Former NASCAR driver Jeff Hammond beat Darrell Waltrip this morning on a SEGA Daytona USA video game at Streeters sports bar and billiard parlor in Traverse City, Mich., to kick off the "Bush-Cheney NASCAR Tour."
The circuit will take seven stock-car stars to 14 events in four states today and tomorrow.
With coffee and Bud Lite flowing, the two spoke on behalf of President Bush and signed Bush-Cheney posters for a crowd of 75 or so. The mood was set by red, white and blue balloons inside and a retired Winston Cup Chevy Lumina outside.
The other drivers pushing Bush are Mark Martin, Bill Elliott, Jack Roush, Benny Parsons and Eddie Wood. The seven are appearing at places like the Putt-Putt golf course in Charleston, W.Va., the Toledo Speedway in Ohio and Barber Ford in Hazelton, Pa.
Although NASCAR crows about the diversity of its burgeoning attendance, both parties have energetically courted racing's traditionally blue-collar fans from the South and Midwest. Democrats have tried to recapture the struggling "NASCAR dad," and the Bush-Cheney campaign took an early interest in NASCAR moms.
"NASCAR fans represent a pivotal voting block in this election," said a Bush-Cheney news release, which included in bold, underlined letters the declaration, "President Bush's Support Within The NASCAR Community Runs Deep."
In February, the president said, "Gentlemen, start your engines" at the Daytona 500 in Florida. In December, Bush paid tribute to NASCAR by appearing on the South Lawn of the White House with seven colorful stock cars for a ceremony attended by nine of the year's top 10 Winston Cup drivers. The attendees included NASCAR royalty, such as retired NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr., and Bush began by saying, "I see a lot of the Bubbas who work in my administration who have shown up."