News & Notes – Daytona

*Lt. General Defend U.S. Army Sponsorship In NASCAR*

Poised to announce the sponsorship of Revolution Racing driver Darrell Wallace Jr., plans were changed for Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley Friday afternoon thanks to a current battle taking place on Capitol Hill where Minnesota Congresswoman Betty McCollum has proposed that the U.S. Congress pass legislation to end military sponsorship in NASCAR.

Lt. Gen. Freakley is the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Accessions Command that oversees the branch’s relationship with the NASCAR, the NHRA and the All-American Bowl, among other things. Instead of announcing yet another sponsorship agreement, Lt. Gen. Freakley proudly defended the Army’s involvement in the sport.

“We have a great relationship with NASCAR,” Freakley said. “After three-and-a-half years with working with NASCAR, [we have] a treasure-trove relationship with NASCAR, because it gives us a great venue to tell our story as soldiers where people are receptive.”

“Many people think, ‘Why are we spending this amount of money on a day at the track?’” he later touched on, addressing the issues being debated in Washington D.C. “This is a year-long engagement by the Army where we go into high schools, go to the tracks, use this venue to talk about this discourse about serving in the Army. For all of our motorsports, which includes drag racing – the NHRA – and NASCAR, last year in 2010 we had over 150,000 leads out of the sports marketing program; 46,000 of those, one-third, came from NASCAR.”

The ‘leads’ the Lt. Gen. touched on are the number of people Army recruiters were able to contact through their efforts at the track. While those numbers are large, he quickly pointed out only one in four people are eligible to serve. However, what the presence does for the Army is provide a common-ground basis to start the conversation.

“We have a common dialog on no threatening ground,” Freakley said. “You’re not standing in a recruiting station on the brink of a decision. You’re at a NASCAR event to have a discussion and a deep dialog about my future and how does it relate and why are you here in a uniform standing at a NASCAR event.”

In addition to connecting with potential recruits, the Army’s effort at the track also brings the full story of the Army to the public.

“We see one picture of our soldiers of combat,” Frealey pointed out. “We see the tragic loss that war brings, but this also brings in a different perspective of our soldiers day-in and day-out. Soldiers can tell their whole story about who they are and what they are and they see more of the whole Army story than just a snippet.”

“We also know that someone has come to a race, witnessed and visited the Army Strength and Action zone, visited with our soldiers, seeing the Army car, they have a 37% higher positive feeling about the Army,” he added. “Parents feel more positive about taking action to learn more after visiting us. The program is not necessarily designed to cause someone to join the Reserve Officer Training Corps program or become a soldier, but it’s to get them be more aware and be more engaged to have the discussion.”

Lt. Gen. Freakley emphasized the program is reviewed year after year to ensure the tax payers get the best return on their investment and “make the best investment for America to build an all-volunteer Army.”

Currently, the program spends $7.4 million dollars on its NASCAR program, a figure that has decreased in the three years they have been involved in the sport. Yet, the Lt. Col. pointed out the discussions taking place with potential recruits has to take someplace, and NASCAR events provide the perfect venue and the perfect audience for that to take place.

“Have you ever watched a NASCAR opening? How patriotic is it? Flags, National Anthem, pride in your country, pride in ‘my guy,’” he said. “[NASCAR] is sort of America’s sport and the United States Army is America’s team.”

*Should NASCAR Test Different Packages or Take Off The Plates?*

While many of the drivers have described the two-car tandem style of racing here at Daytona as fun and exciting, others have suggested NASCAR should come back following Sunday’s race and test out a number of various packages to figure out what would work the best.

On Wednesday, Jeff Gordon said he would have liked to see NASCAR bring “a bunch of plates” and some different spoilers to “see what we could do with that package.” Teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been another critic of the two-car draft, calling for more testing with various packages. In my Dialing It In piece from this week, crew chief Todd Berrier even suggested they take off the restrictor plates and “let them go in one of these things.”

One person would know all about that is former champion Rusty Wallace. Back in 2004, Wallace ran an unrestricted test at Talladega Superspeedway under the careful watch of NASCAR. That day, Wallace’s ‘blue-deuce’ ran an average lap of 228 mph and was hitting much higher speeds at the end of the straightaways.

So, as the most recent driver to run unrestricted around a superspeedway, does he think it is something NASCAR should repeat now that Daytona and Talladega have been repaved? Not a chance.

“You can’t run that fast, I’ll tell you what,” Wallace said. “I ran 232 (mph) in the straightaways and about 228 (mph) average lap, that was completely out of control. Flying the front end through the tri-oval was a mad ride, it really was. I could only do it for two laps. They could never do that under real race conditions.”

“NASCAR had a great plan coming in, I think they got caught with the speed being way higher than they ever anticipated happening, and it really bothered them,” he said, speaking to the situation this year in Daytona. “They went from plan A, to plan B, plan C, plan D with the restrictor plates. I think knowing what they know now, they’ll go to the teams after the Daytona 500, they’ll get a bunch of cars together and do a bunch of testing to find some things out. It’s a pretty good race right now, no doubt about that, but I guarantee you they wish this was a month before the race and they could still try testing things to try and get it smoothed out. It is what it is, it’s going to be a great race no matter what.

*Correction From Yesterday’s Newsletter*

In yesterday’s newsletter we mentioned the No. 21 of Trevor Bayne would be forced to pull out the back-up car after wrecking on the final lap of the second Gatorade Duel. However, after speaking with crew chief Donnie Wingo in the garage on Friday, he indicated the wrecked caused only cosmetic damage and the crew was working to make repairs and not using a back-up car.

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