Summer Olympics could use horsepower boost

It seemed preposterous several years ago when the president of Texas Motor Speedway wanted auto racing among the sports included in a proposal by Dallas to host the 2012 Summer Olympics.

But after a week of watching the Beijing Games, the personable and publicity-hungry Eddie Gossage might have been on to something.

Why not add horsepower to the Olympics? It already has horses (equestrian).

How popular internationally are team handball, water polo and synchronized diving?

If the modern Olympics can include a picnic sport like badminton and a basement activity like table tennis, then why not auto racing?

Kids all over the world race something, from go-karts to camels. Auto manufacturing is worldwide, no longer limited to Detroit.

It’s unlikely Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart or Jeff Gordon ever will wear red, white and blue and parade into an Olympic venue as the U.S. racing team. But the Olympics and NASCAR share similarities. Here are a few:

NEBULOUS RULES — NASCAR has its perplexing use of “debris” cautions when needed to keep a driver from running away from the field; Olympics has a new gymnastics scoring system that is as clear as Beijing’s polluted air.

CRIME — The stabbing of a fan a few weeks ago at the Sprint Cup race at Pocono was topped by the stabbing death of the father-in-law of the U.S. men’s volleyball coach. Senseless violence knows no boundaries.

OVEREXPOSED MOMS — An international crisis. The edge still goes to Cup driver Carl Edwards’ mother, but swimmer Michael Phelps’ mom is closing in despite appearances only every four years.

SUPERSTARS — Earnhardt in a car; Phelps in a pool.

Phelps would be a perfect marketing tool for a race team. Imagine how many sponsor logos could fit on a driving suit for Phelps, who has a 6-foot-7-inch wingspan.

And frankly, I’m beginning to overdose on Phelps like I did with Earnhardt last year.

PRODUCT PLACEMENT — It would seem that nothing could touch NASCAR for most obnoxious positioning of sponsors’ products and/or logos in Victory Lane.

That was until some beach volleyball players popped the lenses out of their Oakley sunglasses because they were fogging up but kept wearing the logo-emblazoned frames.

ANALYST CONFLICT — Darrell Waltrip works for Fox but endorses Toyota in commercials, and his brother Mikey owns a Cup team; Bela Karolyi’s wife, Martha, directs the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, and they operate a gymnastics school.

Being unbiased for some experts is a rarity in NASCAR and U.S. Olympic coverage.

ANNOUNCER-SPEAK — Watching synchronized diving, I learned that competitors were trying to “find vertical.” What else do you expect when you jump off a platform 33 feet above the water?

Racing’s equivalent is saying a driver “came to race.” Isn’t that what happens when someone shows up with a helmet and a race car at a racetrack?

DELICACIES — Tastes vary, but exotic food is a staple: fried scorpions in Beijing, fried Twinkies in NASCAR.

TRANSLATORS — Understanding foreign competitors makes those with multilingual skills a mainstay at the Olympics. Translators also were needed in NASCAR when Ward Burton competed.

There are, however, aspects of the Olympics that NASCAR can learn from.

If an American of African descent can swim on a gold medal-winning U.S. relay team, don’t you think a black driver has the talent to compete full time in NASCAR?

The playing of the winner’s national anthem highlights gold medal ceremonies. NASCAR should begin playing the race winner’s state song in Victory Lane.

That would mean this year at Cup races “Viva Las Vegas” would have been played nine times thanks to native sons Kyle Busch winning eight times and brother Kurt winning once.

“Home Means Nevada” is our official state song, but it doesn’t fit our culture today as well as the Elvis tune.

When “Viva” plays, everyone can place a hand over their billfolds.

And their ears.

Jeff Wolf’s motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at 383-0247 or Visit Wolf’s motor sports blog at throughout the week.

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