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The Biffle Principle

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Greg Biffle
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The Biffle Principle

Bill Crittenden
The Crittenden Automotive Library
March 15, 2007

NASCAR 2007: Cars of Tomorrow, Attitudes of Yesterday

The new NASCAR season is not even a month old, but the NASCAR community has been buzzing with several controversial topics since before the cars took to the track at Daytona for laps that count.  The 2007 season has been a year of change for the Nextel Cup Series, and to put it mildly, some fans are not adapting.

In the midst a verbal dust-up in the northwest, Greg Biffle said something incredibly insightful.  He said, "When you see a zoning thing dug in the ground by your house, and you're OK with that zoning thing, you just don't say anything, right?  You're like, 'OK, that'll be all right.  Yeah, I'm OK with that.'  Whereas the people who are against that new zoning law are all lined up, picketing and screaming, 'Hey, we don't like it!  It sucks.  It's terrible."

"All the people who are in support of the racetrack are excited about it, but they're not saying anything.  They're just coming up to us and saying, 'Hey, when's it gonna happen?  Are we making progress?' Meanwhile, all the people who are against it are voicing their opinions. So all of the legislature and a lot of the people are hearing a lot of the negative, and not all of the positive."

While Greg Biffle's comments were in regards to a race track deal in his home state of Washington, the basic principle (I'll call it The Biffle Principle) applies to other critisicms in the NASCAR world.  There have been many comments lately that cast the sport's fans in a less-than-flattering light, centering around changes NASCAR has been experiencing, particularly in relation to newcomers to NASCAR's top series.  In an application of The Biffle Principle to the fans of NASCAR, those comments are, unfortunately, amplified to the point where the stands at a NASCAR race appear to be populated by a bunch of racist rubes.

This year Japanese auto manufacturer Toyota made its move to the Nextel Cup.  Toyota has actually been competing in NASCAR for quite a few years, originally fielding Celicas in the Goody's Dash Series and then Tundras in the Craftsman Truck Series.  They found success in the trucks, the Tundra being the truck of choice for 2006 series Champion Todd Bodine.

However, 2007 is the first year for Toyota in NASCAR's top series, and just as the competition has increased dramatically, so too has the volume from the critics.  Basically, all the criticism centers around the fact that Toyota is a Japanese manufactuer - nothing else.

The fact that it's the only car in this most American type of racing whose street counterpart is actually manufactured in the United States should bring Toyota some sympathy with NASCAR fans and shame to the other manufacturers in the series.  Two of the "American" street cars mimicked for Nextel Cup use are manufactured in Canada and the other in Mexico.  Motor Trend calls the Camry, "a car designed for, and made in, America, with American tastes in mind."  Toyota employs many Americans and is adding more vehicle-building capacity here in the United States at a time when the Detroit manufacturers are laying off American workers.  Not to mention Toyota's investment in NASCAR.

While I've heard a few quiet supporters, mostly I've heard countless variations of, "Toyota doesn't belong in NASCAR," and a few times, "send them back to Japan."  Those are only the most printable of the comments.  Now, having an interest in history I know Americans had a less-than-flattering name for the Japanese people during World War II.  What I didn't know is that I'd be hearing this word in the present day to describe the people at Toyota.  That sort of comment sticks with a person, much more so than seeing some quietly saying, "OK, that'll be all right" by wearing a Michael Waltrip hat.

Japan isn't the only country newly represented in the Nextel Cup now.  Columbia made its presence felt when Juan Pablo Montoya left Formula 1 to rejoin Ganassi Racing, his team when he won the Indianapolis 500.  This is a move that brings international attention to NASCAR.  Juan Pablo Montoya is a world-class race car driver whose Formula 1 career was more successful than most, with 7 Grand Prix wins to his record.

It's major news, enough so that Car and Driver did a nice piece on the it and Juan Pablo, and how are NASCAR fans represented?  A reference to a caller to a radio show that called Mr. Montoya "a coffee-bean-picking foreigner."  This isn't some minor isolated incident being blown up by a magazine editor with an agenda, it's just the most colorful example I've read.  The commentary at the popular Infield Parking (www.infieldparking.com) Forums prompted one user to write, "I'm really starting to wonder about why all the hate for Montoya."

Greg Biffle is right.  I know from personal experiences at NASCAR events, and in conversations with NASCAR fans that racism and bias is not the norm in the stands.  But that's who is getting the attention these days, because they're the ones speaking out the most.  As such, the rest of NASCAR's fans need to take some of Greg Biffle's advice and speak up.  I'll say that I'm glad Juan Pablo Montoya is here, for the worldwide attention he brings to the sport and for upping the level of talent in the field.  I'm glad Toyota is in the Nextel Cup, continuing to invest in America, which is more than can be said for the manufacturers actually based in Detroit.

NASCAR fans need to call the bias out and let people know that their ignorance does not speak for all NASCAR fans.  Because if nobody does, it will.

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