A few random thoughts about NASCAR to bore you on Labor Day weekend ...
Jimmy Johnson, 2010 Champ, and the other 11 drivers who made the Chase last year, were invited to meet with Obama this week at the White House. 4 drivers declined the invitation, citing scheduling issues. While that may very well be, one would think that meeting the President would trump any small sponsorship commitments. UNLESS ... they don't particularly want to meet with the current President. Kudos to Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, and Greg Biffle for honoring their 'schedule conflicts'.
While reporting on TV about this situation, ESPN reporter Marty Smith referred to the drivers not 'meeting with Obama'. Not The President, not President Obama ... just Obama. I'm sure he was just trying to shorten his report by a half second.
Brad Keselowski. I've disliked with high prejudice this young man since he forced his way into NASCAR a few years ago. He was arrogant, had a tendency to wreck his competitors in order to improve his position and win races, and then whining and crying whenever someone treated him the same way. His father, an ex-racer with pretty much the same attitude, cried on national TV how the other drivers were trying to kill his boy - while ignoring the fact they were just trying to give his boy back a little bit of what he was dishing out.
Brad was involved in a testing crash about 4 weeks ago. He suffered a broken left ankle, sprained right ankle, and badly sprained lower back. He raced and won the NASCAR event at Pocono 4 days later. He finished 2nd the next week - third the week after that, and won last weekend's event at Bristol. He never publicly complained about being hurt. Public reports indicate he refulsed to let his crew do anything to his cars for his comfort that might have a negative affect on performence.
Brad's performance allowed him to win a DirectTV promotion, earning his charity of choice Paralyzed Veterans of America a donation of $200K.
I still don't like the man, but I sure have a lot more respect for him now.
Dale Jr. signed an extension with Hendrick Motorsports, keeping him in the 88 car through the end of 2017. This in spite of the disappointing record he's had with that team, and the fact he's a middle of the pack driver who has almost no chance of winning each weekend. Jr. won some races at his previous team, but has clearly lost his spark. So, why did Rick Hendrick spend millions to resign him?
Money. Junior Nation spends huge amounts of money each year on stuff with Dale's face on it. Companies compete to sponsor him, or get his endorsement. Hendrick stands to recover many times what he spent on Dale. It's about the money, and the fan base - not wins or performance.
No one is criticizing this signing. A few pundits publicly question his performance, but no one questions the deal.
Danica Patrick signed a deal to drive a car for Dale Jr. in the Nationwide Series full time next year. Included in the deal is a handful of races in a car for Tony Stewart's team in Cup. This in preparation for her going to Cup full time in 2013.
Patrick has one a single race in Indy cars, and that was a rain shortened event she was lucky enough to be in the right place when the rain came. She has never challenged for a championship, and very rarely is seen running in the Top Ten in any of the races. She has top level equipment, driving for Michael Andretti.
Patrick's deal has stirred a lot of negative comments form the pundits, almost all of whom (rightfully so) say she is not ready for NASCAR, that she has done nothing to prove herself, and has done nothing to warrant this deal or the attention.
So why did Dale Jr. spend a ton of money to bring her over?
Money. Patrick brings her enthusiastic sponsor, GoDaddy.com, with her. The guy who runs that has some pretty deep pockets. He seems to be a guy who loves to be in the spotlight.
So, Dale and Danica sign big deals, for pretty much the same reasons, with pretty much the same recent past. Why does one of them receive congratulations, while the other is cut down?
One is named Earnhardt.
Carl Edwards ended months of intrigue when he resigned with Roush Racing. Joe Gibbs Racing was trying very hard to get him to sign with them to drive the #20 Home Depot car. The offer was VERY lucrative, said to be in the $18 million dollar range for the first year. Carl kept Jack Roush and the rest of NASCAR on pins and needles for several months while he was courted - where he signed would have a great impact upon where several other high profile drivers would end up for 2012.
Carl chose to stay with Roush only after Ford Motor Co. stepped up and sweetened the deal. I don't know what they gave Carl to keep him in a Ford (money, stock, etc.) but it was enough to keep him a Ford man.
I've been a big Cousin Carl fan since he started with Roush, back in the Truck series. however, I was ready to spit on his name if he had deserted Roush, the man who gave him the shot and support he needed to break into the sport and become one of its superstars. However, he's still in a Ford, and I'm still a big fan.