"Rubbin', son, is racin'."
So goes the often quoted line from crew chief Harry Hogge in Tom Cruise's 1990 NASCAR blockbuster, Days of Thunder. Meant to be a statement about how the sport is a rough business, it's so popular that NASCAR's president used it last year when he subtly pushed for a little more "rough business" to boost ratings.
Lately, NASCAR has taken on a whole new political form of "rubbin'. And, in some ways, it's more preposterous than anything in Days of Thunder, going by the cold reception from fans for the new EPA-NASCAR team-up.
"Obama EPA Infiltrates NASCAR" is the subtle way Fox News welcomed the new partnership between the Environmental Protection Agency and NASCAR. The furtive "infiltration" came with an official NASCAR press release that stated, in part:
"NASCAR and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that provides a framework to encourage greater environmental awareness and adoption of green products and solutions with NASCAR fans and the entire industry…
NASCAR, in partnership with industry, environmental and academic groups, will also begin to evaluate the potential for adoption of green products as labeled under the EPA Design for the Environment program as having met rigorous environmental standards. NASCAR Green is also planned to be employed as a platform for enhancing awareness among NASCAR fans and business-to-business partners of the benefits of using DfE-labeled products in our homes, communities and at work."
As climate change and global warming are political flashpoints, with many elected officials denying belief in the phenomenon, the partnership quickly drew mockery. The Washington Examiner noted that NASCAR's autos "consume about 450,000 gallons of gas a year and average five miles per gallon" making it "probably the furthest sport from the green movement."
While the official organization may be respectful of Obama, NASCAR's fans have proven, let's say, hostile to the President. Last November, First Lady Michelle Obama was loudly booed by a race audience in Florida. That came just a couple months after several drivers declined to meet President Obama, citing "other engagements."
It's noteworthy that Obama's name was never mentioned by NASCAR in its EPA announcement. Of course, the two names were tied together by media outlets unfriendly to the Obama administration such as in both the Fox and Examiner stories. The EPA is regularly lambasted by far right politicians and their supporters as the enemy of economic growth. Indeed, the Republican candidates for president have all committed to overhauling the agency with Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Texas Governor Rick Perry stating they would shut it down altogether.
This year has seen other less "liberal" political organizations involved with NASCAR and receiving far more agreeable press, starting with the "Ronald Reagan car" winning last year's Indianapolis 500.
The 2012 NASCAR season also saw the entry of the American Majority Racing team.
The "nonpartisan" organization's car calls for everyone to "pledge to vote." While American Majority does not directly support candidates, it is pro Tea Party and decidedly anti-Obama. The organizations was founded and is run by a former George W. Bush speechwriter and the son of longtime GOP Kansas Congressman Jim Ryun. The racing team's official statement is that the Number 81 car's mission is "designed to educate Americans about how smaller government and less spending will 'Keep America Free.'"
Like any driver, the American Majority team's Jason Bowles knows how to keep a sponsor happy. Speaking to the Christian Broadcast Network, he said, "There are some things that should make people very, very nervous. The direction that we've gone and the speed that we've gotten there is not a good sign."
Of course, the EPA understands its faithful have to be convinced of the usefulness of the partnership. A blog post on the EPA's site with a title that pretty much says it all: "Me, a NASCAR Fan?"
But the true reception for the NASCAR-EPA team up can be found on Nascar.com itself, below the brand's announcement of the partnership. A few representative selections from the 13 pages of commenter feedback:
"Completely disgusted by NASCAR's move. Shame. Shame."
"I CANNOT EXPRESS HOW DISAPPOINTED I AM....ALL FIRE SUITS WILL NOW REQUIRE A BROAD
YELLOW STRIPE DOWN THEIR BACK SIDE....AND ALLOT LESS FANS WILL BE THERE TO SEE THEM....!!!!......I HAVE ADORED THIS SPORT EVER SINCE IT WAS AVAILABLE ON TV....CAUSE I COULDN'T BE THERE IN PERSON....I BELIEVED IT TO BE THE ONLY HONEST AND STRAIGHTFORWARD ONE LEFT FOR US.......NOW I FIND THAT IT HAS BEEN BOUGHT AND PAID FOR LIKE ALL THE REST..!!...I REALIZE TIMES ARE TOUGH....BUT I PRAY THAT WE AS INDIVIDUALS CAN STAND UP MUCH BETTER THAN NASCAR HAS."
"How sickening. With attendance down and ratings shrinking, just another nail in the eventual coffin of NASCARP, Yes....like a dead fish! We just had to endure a laugher of an all star race(?) last weekend, the addition of ethanol to gasoline (where it certainly doesn't belong), and now this? What the hell are they thinking??? Or are they even thinking at all???"
"I only just now registered, just to complain about this asinine EPA pact. You are STUPID NASCAR. Many people hate the EPA, it's pretty much a tyrannical agency, fining people, small farmers, forcing our jobs overseas with over reaching regulations, and it was created by an unconstitutional Executive Order by Richard Nixon. It wasn't even voted on by Congress, not that that would make it constitutional, but at least it would have a superficial appearance of being by the consent of the goverened. And all those damn American Ethanol decals, just pisses me off too, another pathetic government waste, corruption and subisidy diverting food to fuel contrary to free market economics. I resent the govt out of control and for long, long time out of bounds of the constitution. Now I resent you too NASCAR, and I won't be much of a fan anymore. I will not buy your tickets, your fan gear, and I am no longer going to fret if I don't see a race on TV.. I'm drawing a line in the sand here, you make me think of sell outs, and I don't mean in the raceway seats. You remind me of crooked insiders, **** up to govt like other crony capitalists. This is not American. STUPID, sad day in what used to be a great American sport. Now I just have my nose rubbed in this overbloated, corrupt govt when I used to be able to enjoy a race. STUPID."
"No matter what NASCAR does, they will still be the worst environmental sport. You are racing cars... don't try to be something you are not NASCAR. You CAN'T be a 'green sport', and there is nothing wrong with that."
"Reading through the comments it looks like near universal disappointment, frustration and anger over NASCAR signing this agreement. I feel the same way, and while letting our feelings be know, as Fredomrev suggests is important there is little else we as fans can do. NASCAR leadership answers to no one. Their decisions are final. So, short of not watching or going to races, there is only one other way we can have impact. Thinking of getting a Sprint phone? Don't. Gonna fill up with Sunoco today? Go somewhere else. If a product is the official anything of NASCAR - spend your money somewhere else. If nothing else your money won't be supporting an agenda you don't believe in. You can still enjoy watching races until NASCAR gets the message or ceases to exist. And find another race series to support with your hard earned dollars. I think that's what I'll do."