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In Search of the NASCAR Dad

Kathryn posted that Senator Obama is considering sponsoring a car in the next NASCAR race in the Poconos. For starters, he’s sponsoring a Toyota:

Ken Schrader will drive the entry, a Toyota, at Pocono for BAM, which is outside the top 35 in owner points and must qualify for the race on speed. The team has run just once since Martinsville due to sponsorship concerns, and has just six top-10 finishes in 167 career starts in the Cup series dating back to ‘02. According to sources, the team will stick with Toyota after making a switch from Dodge back in the spring.

Two, Ken Shrader’s a pretty bad driver.  I can’t wait to see the crumpled wreck of the 49 car getting towed off the track with the giant “O” logo on the side.  He’s also desperate for money:

The team has raced only once since March 30 in Martinsville for lack of sponsorship money and the car must qualify at Pocono on speed. BAM Racing has only six top-10 showings in 167 starts since 2002. 

And three, the NY Times tried to define the “NASCAR dad” back in 2004 without success. The opener:

FIRST race of the year, the 500 at Daytona, I’m standing next to Nascar dad for the anthem. Takes off his sunglasses, holds his hand over his heart. He’s a big man, 40′s, 6-foot-3, a gut-sprung 225, biker leather head to toe and a beard on him like ZZ Rasputin.
Comes to the end of our national song, 250,000 people shouting and applauding, flags snapping everywhere, and a sound rumbles low up out of the ovation and comes down out of the sky and breaks out of the clouds like a thunderclap. It’s the pre-race flyover, four F-16′s with the burners lit, 200 feet off the deck at 400 miles an hour and the crowd goes crazy. The sky cracks and the smell of jet exhaust fouls the grandstands. I, sophisticated tourist sarcast, turn to Nascar dad, cock my eyebrow and shout, ‘’Our tax dollars at work, huh?’’
He looks down at me through the beard, blue-eyed and red-faced in the heat. ‘’Damn straight,’’ he says, ‘’damn straight,’’ as the tears roll down his cheeks.

And the conclusion:

Political cynics on both sides of the aisle, the self-described ‘’cognitive elite,’’ are pretty sure they know what Nascar Dad, the caricature, wants. All Nascar dad wants is another beer, they’ll tell you, and an Earnhardt in Victory Lane. Nascar dad wants a 56-inch plasma flat screen. Nascar dad wants to be left alone during the James Bond marathon. Nascar dad wants a brand new 4-by-4 crew cab pickup with a V-10 and the heavy-duty towing package and a 200 mile-an-hour speed limit on the interstate. Nascar dad wants a happy hour booth at Hooters, and a double order of buffalo wings. Nascar dad wants another shot of Jim or Jack or Johnny, another week on disability, another satellite dish, another four-color neck tattoo of a showroom stock ‘68 GTO.
And that’s true, as far as it goes. But Nascar dad wants some other stuff, too.
Nascar dad wants not to be talked down to. Nascar dad wants not to be told what he thinks. Nascar dad wants not to be pandered to by candidates or condescended to by operatives or deconstructed by eggheads and television’s talking haircuts.
Nascar dad wants a political process, a president, a government, that make him feel the same galvanizing, heartbreaking pride he feels when he looks at his flag. Nascar dad wants to be moved, inspired, encouraged. Nascar dad wants to be put in touch with his better angels.
Nascar dad wants to know that all his hard work, all his effortful virtue and his diligent vigilance, all his ancient bravery and his bone-deep devotion, all his canny intelligence and his remarkable ingenuity, all his abiding love of country, and all the struggle in his living and his dying, is in service of something much greater than himself.
All that, and a weekend of topless karaoke at the track. These things are not mutually exclusive. As I said, Nascar dad is a mighty complicated man. Look far enough past the ‘’bikini inspector’’ hats and the rainbow suspenders, the clichés and the rhetoric and the race to catalog the constituency, and maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of him. He’s right there, in the grandstands at Daytona, one huge hand over his heart for the anthem and standing razor straight.

Yeah. An ad on a Toyota oughtta do it.

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