Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!

Four words. The four most famous words in motorsports. It's considered a great honor to be asked to say those four words, "Gentlemen, Start your Engines!" And for each of NASCAR races, someone of some significance is asked to say them.

This week, for the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway, the President of the United States was asked to do the honors. After all, he is from Texas, so it makes sense. But regardless of what I think of George W. Bush personally, or politically, I was greatly disappointed in how he handled the honor.

The first and most obvious reason was that he didn't even bother to show up at the track. And he didn't even do it live. He sent in a pre-recoded video tape. Yes, I know he's the most powerful man in the country, being the commander-in-chief of the world's only remaining superpower. But if he wasn't going to have time to fly to Texas and say those four magic words in person, maybe he should have declined the invitation. After all, he was asked to throw out the first pitch at a baseball game in Cincinnati between the Reds and the Cubs, and he had to make the time to fly to that event, along with his bevy of secret service personnel. Then again, I doubt he could get the ball over the plate at the "Great American Ball Park" if he had to throw it all the way from Washington. But to me, sending a pre-recorded video tape of him giving the command just doesn't cut it. He should have been there. He should have found time in his schedule to attend the event. He could have easily made it part of one of his many "vacations" he takes at his ranch in Texas.

The second reason for my disappointment was the fact that he only needed to say four words. That's it. When someone is asked to say "Gentlemen, start your engines," then that's all they need to say. I didn't tune into the pre-race ceremonies to listen to a presidential speech. Save that for the State of the Union. If we need someone to thank the track president, the staff, and all the others involved in the race, there's another time to do that. Not during the command to start the race.

And of course, the last reason I was disappointed in Bush's rendition of the command, was this; if you've been given the honor of giving the command, at least do it with a little enthusiasm! Bush looked and sounded board with the whole thing. He was obviously reading his "speech" from a teleprompter, so maybe he was trying not to doze off by the end. I know I have that problem when I'm reading. Or maybe the Oval Office makes him sleepy, I don't know. But by the time he got to the four words he was asked to say in the first place, he seemed to have completely run out of steam, like a car blowing it's engine 5 laps from the end of the race. He had nothing left by the time he reached the end, and left the command sounding deflated. It's the beginning of the race. It should be exciting. It should be energizing. It shouldn't be flat as a blown tire. And that's the way it sounded Sunday afternoon in Texas.

Published on April 10, 2006 in