1. Jeff Gordon signs to represent U.S. food banks in 2011
2. Red Bull’s favouritism could cost it the World Championship
3. Ask A.J. Allmendinger what he thinks of "debris" cautions
4. Member of famous Canadian racing family killed
Gordon vows to Stamp Out Hunger to tune of $15 million
In what has to be one of the strangest sponsorship announcements in the history of auto racing, NASCAR icon Jeff Gordon signed a contract last week to be sponsored in 2011 by the U.S. AARP Drive to End Hunger.
The AARP is an acronym for the American Association of Retired Persons, a non-profit organization that, in return for a nominal membership fee, arranges for cut-rate deals on everything from life insurance to magazine subscriptions for people 50 years of age and older.
In announcing the sponsorship, president Jo Ann Jekins said: "Our goal is not only to help the local food banks around the country, so they can get food, so they can get food immediately, but for us to try and solve this issue on a broader basis so that folks don’t get in a position where they’re hungry."
To draw attention to the plight of the hungry – some of whom, unndoubtedly, are members of the AARP – the non-profit organization will be handing over to Jeff Gordon and the team he drives for, Hendrick Motorsports, cash money in the vicinity of $12-million to $15-million a year which, to my way of thinking, would do a lot more good buying food for people who are hungry than it will to buy fuel for Jeff Gordon’s private jet.
I really don’t know how Jeff Gordon is going to handle making appearances at a food bank somewhere and then, at the end of the day, either fly home to his New York City Central Park condo or else return for the evening to his multi-million-dollar motorhome that’s parked in the driver’s compound at a nearby speedway.
It’s one thing to be sponsored by, and to bear witness to, a product that’s for sale. A portion of the money generated by the sale of a widget, say, is then paid to a guy like Jeff Gordon to endorse and promote said widget in hopes that many, many more widgets will be sold. That’s capitalism in action. It’s the American way.
It doesn’t work that way with a charity. A charity – and a food bank is a charity – operates with donated money or goods (such as canned goods, in the case of a food bank) handed over by people who believe in what the charity stands for, whether it’s the fight against cancer or poverty.
Like most people, if I buy something from the Home Depot, I have no problem with that company doing whatever it wants with the money I’ve spent in that store. But if I write out a cheque to the Red Cross after an earthquake, I expect most of that money to be used to help the victims of that natural disaster.
NASCAR and its teams (as is the case with many other professional athletes, leagues and teams) have often been involved with charities on a volunteer basis. The fight against breast cancer is an example. Another is that for years, the NFL has been the unpaid corporate spokesman for the United Way.
By entering into a contractual arrangement to market and promote the war against hunger, Jeff Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports have crossed a line. A precedent has been set. What happens next?
"We would like your race team to help us raise money for the treatment of autism."
"Okay, we should be able to do that for - oh – $10 million a year."
In justifying spending $12-to-$15 million on car racing, an apologist for the deal wrote the following words: "To make money, you have to spend money."
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
To make money, you SAVE money.
Ask anybody who runs a food bank. The trick is to stretch a dollar further than it’s ever been stretched before.
Which is something totally alien to a multi-millionaire race-car driver.
That deal just doesn’t compute. Somebody should have had a second thought.
Red Bull’s favouritism could cost it the world championship
The Grand Prix of Brazil is scheduled for next Sunday – the race will be seen on TSN at 10:55 a.m. – and Fernando Alonso could wrap up the world championship a race early.
Mark Webber, who’s 11 points behind Alonso in the standings, could force a showdown in the season finale at Abu Dhabi a week later if – and it’s a big if – Red Bull-Renault stops pretending that both of its drivers still stand a chance of winning the title and throws its full support behind the one who stands the best chance.
Which is not Sebastien Vettel, who is 14 points behind Webber (and 25 behind Alonso) with Lewis Hamilton between them in third place.
Any monkey business between Webber and Vettel could result in Alonso winning and Hamilton sneaking into second place. Even the manufacturer’s championship could be at stake.
