by Chris Leone, Special To NASCAR commentary and driver pictures, 2012 NASCAR schedule, video, Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie
I do weekly Fantasy Pick'Em columns here at OPR, as well as the occasional opinion and analysis piece. I also provide the IZOD IndyCar Series coverage. For more on that, head to my site, OpenWheelAmerica.com. My Twitter handle is @christopherlion.November 27, 2009 12:25 am UTC No Comments
First of all, is it all right to call you “Mr. President”? I mean, you have been the defending Sprint Cup champion of four years now – the length of one United States presidential term, something that nobody else has ever done, including your teammate Jeff Gordon, Richard Petty, and Dale Earnhardt.
You and your “cabinet” – Secretary of State Rick Hendrick, Secretary of Defense Earl Barban, and most importantly, your right-hand man, Vice President Chad Knaus – are one of the most successful administrations in NASCAR history. Over the past four years, you have won 29 races, almost a full season, and have not scored fewer than 22 top-10 finishes in any given year. That’s a remarkable performance.
But, Mr. President, the State of the Union is not as strong as it once was. Attendance at the events has gone down, as is to be expected in a recession, but television ratings have gone down too. That signifies a lack of interest. It’s not like people can’t watch – at least 99 percent of American homes have televisions, and 56-plus pay for cable TV. 24 of the 36 points-paying races are on broadcast – the first third of the season with FOX, and the final 11 with ABC.
And, Mr. President, one of the reasons why they’re not watching is you.
Now, don’t get me wrong, people love an administration that can turn down all challengers. Adversity sticks to you like teflon; challengers come and go, but when all is said and done, we all know that you’re going to come through and remain on top.
You got there by being just a little better than Matt Kenseth in 2006. In 2007, you took down Jeff Gordon, whose season was statistically better, by virtue of a couple more wins and a stronger performance at the end of the season. Last year, the Chase format gave you the win when Carl Edwards was marginally better. This year, you took advantage of the fact that Mark Martin flip-flopped too often between good and bad finishes, and even an incident at Texas couldn’t drag you down too far.
Under the Chase format, Mr. President, you can’t be beat. But take away this safety net, and you’re more vulnerable. History wouldn’t have been made this Sunday, because you wouldn’t have won in 2007, or 2008; even your 2006 championship would have been far less certain. I mean, come on, the margin of victory under the old format would have been four points.
Perhaps, Mr. President, you’re human after all.
Perhaps your administration is just the most adept at adapting to a new style of racing, under a format that, despite all of NASCAR’s claims, actually robs the fans of better (or at least fairer) championship battles. Look it up.
But there’s a way for you to prove your invincibility once and for all. Let me explain.
But first, I must say that I was slightly disappointed in hearing about your recent contract extension through 2015. Six more years is a long time. At this rate, you’ll be approaching Franklin Delano Roosevelt status before you even hit 40. I think it’s time for another challenge, don’t you? And I have perhaps the greatest conceivable challenge in all of motorsports for you.
Mr. President, Americans – or American-trained drivers – are suffering in international motorsport affairs. Our last Formula One driver, Scott Speed, was a failure. (Perhaps you recognize him; you lap him every week in the stock cars now.) Champ Car‘s four-time champion, Sebastien Bourdais, made for a terrible F1 driver as well. Our best IndyCar driver, Danica Patrick, is by far the most overrated race car driver of this decade in any discipline, and the other American drivers in that series – Marco Andretti, Graham Rahal, et. al. – seem more concerned with the fanfare and their own stardom than actually winning races.
So, Mr. President, the only person I could think of to approach in hope of solving the problem is you.
Starting next year, there will be an Formula 1 team headquartered in Charlotte, run by former Speed Channel reporter Peter Windsor and backed by Youtube founder Chad Hurley. They already have one driver signed, a Spanish mid-pack GP2 racer who brings some sponsorship on board.
That’s not what you want the United States’ only F1 team to be, is it? A pay-driver team? They need a champion, a driver who can win races, has dominated those in his home country, a consummate professional such as yourself who isn’t going to alienate the media.
My point is, we need you in F1, Mr. President.
We need you to prove to the rest of the world that America is still a relevant motorsports country. We need you to prove that these drivers in NASCAR and IndyCar are just as talented as the F1 boys, that we, too, can turn right and left, that even though F1′s rejects have populated the open-wheel ranks for years and the bulky stock cars generally turn left, our drivers can hold their own in the pinnacle of motorsport.
Think of it. How many drivers can say that they’ve won races at Daytona, Indianapolis, and Monaco? Plenty of drivers can lay claim to two of the three; Mario Andretti, Juan Pablo Montoya, Michael Schumacher, and Graham Hill (who also won Le Mans) are among them. You could be the first to win all three. That’s a class all your own in the history of motorsport, Mr. President.
Sometimes, you need to know when to move on to the next challenge. I would say that “when” is now. There is very little left for you to accomplish in American stock car racing, except for maybe Nationwide and Camping World titles, and what fun is stepping backwards?
I hope you’ll consider what I’ve suggested to you, Mr. President. Take a long, hard look at F1. Then talk to Secretary of State Hendrick and Mr. Windsor, and let’s make it happen.
Some other drivers would like to win championships before they retire too, anyway.