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Dropping the puck for the Auto Club 400

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Tue, Mar 17, 2015

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


NASCAR racer Kevin Harvick drops the first puck at the LA Kings game (Juan Ocampo - NHLI)

By Brian Kennedy If you’re trying to attract people to a sporting event, a relatively expensive one at that, what do you do? Well, let them know about it. To that end, the NASCAR folks are working hard ahead of their 400-mile racing coming up in Fontana on Saturday. I’ve seen billboards up around LA, particularly out towards the track, which is 40 miles west of Pasadena, so pretty far out in what’s known here as the “Inland Empire.” And on Monday night at the LA Kings NHL game, Kevin Harvick dropped the first puck. That’s not an accident—he is friends with the team’s dominant offensive player, Jeff Carter. But the question is, did people care? Most, I would venture to say, could walk past Harvick in the grocery store and not know who he was. I would have liked to have gotten his opinion, but my request to his press people was met with an email that said they weren’t doing media at the game. That would have to wait until Friday. But this question needs to be answered ahead of the weekend, so I took to another method. The nonsense that is Twitter. I tweeted out the question “How many of you care that Harvick of NASCAR fame is dropping the first puck?” Friend Dennis Bernstein, who has about 17,000 twitter followers, “retweeted” the question. So there were plenty of eyeballs on it. We got five responses. “I was at the race in Phoenix. Hope the Kings are as dominant as he was!!” “Not a big NASCAR fan but went to the race in Phoenix last year. Harvick tore it up. Cool that he's a hockey fan.” “Doesn't bother me. Synergy.” “Hell yes it matters. Embrace it; guy is from Bako and a good man. Give him a huge ovation; He is a california guy. “Was just in Vegas watching him win and am a fan of StewartHass racing.” (I’ve grammar edited them—Twitter’s not exactly the place for the best punctuation.)


Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman at the Sprint Cup Ford EcoBoost 400 (Patrick Smith - Getty Images)

So what does this tell us? That there are some people who like the sport, and none that care enough to express their indifference. On the other hand, if you’re looking to measure the impact of Harvick’s efforts, I think you’d have a hard time getting a blip on the meter. There was a cheer when he came on the ice, but more respectful than excited by the sounds of it. They announced him as the “reigning Sprint Cup champion,” but honestly, I’m not sure everyone in the arena knew what that meant. They did mention his team and his car number, but that was met essentially with silence. Think of it this way. You’re reading this right now. That means you must have some interest in racing, perhaps in NASCAR. What team is he with? What car? What number? What sponsor? Those facts would roll off the tongue of most hardcore fans, naturally. Back to the Kings game. Would this be the reaction to the star in another sport? Say to someone from the local baseball franchise? Unlikely. The local soccer franchise? Now you’re approaching the level of indifference. And before you rush to say, “But he’s not from here,” note that Harvick is, though he’s probably pretty far from his Bakersfield roots by this point in his life. His life, his businesses, and his considerable wealth are in the South, one would assume Anyway, how did Harvick do with his ceremonial puck drop? He did fine. He trotted out to center ice with a Kings logo hoodie on, and jeans. The puck was ready in his hand. He waited until the photos were taken, and he did the drop. Captain Dustin Brown of the Kings picked the puck up and handed it to him. He waved to the crowd. And he trotted off again. What I saw from the press box was a relatively slight man in Harvick. He was certainly dwarfed by the two hockey players who took the faceoff. Hard to believe that in that little body is the heart to go 200mph, given the risks that come with that. Sure NASCAR’s safer now than ever, but the baby Busch did just sustain leg breaks in an accident, and just when you say “racing’s safe now” (which nobody ever does, out of superstition), bad voodoo happens. So call it what you will, it’s not “stock car” racing, but what Harvick and the other 42 on a given Sunday do is more than what humans should. For that alone, seeing him at the hockey game was a thrill that I would have hoped would be shared by the 18,000-plus who were there. That it probably wasn’t is too bad. And maybe, just maybe, having him there did a little something to spark people’s interest in the races taking place this Saturday and Sunday in Fontana. Read Brian Kennedy's Auto Club 400: How to Make NASCAR Revelant Again For more information about the Auto Club 400, click here.

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