NASCAR and President Obama. OK, fine… The President of the United States takes some time to recognize the Chase Drivers. Presidents have been welcoming persons of sport accomplishment to the White House for a long time. It’s nothing particularly new.
But what of the timing…?
President Bush (the second one) invited NASCAR drivers to the White House either following the season or before the next season started. The first Bush and Ronald Reagan attended an event or two. Bush honored Richard Petty and Reagan pardoned Junior Johnson on moonshining convictions. The internet search for President Clinton and NASCAR doesn’t reveal much. Apparently, he tried campaigning at Darlington… It didn’t go well. Although, Rick Hendrick did receive a pardon from Clinton on charges of some sort of mail fraud concerning Honda Motors dealerships. Jimmy Carter apparently maintained a friendship with Cale Yarborough.
But mid-season invitations to the White House…? To honor the drivers and champion of the previous year…? We don’t get it.
Everyone is focused on “now”. The next race… What went wrong on the last race… Setups, practice, strategy, logistics… Leave Texas and go to Kansas. Get what we need sent out from Charlotte. Oh, and the hottest drivers in contention drop the fire suits for jacket and tie and head up to Washington, D.C….
Would it be too difficult to get the guys after the awards banquet or maybe leading up to Daytona…? You know, when the season is not in full swing… It really is just a thought.
OK… He did make a call from Air Force One for congratulations during “Champions Week” and the awards in November at Las Vegas.
It’s not as if the President is less busy in April than in December or January… Is he…?
Greg Biffle just won at Texas and is currently leading the season points. He wasn’t a “Chase” driver in 2011. He was gearing up for Kansas on Tuesday. The press will be all over the ten drivers who went to the White House with questions likely further distracting from the upcoming race at Kansas. We’re fairly certain Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (currently 3rd in points) would rather focus on his car than the suit he wore while meeting President Obama…
2011 Champion Tony Stewart is currently in 7th place but had to go. He skipped an invitation last year in September due to schedule conflicts.
Again, September… as the drivers and teams are focusing on making every point count to make the “Chase” for the year they are running. There was, at least, some kind of connection as the Richmond race was honoring heroes of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and D.C. is just up the road.
But April…? Tax deadlines… Racing schedule… Focus….
Campaigning…? Oops… Did we type that out loud…?
The meeting did go well. It was light and pleasant with some laughs and some praise. Notably, the President humorously referenced Tony Stewart’s media history.
“I was hoping Tony would give me some tips for dealing with the media because he has the quiet and reserved personality, and I figured I could stay out of trouble if Tony would give me some advice.”
President Obama was also very gracious while referencing his wife’s visit to the Homestead race last year. He made mention of NASCAR’s efforts in honoring the military and their families but did not reference the disgrace of the crowd “boos” that were reported on her introduction.
“You look out for military families, the Gold Star families and you make regular visits to Walter Reed Hospital to raise spirits there. For you guys to give that much back to folks who have given so much to keep us safe, I want to thank all of you.”
Carl Edwards was also referenced as a member of the President’s Fitness Council.
“He’s an outstanding representative of NASCAR and has a lot of class…”
Overall, mid-season as it is, the White House visit went well. The drivers were welcome, the President was charismatic and personable, and NASCAR received some attention in circles that would usually turn their noses up.
The same can be said for the President in an election year… Hmmmmmm…