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Mr. President: Welcome to the Daytona 500 -- and stop by to chat with Tommy Baldwin and Jeremy Mayfield about the American Dream


Barack Obama, in Fort Myers, Fla., a few days ago (Photo: White House/by Pete Souza)


   By Mike Mulhern

   Maybe it's time to cue Mr. President…and give him a nice seat near the start-finish line…and let him take a gander through the stock car racing garage.
   Barack Obama is trying to sell that big economic stimulus package, and if he's looking for a big audience, he couldn't find a bigger one right now than the 200,000 or so expected for Sunday's Daytona 500.
   NASCAR execs have invited Obama to any NASCAR events he'd like to attend. Obama has so far shown little interest in this part of America….but maybe it's time for both camps to synergize.
   If the President is trying to put a human face on this economic crisis, and looking from poignant 'bootstrap' economic stories to play against, let him have some face time with underdog entrepreneurs here like Tommy Baldwin and Jeremy Mayfield.
   And Obama could well consider the soaring unemployment numbers not just out of Detroit (over 11 percent) but also out of the Charlotte area (over nine percent), homebase for this heartland American sport.
   With General Motors and Chrysler execs ready to report back to Congress Tuesday with an update on their reorganization plans, automakers are facing a tricky SpeedWeeks – this is the biggest racing weekend of the year, with the Daytona 500 Sunday, and Detroit men need to pump that up with all the pizzazz they can muster in these tough times….and yet they would like to keep something of a low profile at the same time.
   No wonder some of these guys are wandering through the Daytona International Speedway garage like so many deer in the headlights.
   After all, somebody is going to be asking why Detroit needs federal bailout money to survive while it's spending money on auto racing.
   And Forbes' story a couple days ago that two of NASCAR's biggest stars, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon, each earning well over $30 million in 2008, well, that makes things even more complicated.
    Just imagine what the New York Times and Washington Post might have to say about all this. Those two papers are among the few major players even covering this event, and the two certainly aren't any Speed Sport News fanboys when it comes to NASCAR.
   NASCAR execs might need to come up with an end-around marketing campaign to get the positive media play it desperately needs. After all there is more to this sport than just what Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch do out there on the asphalt.
    With GM just announcing yet another round of job cuts – 10,000 globally – and pay cuts too for the rest of the gang, it's easy to see those black clouds hanging over Chevy teams here….even though Chevrolet is primed to sweep through SpeedWeeks like a tornado.
   The bottom line: U.S. car and truck production for 2008 was down 20 percent, to around 13 million vehicles. And 2009 sales could drop to just 10 million vehicles.
   A footnote: with the economy so ragged, both nationally and here in NASCAR, team owners are seriously questioning why NASCAR executives have had the chutzpah to raise fees. But then former team owner Cliff Stewart – outspoken – once opined that "This is the only sport where the clowns pay to perform."

Looking for an underdog this season: Check out new team owner Tommy Baldwin (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)



c'mon Mike, everything is

c'mon Mike, everything is going to be fine. Junior Johnson told us so before the election.

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