Presidential hopeful Obama declines sponsorship offer from NASCAR team

JOLIET, Ill. -- NASCAR's BAM Racing team has presented Barack Obama's presidential campaign with a potential sponsorship deal in the Sprint Cup series later this year, but it doesn't look like an Obama car will be burning rubber on the track anytime soon.

BAM team spokesman Rhett Vandiver told The Associated Press on Friday that the team made a sponsorship proposal to the Democratic presidential hopeful's campaign, and has made similar proposals to the campaign of Republican John McCain and at least one third-party candidate.

Late Friday, the Obama campaign said there would be no sponsorship.

"The Obama campaign will not be sponsoring a car in the Sprint Cup series, though we will continue to look for ways to reach out to voters and convey Senator Obama's message of change." said Bill Burton, an Obama campaign spokesman

Sports Illustrated first reported the proposal on its Web site, saying Obama's campaign is in talks with BAM, a part-time operation that hasn't raced in recent weeks, to sponsor its No. 49 car in the Aug. 3 race at Pocono.

It would have been a fairly bold move within a sport whose competitors spend all year turning left on the track but tend to lean to the right politically.

BAM's choice of drivers and car brands might have been a little too sticky politically for the Obama camp.

The car, a Toyota -- the only foreign automaker racing in NASCAR -- would be driven by veteran Ken Schrader.

According to the Federal Election Commission's Web site, Schrader gave $1,000 to the campaign of North Carolina Republican congressman Robin Hayes in June 2004, and a total of $2,500 in 2003 and 2004 to the failed Virginia congressional campaign of Republican Kevin Triplett, a former NASCAR official.

Also according to the FEC, Mrs. Ann Schrader of Concord, N.C. and Ken Schrader Racing donated a total of $2,000 to President Bush's campaign in May 2004 and $900 to the North Carolina Republican Executive Committee in August 2004.

NASCAR has been playing an increasing role in politics, as so-called "NASCAR dads" were considered a key constituency in recent elections.

A Cup series car carried a George W. Bush logo in 2004 but wasn't officially associated with the campaign. And Democratic presidential hopeful Bob Graham sponsored a truck in the Craftsman Truck Series in 2003.