NASCAR Races to the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, Crosses Line?

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The “scandal” of whether or not NASCAR drivers failed to take advantage of an invite from President Obama for political reasons has largely blown over.

But one event NASCAR is certainly not failing to take advantage of: The 10th anniversary of 9/11.[more]

NASCAR has made sure that the cars for the September 11 race are unmistakably “honoring our heroes.”

NASCAR is leveraging its NASCAR Unites charity arm to head its 9/11 campaign which aims to, amongst fundraising, send 10,000 e-postcards to 9/11 first responders.

ITS NASCAR Unites site is the web portal through which fans can sign up to volunteer at the NASCAR Richmond International Raceway at Saturday’s (Sept. 10) race event, part of NASCAR’s commitment to the 9/11 Day of Service which aims to get Americans to volunteer for charity in remembrance.

NASCAR’s volunteer “opportunities” include such noble endeavors as “passing out American flags at the gates” and “collecting donations for NASCAR Unites bands.” (Bands available for your $5 donation. “A handling fee of $1.90 will be applied at checkout.”)

To promote its NASCAR Unites brand campaign, the organization has created 30 to 90 second “I will” 9/11 tribute commercials featuring NASCAR drivers and ordinary schmoes talking about what they will do in memory of the event.

Driver Greg Biffle cuts to the heart of the matter of what he will be doing “to remember” the day: “I will race with the special paint scheme in the NASCAR race on September 10th to honor our heroes.” Biffle will also go the extra mile, as his number 16 car is sponsored by 3M for “Honoring Our Heroes.”

The US Army-sponsored car will be painted with the 75 names of the U.S. Army Pentagon victims as well as a “We Will Never Forget” logo. A number of other cars will carry 9/11 theme paint jobs. David Gilliland’s No. 34 “Tunnel to Towers Foundation Ford” will commemorate 9/11 with “a ghosted ‘3’ next to the No. 34 on the door to represent the 343 firefighters who died in the attack.”

In the week before the Sept. 10 race, NASCAR held an event at New York’s Ground Zero where one of the specially painted cars was unveiled. For extra impact, NASCAR even got New York firefighters and police to legitimize the PR stunt. Appropriating Ground Zero for car reveals is something NASCAR has been doing for a while now.

NASCAR (and its partners) really did leave no 9/11-honoring stone left. To recognize the anniversary of the attacks, ABC and radio broadcaster MRN will observe a moment of silence during laps 9 to 11.

NASCAR also created a “Ground Zero” gallery section of its website, hosting numerous random photos of the New York location, even though none of those photos have anything to do with NASCAR. How divorced is this NASCAR gallery from NASCAR itself? One of the photos is of “Burn a Koran Day” Pastor Terry Jones visiting Ground Zero to protest the planned nearby mosque and community center.

After viewing the gallery, surf over to the “NASCAR Library Collection” and pick up “Why Wait?” a book which recounts the “inspirational conversation” between a man and Captain Jason Dahl just before Dahl’s death in the 9/11 attacks and the author’s “mission to bring Dahl’s son to his first NASCAR® race to meet his idol, Jeff Gordon.”

Now, you might argue that it’s all a patriotic, touching tribute to 9/11 and not a commercial endeavor. Check out the “Honoring Our Heroes” section of NASCAR’s online shop, where, among other 9/11 items, you can purchase a Tony Stewart 9/11 Can Cooler — a patriotic way to keep your beer cold and honor the fallen.

No, it’s not a cheap “can cozy,” this is a classy memorial “cooler” that any family affected by the events of 9/11 should be touched to be honored by.

It may be well-intentioned, but sorry NASCAR — it crosses the line.

Credit: Ground Zero car photo.

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