July 11th, 2008
04:00 PM ET
10 years ago

Analysis: NASCAR and politics, novel but not new

 CNN's Mark Preston at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Obama and McCain are vying for the support of the tens of millions of race car enthusiasts – fans that would fill the stands of venues such as the hallowed grounds at Indy. Credit: CNN’s Alec Miran.

CNN's Mark Preston at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Obama and McCain are vying for the support of the tens of millions of race car enthusiasts – fans that would fill the stands of venues such as the hallowed grounds at Indy. Credit: CNN’s Alec Miran.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – The political and sporting worlds collided Friday afternoon when CNN's sister publication, Sports Illustrated, reported that Barack Obama is considering sponsoring a car in a NASCAR race next month.

Oh, but not any NASCAR event. Obama's name could whiz by at speeds of 150 to 200 mph before 100,000 or more fans at Pocono Raceway in the electoral rich state of Pennsylvania (21 votes). You might remember that Obama lost Pennsylvania to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary, a defeat that was seen as another example of his problem with attracting support from so-called blue-collar, white voters.

Obama has vowed to run a 50-state campaign with a specific emphasis on states such as Georgia, North Carolina, and Indiana. It is fair to say that these three states have a healthy share of white, blue-collar NASCAR and Indy Racing fans.

Should Obama decide to sponsor a car, it would certainly be a novel idea but not a new one. Political junkies will remember that Democratic presidential candidate Bob Graham plastered his name across the side of a truck in 2003 that ran in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Graham was successful in his efforts to gain attention, but failed in his bid for the White House.

But isn't exposure what this is all about? If Obama decides to do it, he will get great media attention for entering the world of NASCAR, and not just from the pack of political journalists following the race – that is, the race for the White House. But also from sports reporters and commentators, who cover the race – that is auto racing. Not a bad way to reach out to voters who may not be following the campaign on a daily basis.

Last year, the Conservative Party of Canada sponsored a car in the Canadian Tire NASCAR Series. At the time, Jim Flaherty, a Conservative Party member of Parliament, acknowledged that emblazoning his party's political logo across the hood of a race car was a way to reach out to voters.

"The Conservative Party supports Canadians that work hard, pay their taxes and play by the rules and those are the same Canadians that watch sports like NASCAR," Flaherty said.

I suspect that Obama's campaign is thinking the same thing.

Oh, and by the way, Obama won't be the only name racing in race fans' minds. John McCain's presidential campaign is sending his wife Cindy to Tennessee this weekend for the Firestone 200 IndyCar Race at the Nashville Superspeedway.

We haven't heard much about NASCAR dads this election cycle. I suspect that is about to change.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (65 Responses)
  1. Ron democrat turned independent

    talk about lobbyist's, this man obama spent his way to a nomination which he barely won, now he is trying to buy the white house. some of you may have noticed sen.obama will spare no expenses or promises while lobbying for your vote what he is doing is no different than what lobbyist do they promote their own self interests you can color it any way you want but it comes out the same. I'll do this for you if you do this for me. to say he is different than any other politician is hypocritical

    July 11, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  2. Rose

    I do not support Obama but if I did and made a donation to his campaign, I would be upset with the spending to sponsor a Nascar event. What an ego this guy has.

    July 11, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  3. Marie

    I am wondering if this gesture is not a result of a remark made by Tom Brokow an MSNBC. Tom said he loves NASCAR and he would love to take a poll to see how many people there would actually vote for Obama. The two opposing quest seemed surprised by his remark and the nasty way he said it. Being that Obama will not back down from a challenge, it doesn't surprise me. Fearless Leader!

    July 11, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  4. Kristie L., TX

    Hey MDB, incase you have been held up in a cave for the past few months, Gordon and Dale Jr. both race for Hendricks. Ofcourse, Gordon does own half of the 48, but then we were not talking about "teams", just suggestions about what cars I thought Senator Obama should sponsor for a race with his name. Now if you really want to go head to head with someone who will make you look like the insecure person you must be, and talk "statistics", I will turn this over to my husband who will make you look a fool for all the world to see. P.S. I am proud to be supporting Senator Obama, thank you very much.

    July 11, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  5. Dan , TX

    Obama should get his name out there. So many people have never yet heard of him and know nothing about him. They need to know he is a common sense centrist, always has been.

    He's always said we can disagree without being disagreeable. That we can find compromise, even if you don't get everything you want, we can still move forward. The liberals think he is too conservative. The conservatives think he's too liberal. That ought to tell you he's right on. Ask the old statesmen, they'll tell you Obama is the one. Go ask Brent Scowcroft – George Bush senior's National Security Advisor. He's for Obama. I heard him talk at Texas A&M and he agrees with Obama – the Iraq war was a dumb war that ignored the historical lessons that we should have known.

    July 11, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  6. Kate

    Wow, some of these comments are interesting. NASCAR is a sport and by doing this Obama is appealing to many votes in the area of that sport. It seems to be a good campaign tactic for gaining votes.
    As for a oil/fuel consuming sport. I think, in that area NASCAR's use of fuel is the least of our worries – maybe Americans should be worried about how much the everyday citizen is using and focus on that. For NASCAR there is no alternate fuel plan that would not utimately change the whole sport. But, fuel plans for the everyday citizen and other fuel using occupations is effective and useful. People, try not to point figures. The are other ways for America to use less fuel- you don't have to attack NASCAR.

