When I became so disgusted with politics during the last presidential primaries, I was fortunate to find NASCAR to feel equally as passionate about. I discovered, though, that there were more similarities between the two "sports" than I would ever have imagined.
There are remarkable resemblances between our drivers and the presidential candidates. We have our quirky little driver who doesn't ever really expect to be the champion. He participates to deliver a message. If Robbie Gordon was a presidential candidate, he'd be Ron Paul. He has an almost cult-like following of fans who admire his non-conformist integrity.
We have a female driver, who gets both more and less credit than she deserves, being lauded or dismissed, based on her gender alone. If Danica Patrick were a presidential candidate, she'd be every female who has ever run for that office.
We have a driver who is smooth, handsome and articulate. He's also extremely business savvy, as shown in the way he handled his own contract negotiations. Sponsors/donors love him. While others have difficulty finding $$$, Carl's coffers overflow with contributions. He almost comes across as being a little too perfect to be true. If Carl Edwards was a presidential candidate, he'd be Mitt Romney.
We have a driver who is funny and bright and talented but so low-key it is easy for both fans/voters and sponsor/donors to overlook him. If Matt Kenseth was a presidential candidate, he'd be Jon Huntsman.
We have a driver who has already won the title but wants to prove that he can repeat. He makes winning look pretty effortless. He is cool and analytical but many fans don't like those qualities, which they consider altogether too vanilla. If Jimmie Johnson was a presidential candidate, he'd be Barack Obama (although I doubt if he'd appreciate the comparison, NASCAR drivers mostly being Republicans).
We have two brothers who are driven, creative and occasionally brilliant on the track but who sometimes fall prey to losing their tempers and their minds. If the Busch brothers were presidential candidates, they be Newt Gingrich.
I'm not sure who I'd cast as Rick Santorum, who calls himself the Jesus candidate. Trevor Bayne comes closest to being as openly devout as Santorum although he doesn't seem quite as hard-edged and hard-hearted about it.
We have presidential wannabes that never quite make it into contender territory. If David Ragan and Brian Vickers and A. J. Allmendinger were presidential candidates, they'd be Tim Pawlenty or Mitch Daniels or Michelle Bachman (which isn't to say, they might not make a more credible run at it in some future Chase/election.
We have drivers who've been given a head start by family. John Menard (billionaire) meet Jon Huntsman, Sr (billionaire). Romney family fortune meet Earnhardt family fortune. Of course, the money helps a lot but it doesn't seal the deal. You have to do that with your own performance.
We have the NASCAR media, which like the political media, is often wrong in its predictions. Fortunately, unlike politics, the NASCAR media can't actually influence who wins races.
The individual races are like the primaries. Win a few races/states and collect enough delegates/points and you can move on to the championship run and fight to become the Champion/President.
The final race is as suspenseful as election night if the participants appear to be locked into a close battle and one of them isn't running away in the points/polls.
And we fans/voters pour our hearts into rooting for our favorite drivers/candidates. We think the future of NASCAR/America is riding on them. In the end, they win or lose but either way, the sport and the nation just keep rolling along.