfortunately, IRAQ is not called the “front-lines” by our “enemies”, whoever they may be!

Gee! Do you like G.W. that much that you continue to believe his lies? PROVEN LIES? (about Iraq).

10/23/2008 08:24 AM

Oh, I also should mention, both my wife and myself are licensed to carry (CCW) if you please.

But under Republican rule, I have good news and I have bad news:

The good news is we “may” not have to worry about stricter gun controls!

The BAD news is we will have to hock them at the local pawn shop in order to survive!

10/23/2008 01:08 PM

Douglas you are on it. I wonder if Vito is the one that Sarah Palin is talking about when she said that thing about ‘real americans’…while you and I are sorta, well half american you might say. Real Americans according to her logic bow down to special interests and campaign PR while uhh, er, you and I who question the direction of this country, well we are not REAL americans…And Oh, by the way Vito, while we are at it since you are giving lessons on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, maybe you could go over their to Palinville, err, Palin’s campaign and teach them a little bit about what a Vice President does…seems she doesn’t quite know yet. “make good policy in the Senate…” Geezuz! For chrissakes can’t we get someone to run that can think? And you want this woman just be a breath away fro the presidency?

For the record, I have met John McCain. I worked for someone a few years ago who has since passed away that led his 2000 effort. I thought for a long time that he might be a good president…Then all hell broke lose the last few months:

1. He names Sarah Palin, a ‘good ole boy’ er girl who is as corrupt as the next politician. But hey it’s in Alaska for chrissakes and no one was watchin until 60 days ago. Changed her ethics reports recently? Why? Cause she found out the press was sniffin on that, uh, “official function trip(s)” she took her daughter on and billed back the state.

2. He “suspended his campaign” to win the vote for the bailout. Yep, now there was a success if you ever have one. MCain was yackin about how he worked it out the moment it was falling apart and he didn’t even know it. Hey his own Arizona delegation didn’t vote for it the first time around. And then he has the audacity to blame Dems.

3. Wailing on Bill Ayers, for chrissakes, Obama was 8 years old. Who gives a dam about that while our 401k goes out the window while McCain cozies up to the banks PAC money. And hey let us not forget about the Keating 5.

4. Iraq. So let’s see our financial system is in meltdown and McCain still wants to spend $150 billion a year to fight em tearrroists! Those comin to the shores of America! Vito, you know your kind, I am just amazed. You are putty in the hands of Karl Rove and his disciples who sold terrorism as a political ploy to the American public to keep them scared out of their wits in the 2004 election.

Man we can disagree on politics or racers, but we can’t disagree that we are in trouble in this country and a new outlook—oooooohhhh not those San Francisco sinners—is what we need!

Kevin in SoCal
10/23/2008 01:29 PM

Just remember, Vito and I think you guys are blind fools for your beliefs, too! LOL

10/23/2008 03:29 PM

Kevin, we don’t have to remember. It’s evident you do. You don’t know what I believe. But I can tell ya you vote in these guys and they will wrap you up in the flag for the next 8 years and steal you blind like taking lollypops from babies. Every single one of them is corrupt. I don’t know what you do for a living Kevin, but let me ask ya, can you bill back your employer for frivilous trips with your family? Palin can.

Have you ever used the name of someone else to get prescription drugs to feed your habit? Ms. McCain did and didn’t serve one day of time. But go find out what happened to the doc that wrote her those perscriptions.

Would you lie to no end to win the presidency? Would you use the U.S. Justice Department to do your bidding for you on the campaign trail? Could you spend $150,000 on clothes right now? Would you do anything to win?

Let me tell ya these people make Richard Nixon and John Halderman and Charles Chapin and John Dean and on and on look like choir boys. Hey man vote your conscious. You reap what you soe and wow! are we ever reaping the benes of 8 years of stellar leadership with world respect and adulation of the most powerful, most free, most righteous nation on the planet. If you guys really think we are OK, then I want what you are smokin…Kyle Busch could use some of it to get hi mojo back.

10/23/2008 03:54 PM

Thanks Ed, appreciated!

AND! Of course “we” did not start this conversation!

But the “facts” are completely on our side!

