The Senate campaign of Florida Rep. Kendrick Meek is the lead sponsor of a NASCAR vehicle.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)
(CNN) - NASCAR stock cars have long been traveling billboards for motor oil, whiskey, even mayonnaise and trashbags, but one of the cars whizzing Saturday along the Daytona International Speedway was a marketing vehicle for a politician.
NASCAR's official kickoff to its season at the racetrack included a marketing vehicle for U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Florida.
"There are a number of businesses that benefit from the presence of this race," Meek, who calls himself a longtime NASCAR fan, told CNN in a trackside interview. "I want to be a part of it, and I want to be able to reach out to the NASCAR world and let them know that I'm a part of it."
Meek was the lead sponsor of driver Mike Wallace's race car in the sport's second-tier Nationwide series race, which began the weekend ahead of Sunday's Daytona 500.
Meek is running for the seat of retiring Sen. George Lamieux, R-Florida, who served as a "caretaker" for the seat vacated by former Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Florida, last year.
Political candidates frequently court the NASCAR vote at the race track during an election year, and some have sponsored cars before. But with NASCAR's Southern roots and fans who are typically considered to be politically conservative, it's an unusual move for a Democrat.
"I think you're seeing Kendrick Meek, who is thinking ouside of the box," said Wallace, talking up his sponsor. "What better place when you're running for a Senate seat in the State of Florida than to come to Daytona for the first race of the season."
Meek needs the attention. Election prognosticators think a Republican will likely win the election, and they are focused on what promises to be an exciting GOP primary battle between Florida Governor Charlie Crist and former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio.