Published November 20, 2014
Want to get into the NASCAR All-Star Race? Better come up with a unique way to campaign for votes.
That's one way that drivers outside the current field have been entertaining both themselves and their fans in recent years.
In 2006, Kyle Petty and sponsor Coca-Cola embarked on a campaign to "Vote Kyle, Reward Victory Junction" as a fundraiser for the family's camp for chronically ill children. Petty not only vowed to donate all race winnings if he made it into the all-star event, but his sponsors also promised a minimum $250,000 donation if he was in the field. A rally was held in which Michael Waltrip was named campaign manager and seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Richard Petty and the Charlotte mayor spoke.
Petty was voted into the event.
In 2007, there was the "Vote for Kenny" campaign embarked upon by fan favorite Kenny Wallace. The multi-faceted campaign included a logo on the hood of Wallace's Furniture Row Racing car at the race at Darlington Raceway - highlighting Wallace in front of the American flag.
It worked. Wallace was voted into the event.
Since then, social media have altered the campaigning, but many drivers are trying to bolster their shot at getting into the field.
Chief among those is Michael Waltrip Racing's Martin Truex Jr., who's having a little fun with the concept through a series of YouTube videos. Truex knows what it is like to be voted into the event, carrying the fan ballot in 2005.
Now, he's enjoying making the videos in the midst of the hectic pace of the Cup season.
"We appreciate them and obviously we understand that they appreciate what we do. ... It feels good," he says of getting voted in previously.
As to this "campaign," he says it's just all in fun.
"Yeah, that's all it is really," he says. "It's a lot of fun to do it. We've done a few little things. ... Just interacting with the fans and getting them to be a part of it. They get really excited if they guy they voted for gets in the race so it's pretty good for everybody."
Especially the guy who gets voted in, as evidenced by Kasey Kahne in 2008. He was voted into the all-star race - and went on to win it.
Now, drivers - or sometimes their public relations teams - are putting information on Twitter, Facebook and through other mediums concerning plans for their donations or other campaign aspects. Roush Fenway Racing's Carl Edwards, whose sponsor Aflac has launched the "Quack the Vote" campaign, would donate his share of the purse to Speedway Children's Charities should he win the race. Elliott Sadler would donate half of his to Paralyzed Veterans of America.
And Scott Speed. Well, he went in a slightly different direction - one sure to rally numerous fans into his corner. He tweeted that he planned to throw a pie in the face of friend Kyle Busch if he won the fan vote. Busch's response?
"Well, he started putting that out there publicly without asking me," he said. "And, I figured OK, whatever. It doesn't bother me. I think I'll have him start paying for more dinners and maybe some more other things in order to pay me back for it. ... Whatever gets him in the All-Star race. I'll be sure to try to help him out as best I can."
Others, though, are taking a different approach. While all acknowledge it would be an honor and a privilege to be voted into the field by their fans, some drivers just aren't in the campaigning mood. They were hoping to win the right to race in Saturday night's event - and planned to just let things work out as they will - without an organized campaign on their end.
"It doesn't mean that it wouldn't mean a lot to me if the fans voted me in, but I'm not asking for the vote," said RCR's Jeff Burton, the man who has consistently come closest to winning a race this season, at Darlington. "...I'm embarrassed we are not in it and that is really where I am."