February 24, 2012
Tea Party sponsors NASCAR Canuck team
By DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. - Who would have thought a kid born and raised in small town Canada would grow up to be a player in the 2012 U.S. Presidential election race?
Randy MacDonald grew up in the village of Hampton, near Oshawa, with two goals — to be an NHL hockey player and/or a NASCAR race car driver.
He gave up the former after a stellar Tier II junior career with the Bowmanville Eagles, and pursued the latter to become not only a NASCAR driver, but a NASCAR team owner in both the Camping World Truck Series and the Nationwide Series.
It was as owner of MacDonald Motorsports and his own conservative political philosophy that paved the way for a marriage of American Tea Party politics and stock car racing at Daytona International Speedway.
A small team owner — in comparison to the behemoths like Hendrick, Gibbs and Roush — MacDonald said that after 20 years building his business since moving to North Carolina in the early 1990s he came to embrace any political movement that made it easier for an individual to succeed.
And his No. 81 Nationwide Dodge team’s performance in 2011, with Blake Koch finishing second in the rookie-of-the-year race, brought MacDonald some new opportunities.
“Last year was a breakthrough year for our team with Blake running for rookie of the year,” MacDonald said Thursday in the Nationwide garage. “That got us some notice from potential sponsors for this season.”
It also brought the team to the attention of some Washington political operatives who put the idea forward that MacDonald could help their cause.
“They had this idea that this being an election year in the U.S. that there could be some good opportunities to promote the election and get people out to vote,” MacDonald said.
That led to a meeting with American Majority founder Ned Ryun, a leading figure in the conservative Tea Party movement.
“I went to Washington to meet with Mr. Ryun,” he said. “We talked about what our car would look like in terms of promoting their cause every week.
“I told them that NASCAR fans were a big part of their target audience and that using our race car to get NASCAR fans out to vote would work.
“I must have done a good job because they not only thought our No. 81 Dodge would be a good vehicle for their Pledge to Vote program, they signed on to make a commitment for at least the first three races this season.”
What it also did was make for a very busy time at MacDonald’s race shop in Mooresville, N.C.
Once the American Majority deal was done in late December MacDonald had just seven weeks before the start of the NASCAR season to start building some new cars and find a full-time driver.
“We ended up getting four cars ready in 50 days — our superspeedway car here at Daytona, a short track car for Phoenix next week, an intermediate track car for Las Vegas and another short track car for Bristol,” he said. “The sponsorship also gave us the room to go look for a full-time driver and we eventually signed Jason Bowles.”
MacDonald said don’t expect to see him out there giving speeches this election year, but he will do his part at the race track.
EARNHARDT DREAMS OF VICTORY LANE
Dale Earnhardt Jr. would probably give $1 million for a win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
In fact that is what he said it cost his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team last season when he — for the third consecutive year — failed to make it to Victory Lane in stock car racing’s top loop.
Earnhardt said that he would love for Sunday’s Daytona 500 to be the race where he breaks his losing streak — his last win was in June 2008 at Michigan International Speedway — but at this point any win would do.
“I just want to win — anywhere,” he said. “I just want to go ahead and get that done, so I can think about the next one and get the streak over with and get back to victory lane.”
Earnhardt admitted that failing to win has been a costly affair.
“We lost a million dollars by not being in the Winner’s Circle program last year,” he said. “(The team) could use that money. There are just so many benefits to getting in the Winner’s Circle. It’ll help our team. It’ll validate what me and (crew chief) Steve (Letarte) have been trying to do the last couple years.”
And yes, he said, it would be nice for a win at NASCAR’s version of the Super Bowl.
“It is the Daytona 500. It’s the biggest race of the season,” he said. “It would be pretty spectacular for me personally to win it, but it would do so many other things that I can’t even list right now, for the team and the company going forward. It would be awesome.”
DANICA BUMMED OUT BY CRASH
Danica Patrick may draw as much criticism as she does praise, but on Thursday all eyes were on the driver of the No. 10 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet when she took a monster hit during the first Gatorade Duel at Daytona International Speedway.
On the final lap of the 60-lap race Patrick was hit by the No. 43 Ford of Aric Almirola and sent flying, crashing heavily into the inside wall SAFER barrier.
The No. 10 Chevrolet was destroyed but Patrick walked away without a scratch.
“I am just bummed out,” she said. “There was just two corners to go.”
Patrick said that in spite of the vicious hit she felt she was having a good race — her first in the 3,400 pound Sprint Cup cars.
“I felt like I was having good race,” she said. “I had worked my way up there at the beginning a little bit and hung around with the front group for a while.
“I was just looking to finish. So unfortunately that was not going to be the case.”
Patrick admitted that her inexperience in the heavier Cup cars could have played a part in the crash.
“If we would have gotten up front it would have been better,” she said. “It was hard to get past that mid-pack range.
“We got down to the end of the race and everybody is on everybody’s doors. That’s just what happens at the end of the race.”
Far from being discouraged, Patrick said she is looking forward to Sunday’s Daytona 500.
“Maybe the back up car will be faster,” she said.