Lets see now, some 30% of our countries “debt” (which really did not exist before G.W. and his band of thieves came along) is held by China & Saudi Arabia!

30% of a debt we may never pay off, why, because we just went ahead and borrowed another $700 BILLION OFFSHORE to fund our “correction” program!

And remember two (2) things, very important things:

1. some of that was borrowed from that TERRORIST SPONSOR, SAUDI ARABIA! (oh yes, we invaded Iraq instead, that had ZERO to do with 9/11)!

2. The rest was borrowed from that COMMUNIST COUNTRY CALLED CHINA!

So G.W. and his cronies not only went thru a HUGE BUDGET SURPLUS! But now have borrowed TRILLIONS of $$$ from corrupt countries!

And more unbelievable, is that some people, (does Vito & Kevin ring a bell), STILL THINK THIS IS GOOD GOVERNMENT!

Wonder when China will call in it’s markers?

10/23/2008 05:37 PM

Oh, and lest we forget, blame Tommy Thompson! He started this mess!

Thanks Tommy! Great Job!


10/23/2008 05:39 PM

And! Next, Vito & Kevin will be comparing the CoT to a Ferrari!

10/23/2008 08:23 PM

Douglas, man! The CoT IS a Ferrari! Brian Z says it’s beautiful.

And Sarah Palin says “Obama pals with tearoists”, and she says that the VP is in charge of the U.S. Senate…And she says she stopped the bridge to nowhere!…Anyway the emperor wears clothes too!..Oh and there were 160,000 fans at Lowes a few weeks ago and 90,000 fans at California…It’ Pato’s Republic in America! Pigs and CoTs fly. Your bank is safe. Nixon didn’t know about Watergate. Bill Clinton never met Monaca Lewinsky. Petty’s engine wasn’t big when he beat out Cale and Bobbby Allison that day. Carl Edwards didn’t bang Gregg Biffle in the rear at Talladega. And according to NA$CAR there is now more passing in the Cup series than ever. Of course it occurs on pit road but nevertheless there is more passing.

The only thing I believe is real these days is the tooth fairy. Everything else is up for graps…

10/23/2008 08:55 PM

I understand the point of the article.

However, in reality Politics are now embedded everywhere in our lives. Religion, schools, etc. To think that Sporting events should be left out is a noble thought.

We, all Americans, have allowed the government to play a larger role in our lives. Stock market, housing, health care, etc. if it isn’t working for us we want the government to do something.

Our Founding Fathers had a vision of a limited role of government. Unfortunately, we the people, have allowed the government to grow. As such, it stands to reason that government and politics are going to encroach on every aspect of our lives, including leisure activities. We are to blame.

Only we can change that.

Vote accordingly.

10/24/2008 07:39 AM

Hey Ed, very good, but you of course left a few out! One that comes to mind is that JR. really did win Talladega a couple years back, he was “forced” below the line!

And I think I will go outside this morning, I want to see the pigs a’ flyin!


You mean a $7500 dress for Palin? Designer at that?

She should fit right in with the “OIL” crowd now in office!

She buys clothes like Bush/Cheney award contracts!


10/24/2008 07:46 AM

Hey Chris, you are so correct: “We are to blame.”!

The problem is, that with people that never learn, such as our close friends here at “The Frontstretch”, this country will just bumble along relying on memories of the past, and what could’a been!

We actually are a nation of wimps! and they always seem in the majority! (or totally ignorant of what is really going on) Whatever comes first!

Kevin in SoCal
10/24/2008 01:32 PM

My only argument is I would rather have a Republican idiot in the White House than a Democratic idiot. Most Republicans support American automobiles, hunting, fishing, guns, and AUTO RACING! With a Democrat in office, we’ll be racing Toyota Prius’ to see who gets the best gas mileage, if we’re even racing at all.

Señor Obvious
10/24/2008 01:53 PM

Actually Douglas, she buys clothes like Hillary buys clothes. Hillary’s pantsuits run about $6,000 each.

Not that it matters. It’s just a way of diverting attention from the fact that there are two choices that don’t even make one good choice this election year.

Hopefully the true conservatives will regroup, recommit and save the government from the folks whose only concern is continuing the culture of big government and oppressing the lower and middle class with their nanny state giveaways.

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