Drivers cite long-standing conflicts as reasons for declining Obama invitationhttp://aol.sportingnews.com/nascar/stor ... invitation
Greg Biffle was incensed by reports Friday that he had rebuffed an invitation from President Barack Obama to visit the White House.
In fact, Biffle and the other three drivers (Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards) who declined the president’s invitation cited long-standing conflicts as reasons they couldn’t attend this Wednesday’s gathering for Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and the rest of last year’s Chase drivers.
“First of all, I’ll say that I’m disgusted by the comments I see, where people say we rejected (the invitation),” Biffle said. “For one, that’s disrespectful from people not knowing why I can’t go. No. 2, I’ve got a picture of myself and the president—Barack Obama—in my bookshelf in my office, right behind my desk, shaking hands at the White House.
“I’ve been there. I’ve done that, and I respect that, and I was very flattered to get the invitation. I got the invitation less than two weeks ago. I’ve got a function that I’m obligated to be at with (primary sponsor) 3M in Minnesota that they’ve had planned for basically nine months. It’s an annual thing. They have over a hundred and some of their business people and customers (there) for three days. I’ve got to be there for two days.”
Biffle said he called 3M to discuss the invitation. Company executives stressed to the driver of the No. 16 Ford how important the convocation is—and 3M pays the bills for Biffle’s team at Roush Fenway Racing.
“The function is designed around me, and they can’t have it if I don’t go,” Biffle said. “If I hadn’t been (to the White House) and hadn’t met him—and the handshake and hadn’t been in the Oval Office before—I might try and chisel my sponsor a little harder to let me go. And I don’t want to put it on them. It’s simply an obligation that I accepted long before this.
“A lot of times we can move our schedules around, depending on what it might be, but when you have people coming from other countries that are planning on meeting you and being with you for a day and a half, it’s really hard to change it.”
Harvick and Stewart declined to specify their conflicts but said the schedule and the lateness of their invitations made changing plans impossible.
“This time of year there’s a lot going on, and most everything that we do is scheduled months in advance,” Harvick said. “I’ve been to the White House before, and it’s an honor just to go to the White House and be in the Oval Office and just on the premises at the White House.
“I understand the honor and things. Just with everything we have going right now, there’s no way possible to reschedule the things we have going next week.”
Harvick declined to elaborate.
“I don’t think that’s anybody’s business,” he said. “It’s just one of those things where we have so many things going on that particular week, leading up to the Chase, it’s just a bad week for us to be committed to changing more than one thing to go up the day before we have to be in Richmond.”
Stewart said his situation is similar.
“We had an obligation that we have to fulfill,” Stewart said. “I’ve enjoyed every trip that I’ve been invited and very honored to be invited every time we’ve had that opportunity, and I’m very sorry I’m going to miss the chance to go again, because there’s a lot of people in this nation that would love to have that opportunity to spend time with the president and just have a couple of minutes of his time.
“I’m very regretful that I’m not going to be able to make it, but it’s a tough schedule that we have, and if I could have rescheduled and got the scheduling to work out, I would have been there in a heartbeat, because I’ve not missed one yet.”
Edwards also has an unspecified long-standing conflict, but as a member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, he and other athletes on the council meet with the president once a quarter.
NASCAR’s release announcing the White House visit listed Kurt Busch among those who would not attend because of a conflict. Busch, however, said Friday at Atlanta that he was going to the White House and had intended to do so all along. It was just a matter of rearranging his schedule, Busch said.These drivers are taking heat from NASCAR and some fans that they should go visit the President and I think that NASCAR has forgotten that one of the goals is to keep their sponsors happy as they pay the bills. One of the other things is that two of these drivers are owners and they have better things to do. They were given less than 2 weeks notice and were expected to drop everything they were doing to attend this dinner honoring Jimmie Johnson. I think some of these drivers are getting tired of all the different dinners honoring Jimmie Johnson. I know I am. I know from a lot of the facebook posts that a lot of the fans are too. You know another thing is that when the President makes plans to go somewhere on a trip, he does not do it with less than two weeks notice in most cases. It takes weeks and sometimes months of preparation. Also notice that this is being done on the same night as the republican debate, the night that he wanted to address Congress. So pardon me if I find this a little too coincidental.