NASCAR Revs Up Lobby Effort

Posted November 22, 2008 at 9:33am

With its top sponsors near collapse, NASCAR will begin lobbying Congress next week to help rescue domestic automobile producers, a sector that pumps $100 million per year into the sport.

NASCAR officials declined to confirm the outreach efforts, other than to offer an “expression of support for the domestic auto industry and the productive relationship the industry has had with motorsports for many decades.”

But with its own livelihood perhaps at stake, an industry insider said the privately owned – and historically apolitical – sport may have no choice but to start burning up the phone lines on behalf of its largest underwriters and the legions of fans who work on assembly lines in Detroit and elsewhere.

“The Big Three collectively are major pillars of the sport, and obviously many employees of those firms are automotive enthusiasts and fans,” a motorsports insider told Roll Call on Friday. “The folks who work across the industry are predisposed to be friends of NASCAR.”

And with Congress’ lame duck do-over scheduled to begin Dec. 8, the source added that “in the next seven days” NASCAR will begin reaching out to Members, particularly Republicans from the mid-Atlantic and South, where stock car racing is particularly popular.

After a tense hearing last Thursday, Congressional leaders sent executives from General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler back to the drawing board, demanding that the companies come up with a path to viability before lawmakers sign off on a $25 billion bailout package.

With virtually no presence in Washington, D.C., organization officials will spend the coming days exploring how to best proceed, the source said. In addition to possibly contacting Members directly, the motorsports giant may join other professional sports leagues in enlisting an outside firm to help make the sale.

In the past, NASCAR has worked with the J.C. Watts Cos., a firm started by the former Republican House Member from Oklahoma. The organization also has a long-standing relationship with the law firm of Baker Botts, which has a D.C. office.