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Get the U. S. Army out of NASCAR? Maybe someone should invite Betty McCollum to the Daytona 500 for a look-see, or to Walter Reed

  NASCAR and Ryan Newman at Walter Reed -- a good break from the routine....(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern



   The Thursday morning briefing:

   The U.S. Army and NASCAR have long been willing, eager marketing buds, going back to Richard Petty's Vietnam days touring for the military.
   Good morale for the troops….recruiting….the obvious things.
   And NASCAR drivers frequently drop by Walter Reed, always an emotional rush.

   Some big NASCAR legends, like Bud Moore, on the Normandy shores at D-Day, have deep ties with the military.
   And of course every race Sunday there's a hot-shot fly-over of whatever NASCAR track the stock car tour happens to be playing at.
   But now at least one congressional Democrat is willing to write off all those 'NASCAR dads and moms' and concede them to the other side. However that Minnesota congresswoman trying to get the government to stop sponsoring NASCAR teams probably won't be too pleased with the U. S. Army's plans to expand its NASCAR marketing program this season, to be announced here this week.
    Betty McCollum, a Minnesota congresswoman making a public furor over the Army's NASCAR sponsorships, calling it a waste of money, has certainly raised some hackles down here in stock car country.
   And the Army, taking advantage of the burst of publicity over the bid to unfund NASCAR, is in fact now expanding its stock car marketing with a new program tied into NASCAR's Drive for Diversity. And the Army is bringing big guns to Daytona International Speedway this week to promote it.
    Currently the Army is sponsoring Ryan Newman and the Tony Stewart team. The National Guard is sponsoring Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the other Rick Hendrick drivers, including Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. The U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, and Air Force have all had modest NASCAR sponsorships over the years.


 Semper Fi: (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Here's the latest on the series and sequence of NASCAR's Daytona rules changes, designed generally to slow speeds:
   On the Cup side, teams had to remove an auxillary air hose from front cooling system on Feb. 12; teams Feb. 13 had to prepare to install an air pressure relief valve and also reduce the size of their air inlet grilles; teams Feb. 16 had the engine's four restrictor plate holes reduced by 1/64 inch.
   On the Nationwide side, teams were told Feb. 13 cooling hoses not permitted, and holes in lower front bumper cover must be covered with metal, fastened and sealed securely. On Feb. 14 teams were told after the first practice that a 'tapered spacer' change on 'old' engines from would be mandated, tapered from 61/64 of an inch to 15/16, and on 'new' engines tapered from .945 of an inch to 59/64." On Feb. 17, for the first practice, teams had to use a combination of tapered spacer and restrictor plate ('old' engines, tapered spacer of 1.125 inches, with restrictor plate 15/16 of an inch; 'new' engines, tapered spacer of 1.110 of an inch, with restrictor plate 15/16. On Feb. 17 for the second practice: tapered spacers stay the same size on both engines, restrictor plates on both now 59/64. Also the radiator inlet opening, which was 2-1/2 inches by 20 inches was increased to 3 inches by 20 inches.
    On the Truck side, teams were told Feb. 17 to reduce the size of the tapered spacer on the engines to help keep speeds in range, following Wednesday's practice -- engines with a cylinder bore spacing less than 4.470 inches will compete with a tapered spacer with four .953 inch diameter holes; engines with a cylinder bore spacing 4.470 inches or more will compete with a tapered spacer with four .945 inch diameter holes.


     Chase Elliott, media savvy, like his father Bill (Photo: Chase Elliott)

    Rick Hendrick took a gamble on signing one of the oldest NASCAR racers, Mark Martin, and it paid off handsomely. Now Hendrick is signing one of the youngest drivers available: Bill Elliott's 15-year-old son Chase.
   Chase, just a high school freshman, is now Hendrick property, with "a multi-year driver agreement."
   So the son of the man who for so many years was the face of Ford Motor Company in NASCAR is now a Chevy driver.
   But then Bill Elliott is also on the Hendrick roster this season, sort of, driving for James Finch, in Hendrick equipment.
   Elliott has been with Ford's Wood brothers the past several years, but the Woods have Trevor Bayne at the wheel this season. Bayne turns 20 on Saturday.
   Hendrick says he sees a lot of Bill in Chase: "I've always admired Bill's ability in a car, and how he handled himself with the fans. I see those same traits in Chase, with his natural driving talent and an awareness of what he needs to do away from the track to be successful.
   "He comes from a great racing family, and it shows."
    Exactly what Chase Elliott will be doing for Hendrick is not clear. Hendrick says he'll support his current racing program -- which is family-run late models – until Elliott is eligible for NASCAR's national touring series,
  Perhaps not ironically, NASCAR just lowered the age to 15 for drivers in its regional touring series...which means Chase is immediately eligible to run in the March 26th K&N East opener at Greenville-Pickens (S.C.) and the April races at South Boston (Va.) and Richmond.
    Chase won 13 times last year in 40 late model starts, and he's won twice already this year.

