Giuliani Hoping NASCAR Fans May Provide an Edge in the Race

By Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 19, 2007

HOMESTEAD, Fla., Nov. 18 -- Now, Rudolph W. Giuliani says, he "really" is a NASCAR fan.

The Republican presidential candidate is better known as a New Yorker, of course, one who as the city's mayor drew admiration associating with quintessentially New York passions -- for attending the Metropolitan Opera and pulling unambiguously for the Yankees.

But now he is playing to a national audience, and if it means the New Yorker has to do NASCAR, the honored Southern pastime with national appeal, well, he proved game.

On Sunday, the Giuliani campaign came to the Homestead-Miami Speedway, past a handful of Confederate flags flying in the parking lot and beyond the Jack Daniel's tent, to attend NASCAR's Ford 400.

"This is our third race this year," he boasted to the assembled dignitaries, who included former heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis, Miss Florida and crew chiefs, shortly before the race.

Then he fawned over the races.

"This is a quintessentially American sport," he told the audience. "It represents the best of America."

Even if his appearance at the race offered obvious political advantages -- Florida is a key early-voting state in the primary schedule -- no one in the room questioned his sincerity.

In some ways, Giuliani and NASCAR fans seem a natural match.

Of 10 people randomly interviewed in and around Section 204, there were two nearly unanimous political opinions: Giuliani seems like a strong leader, particularly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and that anybody was better than Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D), another New York figure, although not by any means a native.

"God bless him!" said Trevor Jeanes, 23, a construction worker with a DeWalt power tools hat and a can of Budweiser in his hand. "He did a damn good job in 9/11. He's the only one I respect in Bush's party."

"Put me down as anybody but Hillary," said Jeff Carroll, 51, a band director at a private school in Fort Lauderdale. "Giuliani could be the president."

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