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For Romney at NASCAR: Fans, hot dogs but no race

September 08, 2012|By Maeve Reston
  • Mitt Romney, reaching out to NASCAR fans in Virginia, signs a car with his campaign logo during a rain delay before a race at Richmond International Raceway.
Mitt Romney, reaching out to NASCAR fans in Virginia, signs a car with his… (Geoff Burke / Getty Images )

RICHMOND, Va. — Mitt Romney headed once again to heart of NASCAR country Saturday looking to connect with race fans.

At the Richmond International Raceway he was supposed to have a bit (but important) part in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series — starting the race with the classic call, "Drivers, start your engines."

Instead, for the second time this year, the Republican nominee got stuck with a rain delay. But he made the best of it, spending several hours passing out hot dogs, posing for pictures with drivers and shaking hands. Earlier this year, Romney attended the season-opener of the Daytona 500, but it was rained out.

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Switching out of his normal Brooks Brothers attire Saturday into a blue and black plaid shirt, the candidate rolled up his sleeves and spent much of the evening beneath a white tent next to the track passing out some of the 1,000 hot dogs purchased by the campaign and taking pictures with fans in front of the Romney/Ryan ’12 stock car, a show car that has appeared at several Romney events and is now wrapped with the ticket's logo.

As the son of a former American Motors chief executive, Romney has had a lifelong fascination with cars — and was renowned within his family for being able to name the make, model and year of any car as a teenager by looking at a quarter-panel.

When a reporter asked Saturday who his favorite driver was, Romney replied:  “There's a lot of drivers I like.”

The Republican candidate got points from one voter, Evan Fabricant of Mechanicsville, Va., for sticking it out through the rain.

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“He was genuine. I was very impressed with him,” Fabricant said.  

Earlier in the day, Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said Romney’s attendance at the race was a chance to reach a broad array of voters across the country.

“NASCAR voters are everywhere,” Madden said, ticking off swing states, such as Ohio, North Carolina and New Hampshire. “It’s an incredible opportunity to get a whole bunch of people together in one spot and meet as many voters as possible.”

“He’s a car guy,” Madden added about Romney, “so he really loves these events.”

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