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Earnhardt Jr. Has Contempt For Congressman

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 18 2012

Dale Earnhardt Jr. gives low approval rating to congressman from Geoogia. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

CONCORD, N.C. – If a congressman from Georgia has his way military sponsorships in NASCAR could soon be a thing of the past.

That would include the National Guard’s association with the sport’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

An amendment, which prohibits funding of sponsorships for professional sports or sporting events, passed in a voice vote in the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

During his media availability Friday morning at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Earnhardt called out Jack Kingston, co-sponsor of the legislation.

“I think the Republican from Georgia hasn’t even been to a NASCAR race,” said Earnhardt, who added that he would be willing to invite the congressman to an upcoming event. “I encourage (congress) to do more homework, get more facts and understand the situation a little better.

“I know that in talking to the Guard, they can’t express to me enough about how this program helps their recruiting. They are committed to the belief that it has the ability to recruit. I think it’s important for them to be visible. And I think their NASCAR sponsorship is a great way to reach a lot of people.”

Other drivers that would be impacted if the bill clears the House and Senate are Ryan Newman (U.S. Army) and Aric Almirola (Air Force).

Earnhardt’s late father, Dale Earnhardt, did his part to put Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star race on the map.

That includes 1987 when he produced one of racing’s greatest moments by winning despite sliding through the grass to hold off a challenge from Bill Elliott.

Considering that the winner will bank a million dollars and there are no points on the line, Earnhardt Jr. won’t be surprised to see more on-track fireworks during Saturday night’s 90-lap event.

“Anything pretty much goes in this race,” Earnhardt said. “If you get to a guy’s bumper on the last lap, he’s going to be in trouble. With the amount of money on the line and how big this race is, if you get turned on the last lap for the win I don’t think you can hold a grudge.

“There’s an unwritten code when it comes to particular races such as this that no matter dirty it gets at the end, you kind of got to let it go. There’s just too much at stake.”

One driver who could put a million dollar payday to good use is 21-year-old Trevor Bayne.

Despite winning last year’s Daytona 500, Bayne has been relegated to a part-time schedule in the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Ford in the Sprint Cup Series.

And lack of sponsorship has forced team owner Jack Roush to park Bayne’s No. 60 Ford in the Nationwide Series.

Bayne indicated on Friday that if he wins the All-Star race he and team owners Eddie and Len Wood would be willing to reinvest their winnings into more races.

“We did that with Daytona last year,” Bayne said. “Eddie and Len are the type of owners that want to be at the race track.

“That is their hobby, so it’s not like they take the money and go buy a new boat. They love racing and they want to be part of it. As many races as we can run, these funds will definitely help that. We want to race.

“So just like after Daytona in 2011 when we were able to add a few more races, I’m sure that will be the case here.”

When the list of nominees for the next NASCAR Hall of Fame class was announced last month, longtime race track operator Bruton Smith was noticeably absent.

That has left many observers, including Sprint Cup points leader Greg Biffle, scratching their heads.

“Yes, I would have to say it is surprising,” Biffle said. “I would say he should be definitely on the list.

“He’s done a tremendous amount for our sport. He’s done a tremendous amount for this race track, Las Vegas and other places. He’s been a huge contributor to our sport and definitely deserves an opportunity at some point. He gets my vote.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 18 2012
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