Circus Town

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There's an old saying that any publicity is good publicity, as long as they spell your name right, or something to that effect.

NASCAR has taken that credo to heart the last several years with drivers showing up in television shows, music videos, movies and just about any other form of media/entertainment imaginable.

"Old school" NASCAR fans have been generally appalled by the approach, which has put racing on the far back burner in favor selling personality.

This method was on display in full force the last two days as NASCAR brought its traveling circus to New York to hype the upcoming "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup."

All ten "Chase" drivers were put through their paces in a wide range of media interview and appearance opportunities that ranged from the ridiculous to even more embarrassing heights.

Take Wednesday night's appearance on "Late Night with David Letterman," when the drivers were trotted out to deliver lines in one of the show's famous "Top Ten Lists."

In short, the Emmy Award committee has nothing to worry about.

In case you missed it (and here's hoping you truly did), here it is:

Things Never Before Said by a NASCAR Driver:

10) Kasey Kahne: "Anyone Know How to Drive a Stick"

9) Jeff Gordon: "Does this gas taste funny to you"

8) Jeff Burton: "I don't care much for country music or beer"

7) Mark Martin: "Switch the "R" and "C" in 'Racing and you get 'Caring'

6) Dale Earnhardt Jr.: "Wow, Letterman Looks so young in person"

5) Denny Hamlin: "You’re looking at a guy who can drive 500 miles without taking a leak"

4) Kyle Busch: "A Truly Great Driver doesn't mind asking for directions, am I right, Ladies?"

3) Kevin Harvick: "It would be nice if the guys in the pits occasionally surprised me with a piece of carrot cake or something"

2) Jimmie Johnson: "The Nextel Cup is great, but what I'm really excited for is The Late Show ventriloquist week"

1) Matt Kenseth: "If You think I'm fast in my car, you should see me in the bedroom"

I prefer Letterman over Leno any day, but that was one of the lamest bits I've seen on the show in a while.

You'd think Letterman, a racing nut who actually owns an IndyCar team would take the time to talk to at least a couple of the drivers about NASCAR, the championship season or this weekend's race in New Hampshire.

It got worse Thursday morning when the boys were trotted over to "Live With Regis and Kelly" to perform more circus tricks.

This time as part of the program's "Guinness Book of Records" show, drivers didn't talk racing, drive go-karts on the streets of New York or play the hosts in a video game. No, they threw pies. That's right, the supposed best racing drivers in the world appeared on national television to hurl baked goods at two hosts who couldn't tell the difference between a NEXTEL Cup and a Dixie cup.

Then they were peppered with inane questions that showed just how little either knew about the sport, rather strange since Jeff Gordon has co-hosted with Kelly at least a half dozen times.

There were other appearances on ESPN's "Cold Pizza" and satellite media tours with local television stations around the country. And maybe there was some actual racing talk as part of a few of those interviews.

But those who think "Talladega Nights" put NASCAR in a bad light with stereotypes and lame humor hadn't seen anything until the last two days in the Big Apple.

If NASCAR and its athletes want to be taken seriously by the mainstream media, they should try to generate a little self-respect. I highly doubt NBA, NFL or Major League Baseball players would be jumping through these kinds of hoops on the eve of their playoff seasons.

But NASCAR drivers don't seem to mind. As long as the organ grinder plays the music, the circus monkeys will dance.

Just make sure they spell their names right.



Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2006

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