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Racing can help repair economy

Times are tough for so many of our neighbors that it’s petty to worry or whine about the financial state of motor sports except for those who have lost jobs in racing.

Sports is a microcosm of society. Leagues, series, teams and athletes can play leadership roles in turning around the economy.

The auto industry is so destitute, Tiger Woods and General Motors mutually agreed to a divorce this week, freeing GM of Woods’ reported $7 million annual contract a year before it was to expire.

President-elect Barack Obama has asked Americans to prepare for sacrifices as the economy is certain to worsen.

Woods could take a step forward in that march of fiscal patriotism by offering his services free of charge to continue selling Buicks for a couple of years.

That’s the attitude the racing industry should take. Heated competition among teams could transition to a level of cooperation that will serve racing and the country.

Motor sports fans need to support a new patriotism and certainly not follow the action of the Indy Racing League, once the country’s mightiest series.

The IRL recently announced that its IndyCar Series has made South America’s APEX-Brasil its official ethanol supplier. The series began using corn-based ethanol in 2006 in an environmentally friendly, “green” move.

The great patriots at the IRL, however, have shunned American-made ethanol except for the Iowa Corn 250, where U.S.-made ethanol can be used. It comes at a time when alternative fuels — especially those produced in the United States — are a linchpin in efforts to make this country energy independent.

That decision based on green — as in the color of money — should lead to a boycott of next year’s Indianapolis 500. To import ethanol to fuel a race on a weekend that honors those who have died for this country is treasonous in these challenging times.

The series that once stood alone in racing for being “green” is red-faced now.

The IRL should not be permitted to continue using red, white and blue in its logo.

If it loves Brazil so much, then it should switch to green, blue and yellow — the colors of that country’s flag.

We must work together in motor sports to help win our domestic money wars.

NASCAR’s decision to ban testing in its three national and two regional series made a statement about its intention to curb expenses. Now the burden falls on team owners to publicly agree to ban all testing, not just at NASCAR-sanctioned tracks.

It’s the honorable thing to do.

NASCAR and the tracks remain the big financial winners after each Sprint Cup race. They should agree to share the cost of opening each Cup track the day before a race weekend for testing and practice. Don’t charge the teams, and use it as a promotional media day.

NASCAR certainly is feeling a pinch from sponsorship cutbacks.

Tracks also will feel the impact from lower ticket sales next year and difficulty in landing — and keeping — free-spending sponsors.

A perfect example of how sponsors can help support the industry will be shown by Camping World, the new series sponsor for the NASCAR truck series. Marcus Lemonis, chief executive for Camping World, said in a recent interview on Sirius radio that he wants to display trucks made by Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and Toyota at his 75 stores across the country.

It’s that level of free support that more sponsors need to explore.

The wizards of racing need to direct their creativity toward saving money and jobs as they work toward finding an extra mile per hour.

It’s time for a resurgence of American ingenuity, and let it extend from the engine room to the board room.

• SEE YOU ONLINE — This will be my last column of the year in the printed version of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Visit lvrj.com/blogs/heavypedal each Friday and throughout December.

Jeff Wolf’s motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0247 or jwolf@reviewjournal.com.

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