U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek is following in the footsteps of dozens of politicians, who have used NASCAR as a campaign tool.
On Saturday, Mike Wallace’s 01 Chevrolet will bear a logo reading “Kendrick Meek for U.S. Senate” during the NASCAR Nationwide Series 2010 opener, the Drive4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway.
Meek is far from the first pol to bank on NASCAR, but how lucky did he get? Danica Patrick, the first woman to win an Indy Car race, is making her much-anticipated NASCAR Nationwide Series debut in that race. So expect Meek’s name to get a boost in viewership from the Danica factor alone.
The campaign isn’t yet saying how much it’s spending for the one-race paint scheme – it will have to report it eventually – but where top tier teams can command $100,000 to $125,000, Meek might have paid $25,000 to $50,000 based on Wallace’s ranking. Read my colleague Anthony Man’s piece on Meek’s campaign tactic here.
The history of politicians teaming with NASCAR is lengthy. Among the highlights:
President Richard Nixon hosted Richard Petty at the White House in 1971 – marking the first time a racecar diver had been invited to Pennsylvania Avenue.
In 1976, Democratic presidential hopeful Jimmy Carter announced the start of the Southern 500.
As a candidate for president in 1992, Bill Clinton was booed at the Southern 500.
Virginia gubernatorial candidate Mark Warner put a “Warner for Governor” logo on a Ford F-150 in 2001.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger introduced the “Terminator 3” car at California Speedway in 2003.
In 2003, one Ford F-150 won its first Craftsman Truck Series race in 2003 carrying a “Bob Graham for President” logo on it.
Also in 2003, while driving a Winston Cup car at a charity event, then-North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley crashed into a retaining wall at 120 mph -- he was unhurt – and was re-elected in 2004.
And President Obama hosted NASCAR’s top 10 drivers on the White House lawn last August.