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A NASCAR afternoon at the White House...and President Obama might be ready for a 'Wally's World' ride at-speed around the track | NASCAR Racing Breaking News: Trackside Live, Every Week, Every Sprint Cup Race - MikeMulhern.net


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A NASCAR afternoon at the White House...and President Obama might be ready for a 'Wally's World' ride at-speed around the track

  NASCAR's Jimmie Johnson, presenting President Barack Obama with his driving helmet: maybe to wear to some of those wild town hall meetings? (Photo: White House)

   By Mike Mulhern

   BRISTOL, Tenn.
   So the Pres is not only 'a car guy' but 'a NASCAR guy'?
   Hey, that's the way it looks today.
   President Barack Obama has suddenly given NASCAR and its men a big opening, in prestige and marketing potential and demographic synergies, with Wednesday afternoon's 'tea' on the South Lawn of the White House for champion Jimmie Johnson, car owner Rick Hendrick, and most of the top NASCAR figures – perhaps the latest front in Obama's post-partisan political game plan.
   Now it's up to NASCAR men to take the ball and run with it.
   And hopefully they're a little more proactive on this issue than on the car-of-tomorrow.
   Remember, North Carolina voted Democratic in the 2008 presidential election -- for the first time since Jimmy Carter in 1976 – the Georgia governor who made it a point early in his administration to invite the whole NASCAR gang up to his place for a barbeque dinner out on the patio.


  Maybe the new Pres is more comfortable with turning left than the old Pres. Jimmie Johnson at the wheel, and President Barack Obama looking for the keys? (Photo: White House)


Part of Obama's game plan here was clear – to pump up the Detroit car business. And he made that point, that NASCAR helps sell cars, which is certainly music to the ears of the guys over in Motown.
   But this is not just an opening for the sport of NASCAR racing, which has been battered lately with less-than-sellout crowds and slumping ratings and too many boring races (like Sunday's gas mileage 400 at Michigan). It's also a big opening for NASCAR's long-running – but still 'miles-to-go-before-we-sleep' – diversity program.
   Certain it would have been nice for NASCAR to have a Lewis Hamilton or Danica Patrick at the White House Wednesday.
   Maybe NASCAR execs and marketing wizards can use this new 'Obama factor' to good effect in that regard.
   The opportunity to point out some of NASCAR's 'good deeds,' off the track was there, subtly, with wounded soldiers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which NASCAR drivers visit several times a year.


   Maybe this White House invite will open some doors for up-and-comers in NASCAR's Drive For Diversity program. Certainly President Obama hosting NASCAR, and here Juan Pablo Montoya and wife, may prompt potential sponsors to step to the plate (Photo: White House)


The reaction from inside-the-beltway politicos to NASCAR at the White House?
    Reuters' Patricia Zingerle: "One group of Americans who failed to support Barack Obama in his race for the presidency last year were 'NASCAR Dads,' white, working-class Southern men presumed to be fans of the U.S. racing circuit. The president reached out to them in a big way on Wednesday by hosting a ceremony in honor of Jimmie Johnson."
   Some of it, though, is pretty amusing….like sour grapes almost.
   From the LA Times' Diane Pucin: "It's great when our U.S. presidents make themselves available to the media, all media. But, really, does a president need to be questioned by an ESPN reporter about NASCAR?
   "But if our president is going to allow two reporters to ask seven consecutive questions (the follow-up question(s) is a luxury any White House reporter would love to have and almost never gets) about something and appear on our largest all-sports cable network live during a working day, one would have hoped said president would have maybe had first-hand experience with said sport."
   Politico's Kenneth Vogel: "President Obama on Wednesday afternoon welcomed 17 current and former NASCAR drivers to the White House to honor the sport’s 2008 champion Jimmie Johnson, but if their campaign contributions are any indication, they might have preferred to have been greeted by a Republican president. The invited drivers have given a total of $113,625 in federal campaign contributions since the early 1980s, all of which went to Republican candidates and party committees, a POLITICO analysis of federal campaign finance records found."
    The New York Times' Andrea Fuller noted "Ken Spain, spokesman with the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement that the only thing Mr. Obama has in common with Nascar nation is 'a shared love for steering hard to the left.'
    Hey, Obama might like to be able to use this 'NASCAR needle' at times…..
    In fact NBC's Kurt Helin noted "The president looked more comfortable with the NASCAR guys than his predecessor did."
   However Obama himself noted that the Secret Service did put its foot down when he asked about taking Johnson's Chevy out for a spin.

  What absent drivers Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth missed out on -- a personal tour of the White House, behind the velvet ropes -- these stock car stars got to enjoy Wednesday (Photo: White House)



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