Saturday, May 7, 2011

Indianapolis 500 To Donald Trump: "You're Fired!"

Would you buy a used car from this man?

By Gary P Jackson

The Indianapolis 500 is the world's most iconic racing event, as well as the world's largest one day sporting event. This Memorial Day weekend, Indy is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the very first running of the race won by Ray Haroon in his Marmon Wasp.

Now it's customary for celebrities to turn out in droves for this event. For years Florence Henderson sang the National Anthem, and Indy just wouldn't be Indy without Jim Neigbors singing "Back Home Again In Indiana"!

The Festival Committee generally choses someone of note to drive the pace car at the event. Now this isn't just ceremonial either. You need to be able to pace the field for the start, as well as during yellow flag situations. You also must be a really good driver.

We were floored when such a storied event, with so much history and tradition, chose reality show star, and phony "Republican" Donald Trump to pilot the pace car during the event. It would be a head shaker any year, but this is the 100th anniversary! Surely this would have rated someone of note rather than a cheesy reality show star. Perhaps someone with actual ties to the event?

Long story short the Festival Committee caught hell for choosing this circus clown for such an honored position at the most prestigious event in all of motorsports. A Facebook group headed by Indianapolis attorney Michael Wallack grew to over 17,000 members in just a couple of weeks!

IMS is spinning it hard though. From the official release:
Donald J. Trump today informed the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that he may be announcing shortly his intention to run for the office of President of the United States, and therefore he thought it would be inappropriate to drive the Pace Car for the 100th anniversary running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 29.

"I very much appreciate the honor, but time and business constraints make my appearance there, especially with the necessary practice sessions, impossible to fulfill," Trump said. "I look forward to watching the race from New York."

Jeff Belskus, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president and chief executive officer, noted that he respects Trump's position and appreciated the communication regarding this decision.

"Donald Trump has been very enthusiastic about the '500' from the beginning of our conversations, and I have appreciated the interaction we have had with him and his staff," Belskus said. "From my first conversation, I was impressed by his deep understanding of the event and history, and I thank him for being a true fan."

The driver of the Chevrolet Camaro Convertible Pace Car for the May 29 race will be announced later this month.
Nice spin, huh!

Tony Johns of Pop Off Valve, the "one stop shop for the IZOD IndyCar Series news and commentary," notes the fans were in high dugeon over Trump's lunacy of late, and didn't want that carnival in their town!
The carefully-crafted release is widely seen as a "soft landing" for Trump, but it is clear that IMS was eager to back away from the storm created by Trump's bid for the United States presidency. Trump's connections with IZOD, INDYCAR's prime sponsor for its IndyCar Series, are believed to have been the main reason why the star of Celebrity Apprentice was named the pace car driver for the iconic 100th anniversary of America's most storied closed-course motor race.

The backlash from Trump's public appearances and his controversial statements in the media with regards to the birthers and other high-profile topics spurred INDYCAR fans to start Facebook campaigns demanding that Trump abdicate his position as pace car driver, as well as an avalanche of negative postings on the Speedway's official Facebook page.

Fan-supplied suggestions for possible replacements for Trump have included Admiral William McRaven, commander of SEAL Team Six which was responsible for the killing of Osama bin Laden early this week; Alex Zanardi, former Champ Car and Formula 1 star; A.J. Foyt, four-time winner of the Indy 500 and INDYCAR legend; and others.
Justin Hyde at Jalopnik tells a slightly different story of how this came about: [emphasis mine]
As Jalopnik first reported this morning, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has booted Donald Trump from the driver's seat of the pace car for the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 after fans complained he was too politically motivated.Update!

A source affiliated with the race told us a meeting was held this morning to determine precisely how the Indy speedway folks will enforce the decision. The choices included replacing Trump outright with another celebrity pace car driver, asking him to pull out or keeping Trump involved with the race, but change the pace car to another Chevrolet vehicle and bring on another driver to drive it.

The move comes after widespread negative response from fans and outsiders. A Facebook group founded by Indianapolis attorney Michael Wallack devoted to bumping Trump has already grown to over 17,000 supporters within a few weeks. Wallack and others say the race doesn't need the spotlight Trump lugs with him. Trump's controversy-seeking also had no upside for the speedway or its corporate backers, including Izod and Chevrolet.

Although a Trump spokesman earlier today said he had no plans to withdraw, Trump did just that, saying it would be "inappropriate" while he was considering an official announcement of running for president:

"I very much appreciate the honor, but time and business constraints make my appearance there, especially with the necessary practice sessions, impossible to fulfill."

Because when you think of refraining from public appearances, Donald Trump immediately comes to mind; and getting yourself in front of millions of voters in an important swing state for free is a big impediment to a presidential campaign.
So Trump asks his buddies over at IZOD to get him this high profile gig, and the fans ain't having it!


And this guy thinks he can get elected President? Yeah, good luck with that.

This story has a happy ending though, as the Festival Committee has chosen someone more fitting to pace this august event. Someone more in line with what the event is all about: one Anthony Joseph Foyt, Jr.. A.J. to his friends and fans. A true living legend.

A.J. Foyt is one of the greatest drivers to ever sit in a race car. The four time Indy 500 winner [the first to do so] raced at a time drivers drove anything and everything and the Indy 500 was part of USAC's racing series that included sprint cars, stock cars, and raced on both paved and dirt tracks. Foyt is one of only a handful of drivers, including Mario Andretti and Tony Stewart to win the championship in all of USAC's main dirt series divisions in the same year.

This is the sort of champion who should be at the wheel of that Chevrolet Camaro pace car Memorial Day weekend.

Now, if only the GOP would tell Trump to take a hike ....

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