MARTINSVILLE, Virginia.Â NASCAR officials have informed representatives of Pope Benedict XVI that he will not be allowed to compete in theÂ Kroger 250Â here next weekend because his vehicle, popularly known as â€œThe Popemobile,â€ violates a number of mandatory specifications.
â€œNASCAR Camping WorldÂ Trucks must have four-speed manual transmissions and minimum 650 horsepower engines,â€ said NASCAR Rules Chairman Wade Bennett.Â â€œThe Popemobile is a two-door Mercedes ML 430 with an automatic tranny, aÂ 272 horsepower engine and an illegal air scoopâ€“end of story.â€
Pope Benedict expressed disappointment with the ruling, and indicated he would appeal.Â â€œEesa notta fair they no letta me ride witha 2007 Rookie of the Year Willie Allen and thee other bad-ass Camping WorldÂ Truck Drivers,â€ the German pontiff said in the bad Italian accent that all popes are required to use under Roman Catholic canon law.Â â€œLetta me tella you, I was ready toÂ whup Ron Hornaday like an ugly stepchild.â€
The NASCAR Camping WorldÂ Truck Series is a season-long competition in which modified production pickup trucks race for points that may beÂ credited against time in Purgatory, a place of temporary punishment where those who die with venial, but not mortal sins on their soulsÂ are made ready for heaven.Â Craftsman Tools terminatedÂ its sponsorship of the race series after the 2008 season, fueling speculation that the Roman Catholic Church would step into the breach, but Camping World outbid the worldâ€™s largest religion.
â€œWe viewÂ the Camping World Truck SeriesÂ as a great tool to reach a demographic where we have trouble drawing parishioners,â€ said Vatican Director of Membership Services Antonio dâ€™Allessandro.Â â€œIt is hard to recruit from socio-economic groups such as NASCAR fans who believe, wrongly I might add, that we are the Anti-Christ.â€
â€œHow come heÂ donâ€™t turn that goofy-looking rig around and git the hell out of here?â€
The truck series is the only NASCAR division that does not permit â€œpit stops,â€ instead using a ten-minute â€œhalftimeâ€ break during which teams can make any changes to their trucks they want.Â â€œIt eesa mucha better for an old man like me,â€ Benedict said.Â â€œI like to take a giant grape Slurpee with me, and thereâ€™s no way I could make it through the Goodyâ€™s Cool Orange 500 without a bathroom break.â€
Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection "Here's to His Holiness: Fake Stories About Real Popes."