    July 11, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |

    MDB – he's sponsoring a car, not making a bet – you Idiot.

    Proceeds from the race (some of them) will go to Charity !!!! – you idiot.

    July 11, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |

    Somebody needs to inform Obama that black people don't go to NASCAR races!!!

    July 11, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  9. Amy

    Please don't! Nothing against NASCAR, but with rising fuel costs and global warming, I don't think this would be a wise move for the man who wants to lead the world on environmental issues.....and what a waste of money! It would be better spent on a home for a Katrina victim or help for the midwest flood victims. There are other ways to woo the blue collar voters.

    July 11, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  10. keith Franklin, Tn

    Obama should skip this event. When you have a driver like Jimmy Johnson come out and say he is for McCain like "most" Nascar fans, it truly shows how ignorant some people are. Most of the fanbase is blue-collar and the GOP has done NOTHING to help blue collar workers.

    McSame will be the same. When will people wake up and see we need "CHANGE".

    Ignorance is bliss!!!

    By the way, I am no longer a Jimmie Johnson fan....naturally he is for the GOP who helps people like rich race car drivers skip paying taxes.

    July 11, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  11. Michigan for Obama

    Charlotte, please don't write in Clinton. It was the people, not the party, that chose Obama, and if you throw your vote away we will end up with 8 more years of Bush. Please reconsider! This election is too important for anyone to stay home, or for anyone to make their vote a "protest" vote.

    July 11, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  12. red33,cedar rapids, ia

    Isn't this 'special'.....Obama getting into Nascar; my hubby loves Nascar, and I don't think this is going to change his mind about who he supports.

    July 11, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  13. Joyce Becker

    I'm not a race car fan, a lot of people are and if it means votes for Obama, I say Go Obama Go!!!!

    July 11, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  14. Cheryll

    Out side the box?? Outside of decency for a presidential campaign that is taking the high road!! Oh, that's right...Obama is nothing but a marketing strategy... He is so fake he makes Michael Jackson's face surgeries look authentic ...This guy is definitely the one for the mentally challenged in reality..

    July 11, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  15. Ellie in Aurora, CO

    I just LOVE it when morons call Obama a moron! You don't get to be head of the Harvard Law Review by being a moron. If you Obama haters we even a quarter as smart as Obama, you would recognize how good he will be for the country. God, we need a smart president!!

    July 11, 2008 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  16. Carole/independent

    Maybe he can smoke and snort in the pits for old times sake.

    July 11, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  17. DJ, LA, CA

    Sports and politics shouldn't mix...but I can understand the marketing reasons behind it.

    Funny how McCain was booed by his hometown at a recent Diamondbacks baseball game.

    July 11, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  18. No McCain!

    I don't like NASCAR, I say get rid of it to save oil for god's sake!

    Obama '08

    July 11, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  19. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia in CA

    This is just getting dumber and dumber.

    Keep pushing us away Obama. Politics as usual.

    July 11, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  20. ladawn

    i dont understand why people hate barack??from everything he does or says, people are quick to say he flip-flops or that hes arrogant. this is a marketing tool...everyone does some sort of marketing when running for president. oh, because he didnt do it the old political way with negative smear tv ads? come on, we need a different approach in politics, and that is what he promised and that is exactly what he is doing....hey CHARLOTTE...get off baracks nuts and go figure with ur copy and pasted blog....head it before

    July 11, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  21. ladawn

    hey NO OBAMA....so what if blacks dont go to NASCAR events, its a form of marketing/advertising, for those who dont know barack. he has 90% of the black vote already, whatgenius you are. i am quite sure people like you faulted and voted against kerry for not being more personal, and letting everyone know who he was...now that barack is trying to get his name out and a glimpse into his family, and people like you wanna say hes arrogant. go figure, this is the new form of politics...not the old politics in washington. this is fresh where even younger generations can relate to....if its too hot in the kitch get the hell out...and this goes to all those who hate on barack and say he is arrogant.

    July 11, 2008 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  22. Rave

    McCain is soooooooo Gay

    July 11, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  23. Victor in Saanich, B.C. Canada

    Why not?? Race cars have a gas exhaust. We know politicians have a gas exhaust as well!! There just might be an ongoing methane gas supply within the Washington beltway n'est pas!!

    July 11, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  24. PCS / North Carolina

    Charlotte July 11th, 2008 5:12 pm ET

    "Voting is a freedom we cannot afford to lose. We fought for it, we deserve the right to vote however we choose. DO NOT STAY HOME on election day."

    Vote McCain, and you will not see another election. McSame is clueless about the economy, we will be bought out by India, China and Mideast !!!

    July 11, 2008 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  25. PCS / North Carolina

    NO OBAMA wrote July 11th, 2008 6:04 pm ET

    "Somebody needs to inform Obama that black people don't go to NASCAR races!!!"

    When some NASCAR fanatics wave confederate flags, you think it is easy for black people to go races !!

    July 11, 2008 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
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