This is what to expect in Thursday's first 150-miler: teammates Jimmie Johnson (48) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. coming from the back of the pack....and pretty darned fast. But then Junior has already lost two 500 cars......(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Jimmie Johnson, awaiting Thursday's start of the 150-mile Daytona qualifiers, says the 'new' type of racing here on this new asphalt is intriguing to him.
   The two-car breakaways have been curious, because drivers have to swap eventually, and the closing rate by two-car drafts is amazing to watch.
   However TV may not have captured it effectively in Saturday night's Shootout. The sense is that TV viewers didn't like the show, but those 80,000 or so here did.
   Johnson says it was certainly a thrill for the drivers.
   "No one knew this was going to happen….teams and drivers knew at Talladega (last fall) we could stay together for awhile (in two-car packs), and we all went home and worked hard within the rules to do it longer," Johnson says.
   "But I don't think anybody anticipated it turning into this.
    "Even at the test session, all the reports I had from the first test session (with Goodyear in December) was 'You can't do it; don't expect to do it.'
    "We come back for the open test (in January), and here we all are linked up (in two-car packs).
    "Is it good or bad? I don't know.
     "I've watched some of the clips, and talked to a lot of people. Some find it interesting to see all the passes, and the fact we aren't riding in a big blob (where) you can't advance. Others like the big blob of cars and say 'Well, this wasn't all that exciting.'
    "I don't where it nets out for me as a driver. I can say it was fun and interesting because there was something new.
    "It was fun for the guys in the Shootout to try and find something before your competitors did.
    "To have something new to focus on was fun for us in the seats."
    But now new NASCAR rules, which the sanctioning body hopes will break up those two-car packs and re-create the 'blob.'
    Dale Earnhardt Jr. says NASCAR is going the wrong way by mandating a smaller restrictor plate for these 150s. He says NASCAR should have switched instead to an even bigger plate.
   "I've talked to Junior in detail about it," Johnson says. "At the Goodyear tire test, there was a larger plate on the cars, and it was more difficult to stay together. Guys couldn't do it.
    "My only counter is I know 206 mph was the big number. I've not been in a position to lose control of my car yet, so I am not convinced that a few more miles an hour is going to change that. I think all we are doing is having the potential of getting more speed in the car and a bigger issue for lift off.
    "With the position we're in, with a couple of practice sessions, a race, then the 500, I don't think we have a lot of time to experiment.
    "We all felt a smaller plate was coming, and understand why. So I am not saying I have a problem with the direction it is going. 
     "I think everybody would love to see the plates off the cars to start with. It is that necessary evil we talk about every time we go to a plate track.
     "NASCAR was trying everything they could to not go down on plate (size), but they are at that point…
    "I believe they are in a position where they would like to make a big change…and then if they can give us something back for the 500, they will.
     "I know this 'pop-off valve' for the water pressure in the engine cooling system is going to change the game."
    Teams have been using exotic high-pressure radiators the past several years, at maybe $15,000 apiece, because at high-pressure water can hold a lot more heat, so drivers can run maybe 300 degrees water temperature, and get more power.
    So NASCAR now has ordered 33 psi pop-off valves, to limit pressure and temperature to maybe 250 degrees.
    That move is curious because NASCAR could easily have barred high-pressure systems several years ago, as a cost-cutting move, before teams bought so many of the high-buck radiators. But NASCAR didn't. Till now.

    This congresswoman from Minnesota must be pretty stout, to be willing to take on the wrath of Junior Nation, by trying to rip the National Guard sponsorship logo off his driving suit (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

The drivers doing their good

The drivers doing their good will by making visits to the various Veteran's hospitals is something that is great for both parties. I'm sure the troops appreciate it, and I know the drivers get a lot out of it too. Tax dollars going on a race car, however, is something I don't agree with. I would much rather see these multi-millions currently being used for advertising instead going to by body armor for the troops, or to be given to the troops who are permanently disabled. The same people and politicians screaming for budget cuts in Washington are the same ones condemning the Minnesota senator for suggesting these dollars be used for something better instead of being wasted to fund a private venture.

Be a Patriot, NASCAR

Do everything pro bono, we all have to make sacrifices in difficult times. Perhaps donations from patriotic Nascar owners could take the place of monies better spent elsewhere, like on vet care.

Government Sponsorships

In other words...sports is good to subsidize..but manufacturing is not?

C'mon folks..there were many who wrote off the automobile industry, and were outraged that taxpayer money was being spent on saving it. And now, these same people are angry that teams maybe are going to lose their government sponsorships of their cars?

As far as the quote goes about advertising: The rep is an idiot. Any beginning marketing person knows that you get back $4 for every $1 dollars spent, the question is this: since Nascar HAS LOST the 18-34 demographic is it really good economic sense to continue to support a sport that doesnt have meet your target demographic? Cuts have to come from the Department of Defense, and the first place before any other cuts are made, is from the advertising budget. Yes, Toto that means your favorite nascar team as well.

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