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Woody: Drivers Shouldn’t Blow Off The Prez

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, September 8 2011

President Obama greets NASCAR drivers at the White House on Wednesday. Notable by their absence were several other invited drivers. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

A controversy was stirred when four of eight NASCAR drivers blew off President Obama’s invitation to visit the White House Wednesday.

The President – having nothing better to do with soaring unemployment, roller-coaster stock markets, three wars, raging hurricanes, searing droughts and general turbulence from sea to shining sea – decided this would be a prefect time to kick back with a bunch of stock car drivers.

I’m sure the invitation was extended with the best of intentions – best from a political standpoint, to hopefully squeeze a few future votes out of the Bubba Base – but the timing couldn’t be worse.

Both for the President and for the drivers.

As noted, the leader of the free world has more pressing items on his plate right now, and for the drivers, this is crunch time for many of them.

Granted, chief honoree Jimmie Johnson has nothing to sweat; he’s got his spot in the 12-man Chase locked up. Jimmie could spend the next two weeks soaking in a hot tub if he wanted to, in preparation for his final 10-race Chase for a 6th straight title.

But for some of the others this is the make-or-break point in their season.

Having said that, let’s be honest: hopping on a corporate jet and zipping to Washington to hang with the Prez for an hour or so doesn’t take that long. If a corporate sponsor snapped his fingers, a driver would crawl through broken glass to schmooze at a meet & greet.

So “being too busy” in truth isn’t a legit excuse for blowing off the Commander-in-Chief.

But as with everything political nowadays, there’s always a controversy.

It’s an interesting question: should anyone – famous athlete or not – be pressured into doing a photo-op with a politician with whom they disagree? They’re being used as a prop, just as they use similar props to peddle their sponsor’s products.

On the other hand, it IS the President – their President – and the office commands respect regardless of whether or not one agrees with the policies.

I don’t recall any such flap when Jimmy Carter invited a bunch of NASCAR drivers and media hangers-on to the White House in 1978. My invitation got lost in the mail but my pal Lewis Grizzard wrote a funny story about the visit.

There was beer, barbecue and Willie Nelson, and that’s a can’t-miss combination whether it’s in the Rose Garden or the infield at Talladega.

Everybody had a ball (although as I recall the President had to skip out to attend to some unpleasantness in the Middle East.) But Georgian Jimmy Carter was a genuine red-dirt stock car fan who sincerely wanted to honor some of his heroes. I doubt that President Obama has a faded No. 3 decal on the bumper of his old rusty pickup or possesses a treasured “Anybody But Waltrip!” t-shirt.

Still, it was a nice gesture, inviting the drivers over for a get-together, even it was ill-timed and a tad politically motivated.

I disagree with a lot of the President’s policies. But if he asked me to drop over, sit a spell, and share a few cold ones, I’d go. It’s a simple matter of respect.

Besides, I think I could give him some advice on how to get this mess straightened out.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, September 8 2011
3 Comments

3 Comments »

  • BillW says:

    I was happy to see some of the drivers choose not to be a Photo-Opt for Obamas re-election bid, just maybe they don’t agree on the Presidents policys? I don’t & wish him well in his One Term, & whatever he does in his future outta the White House…

  • Terry says:

    If someone in the Whitehouse staff were on their toes….an invite to the “young” DAYTONA 500 WINNER would have been a wise move.
    The President has to handle a bunch pouty DALE Sr fans…..who are mad at the JJ’s and Gordon fans…..while dealing with a Routy bunch of mouthy new congress ….I mean fans……
    Me I am just a plain old WOOD BROS……independant fan….
    GO …..USA ….FORD….AND #21……

  • Terrell Davis says:

    I sincerely believe you could give him some sound advice, Mr. Woody (I use “Mr.” to honor the “senior writer” handle….it deserves respect).
    Problem is, he wouldn’t take it and if he, by some miracle, did adhere to your sagely advice, lobbyist would besiege him or any other politician that tried to actually implement sensible solutions to our nation’s problems.
    I guess I could have a cold one with President Obama…as long as a pork barrel political sandwich wasn’t served with the barley pops. Fat chance of that, huh?