Late Models

The Nexus of Politics and Racing

Imagine going to the movie theater and, in the middle of the movie, the projectionist cuts off the film and puts on a Hillary Clinton speech.

There are liberal race fans too.  There are even liberal racecar drivers.  And those liberal race fans might feel a little uncomfortable, if not completely unwelcome, when they attend races this fall as a growing number of racers and racetracks have decided to use their cars and venues to promote Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump.

For spectators, going to a racetrack is much like going to a baseball game or a movie theater.  It is an escape from the everyday world.  It is a chance to have fun for a few hours with friends and family.  It is a time to get away from the everyday discussions of terrorism, immigration and an election that has come down to the two most unpopular presidential candidates in American history.

Last summer, the nation engaged in a debate over whether the confederate battle flag still had a place in public.  As this debate raged in politics, racecar drivers decided to make a political statement by putting confederate flags on the hoods of their cars and flying them atop their trailers.  While the confederate flag may be synonymous with stock car racing, racers and racetracks entered the political arena while other sports look to stay out of it.

Earlier this year, the sport was thrust into the political spotlight when NASCAR CEO Brian France publicly endorsed Donald Trump.  That endorsement was followed up by a statement from Trump’s campaign announcing that NASCAR, as a whole, endorsed Donald Trump. A few weeks later, race fans at Texas Motor Speedway were gifted with the wisdom of Phil Robertson during the invocation of a NASCAR race.

Now, race fans at short tracks across America are watching as the Trump 2016 Chevrolet passes the Make America Great Again Ford while a track announcer talks about how Trump is the lord and savior of America.

Meanwhile, when football season kicks off on September 8th, fans of that sport will watch the Cam Newton score touchdowns (maybe?) against the Denver Broncos.  The players will focus on the game and not making political statements.  The commentators will call the game, not give political speeches.

Well, Bob Costas might talk about how guns should be outlawed instead of talking about football highlights – and the rant would be met with outrage.

“But, Andy, the majority of race fans are Donald Trump supporters?”

What difference does it make?  Is a paying race fan’s money less important to the sport because they’re a Democrat?  Because, if that fan, and many others, elect not to come back because the competitors or the race promoters have decided to be an arena of politics instead of an arena of racing.

Let’s go back to my original scenario.

Would anyone be okay with a Hillary Clinton ad being shown in the middle of the new Star Wars movie they just paid $15 to see, because the projectionist wants you to vote for her?

Political correctness, which participants in this sport seem to hate, is not always a bad thing.  That means, sometimes staying out of the political arena and just having a good time.  Because, if the fans in the stands want three hours of politics, they can turn on Fox News Channel or MSNBC instead.

Racers have every right to put pro-Trump and pro-Clinton ads on their cars.  Racetracks have every right to put Trump or Clinton banners up around their speedway.  They even have the right to remove their sponsors decals to give political candidates free advertising – though their sponsors might frown on that.  I’m not saying they don’t have that right.

But, consider this.

This is a sport that is supposed to be fun, like all sports.  This is an escape from the everyday world, for everyone involved.  This is a sport that wants to be inclusive for everyone.  This is a sport that wants more people in the stands, especially given the current state of many short tracks across America.

Are your political allegiances really worth running off other people?

What if one of your fans in the stands was someone who was afraid they will be forced to leave the country if Donald Trump is elected?  Or someone who is afraid their husband, fighting in a warzone somewhere, will be abandoned and left for dead during a terrorist attack if Hillary Clinton is elected?

We all have political beliefs.  We all express them.  We all also want to get away from all of this sometimes.  And a racetrack is a getaway.  Let’s make racing fun again and seek to entertain the fans with great racing, not make political endorsements.

Or, we can turn racetracks into an arena for politics and risk running off paying fans, fans who themselves keep the sport going.


Kenneth Mercer Steals Top-Five Finish at East Carolina

ROBERSONVILLE, NC – Don’t judge a book by its cover and don’t judge a racecar by its looks.

Kenneth Mercer’s car looked like it had no business finishing on the lead lap.  Mercer, 45, from Kinston, North Carolina not only finished on the lead lap but was able to steal a top-five finish in the closing laps of Saturday night’s season opening race at East Carolina Motor Speedway in Robersonville, North Carolina.

Mercer was running and older Pontiac steel body with a GM603 crate engine.  Mercer qualified in the fifth position but fell back in the opening laps of the race as he played a little tire management while also fighting brake issues.

kennethmercer“I’ve been racing a long time,” Mercer said after the race.  “It felt like we needed to try to conserve tires and brakes but I didn’t do a good job with the brakes because, about lap 50, the pedal was on the floor.  So, I backed up.  It was just coasting through the corner trying to throttle up like that.”

As the race continued to progress, Mercer began making his way through the field, racing his way from deep in the field up into the top-five, making a late race pass on Rusty Daniels to take over the fifth position.

“I ended up getting the throttle back about lap 65 or 70 then we started coming back through,” Mercer remarked.  “We got some brakes back.  Last 10, we lost them again.  Overall, the car handled well and I want to thank Ronald Brown for letting me drive the car tonight.”

After the race, Mercer talked about the car and how the body was older than what some of the other competitors ran.

“It’s a quite a bit older car,” Mercer stated.  “Everybody’s running the big bar soft spring, what the NASCAR boys are running.  This is a conventional setup car and we’re really proud.  It’s an old car, steel body, old Pontiac body.  I felt like we had the car to beat there at the end.  We might not have won but we could’ve got a top-three.  We’ll get them next time.”

Kenneth Mercer is no stranger to victory lane.  The veteran has scored wins at East Carolina Motor Speedway and at Jacksonville, North Carolina’s Coastal Plains Raceway in a Limited Late Model.  His most recent win came on July 6, 2013 in Jacksonville.


Daytona and the decline of journalism ethics

Tonight on “Race Central with Andy and Genna”, we will be discussing the Tom Bowles incident at Daytona International Speedway.  The incident raises several questions about the ethics of journalism and a clash between interactive media and traditional media.  Because of time constraints, we are going to jump right in to it on the program tonight leaving only a couple of seconds to summarize the events.

The incident surfaced first on Thursday, February 17, 2011 when an “established” member of the motorsports media was rumored to be cheering for underdog Regan Smith in the closing stages of the first Gatorade Duel (the qualifying races that set the field for the Daytona 500).  On Sunday, February 20, 2011, rookie Trevor Bayne won his first Daytona 500 in his first race at stock car racing’s most hallowed ground. Veteran reporters say there were several cheers in the press box and in the infield media center.  One of those cheers came from veteran reporter, freelance journalist Tom Bowles of (who also worked) for Sports Illustrated. Continue reading

ARCA, NASCAR, Uncategorized

Special Report: Daytona and the decline in journalism ethics

Tomorrow night, we will have a special edition of Race Central discussing the Tom Bowles situation at Daytona.

We will be joined by David Shuster, Emmy winning journalist who was on the frontlines of MSNBC’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina and has anchored and guest-anchored several MSNBC television programs.  Shuster has been outspoken recently about the lack of journalism ethics at news operations and cable networks that call themselves news operations.  The show will be streamed live on

Because of the strict format for tomorrow’s program, we will not be accepting guest callers.  If you have questions for David Shuster or questions regarding the topic at hand, email them to or send me a tweet on Twitter (@amarquis32 or @employedwinner) and we will try to get them answered.


Race Central Live

Thursday Night, I am going to experiment with online radio using BlogTalkRadio and, if successful, it will be the birth of Race Central Live.

Don’t expect anything spectacular, tomorrow night’s broadcast is experimental.  But we (hopefully a few people decide to call in) will discuss Daytona Speedweeks and big changes in NASCAR and ARCA this season.

The show link is: — the show starts at 11pm and runs for 30 minutes.

There is call in information but if you do plan to call in, please email me at first.

Late Models

Old Dominion Speedway releases 2011 schedule

Old Dominion Speedway released it’s 2011 schedule earlier with the return of two big events.

The Youth For Tomorrow benefit race will return once again in 2011, scheduled for July 23rd.  The event got national attention in 2010 with an all-star turnout and a capacity crowd.  However, rain at the Truck race in Gateway canceled a lot of drivers’ appearances at the 3/8 mile oval in Manassas.

The other big event that will return after being run last year is the Legends Reunion late model race.

The Big One will be run on September 17th, and the opening date at Old Dominion Speedway is set for April 9th.