While NASCAR officials reject the "NASCAR dads" label -- too narrow and stereotypical, they say -- politicians haven't stopped courting the demographic that once threatened to become the soccer moms of 2004.
President Bush is expected to attend Sunday's Sylvania 300 in the swing state of New Hampshire, just eight days after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld attended the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 in Richmond. Rumsfeld received a standing ovation during the prerace drivers' meeting and was serenaded with a chant of "Four More Years" from the crowd of more than 107,000.
Still, in an interview last week, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France insisted the auto racing body is a politics-free zone.
"We're not a political party, we're a racing organization," said France, who has himself donated money to the Bush campaign and to several other politicians from both parties. "One thing we've always said is when our troops are in harm's way, all our thoughts are with them. That's of paramount importance, to show our support at every turn. Those are the only political motives we have -- that transcends any political party, frankly. That's where we stand."
Bush also appeared at this year's season-opening Daytona 500.
France said Democratic challenger John F. Kerry would be welcome to attend a future race. A Kerry spokeswoman said the candidate was invited by a car owner to an earlier race but had a scheduling conflict; she said Kerry would welcome future invitations.
-- Dan Steinberg