Tuesday, May 09, 2006

All-Star Pandering Leaves A Bad Taste

I’ll probably be tarred and feathered for saying this, but here goes.

The "Vote Kyle, Reward Victory Junction" campaign was launched earlier this week in Charlotte, North Carolina. It is being called “a grassroots effort fueled by Coca-Cola and other Petty Enterprises sponsors to reward the man who has given so much of his time and effort to charity, with a spot in the Nextel All-Star Challenge.”

In simplest terms, Petty’s sponsors are encouraging fans to vote him into this month’s NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. In return, Coca-Cola and fellow Petty sponsors Wells Fargo, Schwan's and Tire Kingdom have pledged to donate a minimum of $250,000 to the Victory Junction Gang Camp for children with chronic medical conditions and serious illnesses. Petty will donate any purse money he wins in the race to Victory Junction, as well.

Michael Waltrip – along with Petty, a member of the “Coca-Cola Racing Family” -- was announced as Petty's "campaign manager" yesterday. “I want him in the All-Star Race,” Waltrip said. “He deserves it.”

Well, maybe. But not for the reasons you think.

I have issues with Coca-Cola’s "Vote Kyle, Reward Victory Junction" campaign. I feel it subverts the concept of the NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge, and clouds what should be a simple process for selecting the drivers that take part. Should NASCAR’s All-Star Race be an opportunity for sponsors “to reward the man who has given so much of his time and effort to charity?” Or should it be about fans honoring NASCAR’s finest for their on-track accomplishments?

Quite clearly, in my opinion, it should be the latter.

While Coca-Cola’s interest in helping Victory Junction Gang Camp is laudable, make no mistake about the fact that there is also something in it for them. Petty will carry a special “MyCokeRewards” paint scheme on All-Star Weekend, and if he is voted into the All-Star Challenge, they will receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in free publicity and TV time. If Coke is really serious about doing something good for Victory Junction Gang Camp -- with no regard for their own corporate gain -- they can make a $250,000 donation right now, with no strings attached. Instead, they have chosen to twist the arms of NASCAR fans nationwide by saying, “Give us what we want, and we’ll help out the sick little children.”

That’s unfortunate.

I worry that we are missing the whole point of the All-Star Race. Will drivers and sponsors soon be forced to put together their own charity based, feel-good campaigns in an effort to pander their way to the top of the annual fan vote? Should NASCAR’s All-Star selection process be based upon how much money a driver donates to charity? Or should that selection hinge on how drivers perform on the race track?

The answer is pretty obvious.

In the immortal words of Richard Milhous Nixon, let me make one thing perfectly clear. I have nothing but admiration for Victory Junction Gang Camp, and the Petty family's superhuman efforts on its behalf. It is tremendous cause, and deserves your unqualified support. On a personal level, I like Kyle Petty very much. He is a gracious, selfless man who has done wonders for those less fortunate than himself. He's also a damned fine racer. Unfortunately, this whole "Vote Kyle, Reward Victory Junction" idea leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It’s half a step away from bribery, and it’s not what the NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge is supposed to be about.

You can cast a vote for your favorite driver right now, at NASCAR.com. You can also make a contribution to Victory Junction Gang Camp by clicking on this link.

Just don’t confuse the two, okay?


  1. I don't see a big issue here. After all it's just a case of a group of sponsors publicly supporting their driver. NASCAR created this when they allowed drivers to be voted into this race (think sponsors aren't stuffing the ballet boxes for their drivers?). The format has been changed so many times, I can't remember what the race was orginially like. And it's not like this is the only "All Star" race, don't forget the Busch Clash in Daytona. Which is the true "All Star" race?

    What I think is a "real issue" is the fact that NASCAR makes millions upon millions of dollars each year, yet never lifts a finger to help former drivers like Sam Ard when they are in really tough situations. Drivers who were responsible for the foundation of the sport that were basically thrown under the bus once NASCAR took off. Of course we never hear about those stories do we? Seems a bit more important than some hokey race that can't keep the same format for more than 2 years in a row.

  2. I see your point, but....When you have the Jr. nation voting in Martin Truex, when he is not a true proven All-Star it is not as you say "about fans honoring NASCAR’s finest for their on-track accomplishments"

    By the way..I love your show....have not got the chance to call in yet...but I only get to listen to the last 30 mins each day.

    Keep up the good work.

  3. Actually, Andy, we have mentioned the Sam Ard situation on a couple of occasions, and NASCAR and Richmond International Raceway held a huge silent auction last weekend for Sam. Mike Helton donated his personal Harley Davidson motorcycle and leathers tot he auction.

  4. Anonymous6:22 AM

    Moody, you are a loser again. I can't beleieve you would say that Kyle Petty is not a allstar. He's a big allstar more than you will ever be. He drives for those kids every week, every dime Kyle makes on the race track he puts into that camp, how much do you give there??? I'll bet not a dime. Poeple that live in glass houses should not throw stones Dave.

  5. Anonymous6:29 AM

    I hope you never have to go through what Kyle Petty has gone through. I wonder how you would cary yourself from day to day if you lost a baby? Kyle Petty has done more for Nascar that any driver out on that track today, he has class, he's a fair driver and he's still a good driver. Before you put him down the next time maybe you should hang out with him for a while.
    Kyle has nothing to do with the allstar voting thing, that was a deal with Coke to honor Kyle for everything he has done for those kids at that camp. I have been to that camp its the greatest place on earth for those sick kids and a way to honor Adam, remember him???

    Kyle Petty has always been a allstar and your oppion means nothing...

  6. Take a deep breath, people. Nobody here is putting down Kyle Petty, and I certainly understand as well as anyone what he and Pattie went through with the loss of Adam. I have supported the Victory Junction Gang Camp annually in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. I fail to see, however, how the tragedy of losing his son (and the good work he has done for sick children) qualifies him in any way to take part in NASCAR's All-Star race. Kyle is 33rd in points right now, after finishing 27th last year and 33rd in 2004. To me, that is not an All-Star caliber performance. Kyle agrees with that assessment, by the way.

    I have spent a good deal of time talking with Kyle Petty over the years. I know as well as anyone the kind of person he is, which is why I took great pains to express my admiration for him and his family. They are salt of the earth people, and VJGC deserves all our support. Just not at the expense of what is supposed to be NASCAR's All-Star Race.

    Thanks for writing and sharing your opinions.

  7. Anonymous11:54 AM

    Th deal is its the sponsors and some of the drivers that want KP to race in the allstar race, Kyle has NOTHING to do with it? Now had Kyle won that race in 92 went Davey and Kyle crashed at the finish in he would be in forever like M Waltrip so I believe everyone is a allstar if they suit up put on that helment go 200 mph then they all are allstars and Kyle ranks right up there with his father but I believe Kyle has done more for Nascar than the King did his whole career and I am the BIGGEST Richard Petty fan in the whole world.

    I can't believe someone would run his mouth about something that means so much to those kids at that camp, Dave I think you should take a trip to Randleman N.C. some time and see them kids for yourself, I have been there...

  8. So have I, "Anonymous." It's a tremendous place that does incredible work for those kids. You're still not grasping my point, but that's OK. And as far as "running my mouth" is concerned, it's what I do.

  9. I'm with ya, Dave. I've yet to see Coke actually come out themselves and say they will donate the $ whether Kyle wins the vote or not (though I have read it online in different places).

    Even if that is the case, why doesn't the press release say that in the first place? We can only believe that it's because Coke wants Kyle in the race so badly they purposefully left out that bit of info in order to guilt folks into voting for him.

    Either way you slice it, it stinks.