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Minter: Drivers Pick ‘Things’ Over Their President

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 3 2011

Kevin Harvick's pit crew bows heads during National Anthem at Dover. Harvick said Friday he was too busy to meet with President Obama. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

HAMPTON, Ga. – The hot topic in the media center at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday wasn’t the Chase, or the Sprint Summer Showdown or Dale Jr.’s new contract or the latest sponsor move.

It was the decision by four drivers to decline invitations to meet President Obama at the White House next week.

The event is to honor the 2010 Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, and the invite included the top 12 drivers in the standings, those who participated in the Chase.

A news release from NASCAR on Thursday indicated that Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart could not attend.

On Friday at AMS, Busch said to add his name to the list who would be there.

“Yes, yes, I will be at the White House,” Busch said. “I heard there was a nice article written that I was part of the group that wasn’t going. All along it was my intention to go and we just had to clear up a scheduling issue.”

He said he was glad to be going.

“I mean, who would turn down the opportunity to go to the White House? For me it’s an honor, it’s a privilege and I’ve had the chance to meet (former President George) Bush and Obama in the past.

“To be a Chase driver and to go to the White House it’s an important visit ‘cause I might not make the Chase every year and I’ll miss out on those opportunities.”

Harvick said he couldn’t get out of his previous commitment, but he wouldn’t say what it was.

“I don’t think that is anyone’s business,” he said. “It is just one of those things where we have so many things going on that particular week leading up to the Chase. It is just a bad week for us to be committed to more than one thing to go up the day before we have to be in Richmond.”

Biffle said his sponsor, 3M, had built an event around him and it would have to be cancelled if he wasn’t there.

But one has to wonder how race teams can fly drivers back and forth across the continent to compete in Nationwide and Sprint Cup races on the same weekend but can’t get a driver to Washington in midweek to meet the leader of the free world.

Maybe they’re tired of standing in the background while Jimmie Johnson accepts the honors that come with five straight championships. Maybe they don’t like the President’s politics.

It’s always been interesting to see how enthusiastically the drivers clap for honored guests who attend the weekly driver’s meetings.

But that’s convenient. Sometimes really doing the right thing requires some effort.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 3 2011
9 Comments

9 Comments »

  • Jim says:

    If the President was serious about NASCAR he would have had these guys there a lot sooner to congratulate them. This is a publicity stunt for his re-election campaign, and nothing else. At the same time, these drivers have already made commitments in front of the Presidents short notice invitation.

    Moreover, Biffle’s commitment is with his primary sponsor, 3m. It is a huge event for them, and has been planned for months in advance. It’s not something that can be moved to another day with a few phone calls. As a driver, you do everything you can do to keep your sponsor happy. Not being available for a planned event such as this would be a major mistake on Biffle’s part. He made the right choice.

  • Dennis says:

    Spot on. I am no obama fan, but blowing him off is downright disrepectful. Good that Kyle Busch has reconsidered or was going all along…

  • John Fagan says:

    I’ve been an a avid fan of auto racing of all kinds and Nascar in particular for 50 years but Nascar has always been political. Nascar continually wraps itself around the flag the military and the “Good Lord” all of which I believe in but prefer to keep private. Let’s not forget when tobacco was banned from sports there was Nascar and it’s drivers on the warm up lap all waving little American flags out the windows of every car in the field protesting the loss of Winston as the title sponsor. Yes Nascar has the right as we all do to speak freely however I suspect this was more about money then the constitution and yet there we had every driver participating in this protest many of whom have children and like the rest of us have seen the heath risks of tobacco in their own families talk about hypocritical. So as usual this weekend the Nascar spectacle of God, guns and flag waving in the promotion of a sport as much as honoring our military our country and our God as long as that God is a Christian Evangelical God. As for myself I will continue to marvel and the brave men and women who continue to fight and die and suffer terrible injuries both phyical and emotional. Who lace up there boots and are deployed on yet another tour. They are our new “greatest generation”.As for God. We’ll being speaking tonight as I prefer to do quietly and thoughtfully expressing my gratitude for the gift of faith. Some of those drivers particularly Biffle, Edwards and Stewart I respect a great deal as drivers and professionals and it’s disappointing as they all will being bowing there heads hands on their hearts being all so patriotic and God fearing. As usual Jeff Burton gets it right and the greatest of them all Ricky Bobby. John Fagan

  • john says:

    Blown way, way out of proportion by the media yet again. Especially considering these guys have all met the president before anyway.

  • Lydia says:

    Come on …the right thing? You can’t be serious? How did having the NASCAR drivers standing on the White House lawn shaking the Presidents hand get to be such a earthshaking lifechanging event that’s got everyone taking sides? Come on people. Missing the event is NOT going to change the course of our country or the action on track..so let it go! It’s the drivers choice and their business as to what they do…remember “free country”? There must be other things more important…hmmmm …our economy, healthcare, housing…Oh and for the drivers involved they have The Chase …NASCAR tells us daily how IMPORTANT it is! So let’s all relax, pull our panties out of our fannies..and deal with what’s REALLY important.

  • cleo says:

    Agree that far too much is being made of this. It is great that the President chooses to honor the drivers but it should be understood that this time of the year is pretty jammed for them. I see nothing wrong with the drivers excusing themselves for various reasons.

  • mr clause says:

    I think too much is being made of this. If the White House is going to bestow this “Honor” on our drivers then maybe they should offer it in a more timely manner, like not a year after. Then maybe they could give some advance notice instead of only two weeks. Then too, not when our guys aren’t wrapped up in this years chase. What this shouldn’t become is some kind of political crapola. The drivers shouldn’t be raked over the coals because they have commitments to their sponsors or whoever that have been set in place for many months and affect many people. Just maybe it shouldn’t be seen as a lack of respect by the guys that don’t attend, but more of a lack of respect by the White House.