In case you missed it, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France publicly endorsed GOP US Presidential candidate Donald Trump on Monday when speaking at a rally in Valdosta, Ga. Other NASCAR figures, including Bill Elliott, Chase Elliott, Ryan Newman and David Ragan. Both Elliotts and Ragan are Georgia natives, while Newman hails from Indiana.
I’m not endorsing or denouncing a candidate on either side, here, but I’m wondering if this endorsement is a good idea by France. No, I’m not saying that because his endorsement is for Trump. I’d think the same, regardless of who France chose to endorse.
When it comes to the drivers, both former and current, I think such an endorsement, for whatever candidate, is fine. I look at them as independence contractors, of sort — free to pick their own candidates, separate of the sanctioning body for which they race. And, therefore, I don’t see their choices and any kind of reflection upon the sport. Besides, I don’t think fans or other members of the general public see a driver endorsement as an endorsement from the sanctioning body.
France, on the other hand, is a different story. He’s the leader of the sport, for crying out loud. Sure, NASCAR’s David Higdon clarified in an e-mail to ESPN that France’s endorsement was personal, not reflective of NASCAR, but it sure is hard to separate the two. Maybe the fact that there were other NASCAR figures on hand play into that difficulty. I don’t know.
I’m not suggesting that France shouldn’t be able to support a candidate for any political office. I just think his support should come in the form of donations and votes. After all, do many people outside NASCAR Nation even know who he is?
On a different but related note — with the public perception of a France endorsement as a NASCAR endorsement, it looks like NASCAR wants to have it both ways. After all, NASCAR pulled its joint Camping World Truck and Xfinity series banquet from a Trump-owned property in Miami at the request, or demand, of Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis.
If Lemonis’ tweet from Monday evening is any indication, he thinks France’s endorsement of Trump is representative of NASCAR. He tweeted:
“There is no place for politics/any political endorsements in any business. Your customers and employees should have their own mind. #period” — @MarcusLemonis
But back to my original topic. If you view drivers as employees, I agree with Lemonis on this one. The drivers may back whatever candidate they want. Again, I don’t have and issue with Bill and Chase Elliott, Newman and Ragan supporting Trump or any other candidate, nor do I have an issue with Truck Series driver Korbin Forrister plastering his support of Trump all over his race truck.
But I think a public France endorsement crosses the line. It appears too much like a NASCAR endorsement for my taste. And that’s not because I’m anti-Trump, or pro-Trump or anti or pro-any other candidate, either.
Maybe France is hoping, in exhange for a political endorsement, he could get a title sponsor for his top series to replace the departing Sprint. I’m thinking, though, that a Trump-related sponsor sure would put the Truck Series sponsorship from Camping World in jeopardy, if France, himself, hasn’t already put it in jeopardy.
Besides, is a France endorsement a good thing, anyway? I mean, does anybody outside NASCAR Nation know who France is? And when it comes to fan opinion of France, judging by social media, it’s not very positive. It’s downright polarizing. But then again, maybe that makes France the NASCAR Trump. I don’t know.
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