Presidential candidate Obama to sponsor Cup car at Pocono race
SI.com has learned that for the first time in history, a major presidential candidate may sponsor a race car in NASCAR's premier series. According to sources, Barack Obama's campaign is in talks to become the primary sponsor of BAM Racing's No. 49 Sprint Cup car for the Pocono race on August 3. Details of the agreement are expected to be worked out over the coming days.
A BAM spokesperson has revealed the team will hold a press conference July 23 in Miami to reveal the partnership, currently a proposed one-race deal with an option to continue. Obama will be at the briefing, which will be tied to the "Get Out The Vote" campaign message he spread throughout the 2008 primary season.
Racing sources claim one of the options being considered would allow individual campaign donors to get their name on the race car for as little as $100. Obama will also be present for a second private fundraiser on July 30 in Miami, in which team owners Beth Ann and Tony Morgenthau -- staunch Republicans -- will give the Democrat an opportunity to spread his message of change. Randy Moss and Fergie are among the celebrities confirmed to be a part of that fundraiser in support of the candidate and his venture into NASCAR.
According to sources within the sport, the Association for Diversity in Motorsports (AFDIM) was an integral part of bringing the two camps together. Founded in '01, the organization works to heighten awareness of diversity in all forms of motorsports. They hope to tie their efforts in with a "Driving The Vote: Bridging The Gap" campaign to increase voter registration regardless of party affiliation.
While George Bush was prominently featured on Kirk Shelmerdine's No. 72 car in '04, this is the first time a national presidential campaign has actually given its own money to make itself a primary sponsor of a race car. The sport has typically shown itself to be a Republican stronghold, a trend two-time champ Jimmie Johnson recently alluded to when he said he believed John McCain was the candidate of choice for most NASCAR fans this year.
Ken Schrader will drive the entry, a Toyota, at Pocono for BAM, which is outside the top 35 in owner points and must qualify for the race on speed. The team has run just once since Martinsville due to sponsorship concerns, and has just six top-10 finishes in 167 career starts in the Cup series dating back to '02. According to sources, the team will stick with Toyota after making a switch from Dodge back in the spring.