Although Red Bull team principal Christian Horner repeatedly says that Red Bull will continue to treat each driver equally, the mind games being played against Webber have continued, non-stop.
Even our own Jacques Villeneuve was quoted in Austrian newspapers last week as saying that Webber has driven fantastically "despite the team being against him."
It’s not only the team. Gerhard Berger, who used to own a part of Scuderia Toro Rosso until Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz bought him out and made him a gazillionaire in the process, got into the act by saying that Webber deliberately took out Nico Rosberg when he crashed at the last Grand Prix in Korea.
"He should have put on the brakes," said Berger, who was known as Mr. Perfect when he raced.
Sebastien Vettel is a brilliant young driver who will win many world championships before he retires. But because it is unlikely that he will be able to make up the points difference between himself and Alonso over the next two races, it would be better for the team if most of the attention was paid to Webber.
Don’t count on it ever happening, though.
Oh, before we leave international road racing, Canadian Bruno Spengler is leading the German Touring Car Championship with one race to go. Go Bruno!
Ask A.J. Allmendinger about "debris" cautions.
With a half-dozen laps to go in yesterday’s Talladega 500 Sprint Cup race, NASCAR threw the yellow for debris on the track.
In fact, the debris – whatever it was; it looked like a cloth – wasn’t on the track. It was down on the apron between turns three and four and absolutely no danger to anybody.
But that meant a restart with four laps to go and the field nicely bunched up instead of somewhat strung out as had been the case several laps earlier.
Then, just after the white flag lap started, Allmendinger was rear-ended and wound up going full-tilt into the inside wall, upside down.
One wrecked car and nearly one wrecked driver, all because of something off the track that wasn’t in anybody’s way but which bunched up the field and set the stage for what could very well have been "the Big One," which didn’t turn out to be very big after all, even though a bunch of cars bumped into each other.
But that’s racin’, NASCAR style.
No caution, no wreck. But that wouldn’t do, would it?
The second the yellow lights went on, the field was frozen and Clint Bowyer, who was about a millimetre ahead of Kevin Harvick up in turn two at the time, wound up the winner, with Harvick second and Juan Pablo Montoya third.
Jimmie Johnson finished seventh and Denny Hamlin was ninth, leaving Johnson still in the lead in the Chase for the Championship with Hamlin second, 14 points behind. Harvick is third, 38 points back.
There are three races remaining – Texas next weekend followed by Phoenix and Homestead-Miami – and Johnson is looking good for his fifth consecutive championship.
Meantime, Richard Petty is rumoured, according to last night’s Speed News, to be trying to set up a one-car team for 2011, with Allmendinger as driver and Best Buy as title sponsor.
The King has been associated with Richard Petty Motorsports the last few years, but the team has really been owned by George Gillett, who used to own the Montreal Canadiens and the Liverpool soccer team. The race team’s bottom line has not been healthy for most of the season.
Kasey Kahne bailed while the bailing was good but Marcos Ambrose is supposed to drive for that team next year and could be out in the cold.
Oh, and Kyle Busch won the Camping World Truck Series race at Talladega, even though his truck was nine-tenths below the yellow line when he and Aric Almorola crossed the finish line.
Now, in any other organized sport – football, soccer, golf, etc. – out of bounds is out of bounds. If any part of the player in football, for instance, crosses the out-of-bounds line, the play is out of bounds.
Not, apparently, in NASCAR. To be out of bounds means all of a car or truck has to be over the line. Usually.
We await the next decision.
Dan May killed in highway crash
Dan May of Caledonia was killed last Friday night in an automobile accident in Ancaster.
Dan and his father Ross were involved for years in TQ midget and stock car racing in Ontario and the northern U.S.
Dan raced with the Can-Am Midget Club for more than a dozen years and was Can-Am rookie of the year in 1989 and won the Niagara Falls indoor midget championship in 1992. He finished sixth in the last race of the 2010 season at Flamboro Speedway a few weeks ago.
He leaves his wife and two children.
Visitation will be at the Dodsworth and Brown Funeral Home in Ancaster tomorrow (Tuesday) from 2-4 and 7-9. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. on Wednesday.