So who doesn’t want to go to the White House?
Don’t ask that question in the NASCAR garage.
You might get an indignant stare. Or a lot of lip from a driver who thinks you have labeled him a Communist.
A silly “controversy” is brewing because several drivers have declined an invite from President Obama to visit the White House on Wednesday, Sept. 7, to honor the 12 drivers who made the 2010 Chase for the Championship.
Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick have declined, citing scheduling conflicts.
They may have well as burned the American flag and plucked the feathers off an eagle.
Some critics are questioning their priorities and their patriotism, as if they are part of the lunatic fringe who claim that Obama is a Manchurian Candidate with a phony birth certificate.
As with most things political in this country, no one can have a legitimate conversation without it turning into a food fight among both extremes.
No doubt that NASCAR has red-state roots, and President Obama isn’t likely to find a lot of supporters among a small contingent of very rich guys who drive fast cars and appreciate whatever tax break they can get.
But as usual, there are two sides to this story.
The White House didn’t send out the invitations until recently. And yes, even NASCAR drivers have busy schedules. It’s not as if they do nothing but eat Cheez Whiz until they get into a race car on weekends.
Biffle has an important function with sponsors. Stewart has business obligations as well.
Yes, it’s a cool and important deal to go to the White House.
But perhaps Obama’s crew should have thought this out a bit earlier and sent out the invites with proper time to coordinate schedules.
“I’m disgusted by the comments I see where people say we rejected or ‘I can’t believe Biffle rejected’ (a White House invitation),” Biffle said. “First, it’s disrespectful for people not knowing why I can’t go. Second, I’ve got a picture in my office of me and President Obama shaking hands in the Oval Office in the White House. I’ve been there and I’ve done that, and I respect that.
“I was very flattered to get the invitation. I got it less than two weeks ago but I’ve got a function with (major sponsor) 3M in Minnesota that day. They’ve planned it for nine months, an annual thing with over a hundred-and-some business people and customers for two days. I get there early Wednesday morning and don’t get to Richmond until late Thursday night. This is very important because the function is designed around me. They really can’t have it if I don’t go.”
That’s enough for me to give him a hall pass.
Other drivers haven’t been so forthcoming with their specific itineraries. So yes, there is reason to wonder if this is simply a badly disguised political statement. But the majority of the guys invited are focused on qualifying for the Chase for the Championship. And guys like Tony Stewart — who has yet to win entering the Atlanta race — need to truly focus on here and Richmond before the cutoff date is set.
“I’m very regretful that I’m not going to be able to make it,” Stewart said, “but it’s a tough schedule that we have and if I could have rescheduled and got the scheduling to work out I would have been there in a heartbeat because I’ve not missed one yet.”
This is not a controversy.
Let’s move on people. Nothing to see here.