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Corey LaJoie is driving a car supporting President Donald Trump’s re-election at Indianapolis.
LaJoie’s car had a small Trump sticker on it for both Pocono races last weekend and his GoFas Racing team announced Wednesday that the political action committee behind the sticker had agreed to a nine-race deal with the team.
"I am honored to be part of the President's re-election campaign through the Patriots of America PAC. As a Trump 2020 supporter, this team will do everything possible to secure victory on and off the track electing President Donald Trump to a second term. Let us bring this country back and Keep America Great,” GoFas Racing owner Archie St. Hilaire said in a statement.
The PAC said that its mission was to get people registered to vote in November, though that message isn’t exactly clear given the car looks far more like an explicit campaign ad for the president than a push to get people to register to vote.
"Our mission is to get voters registered and to the polls in November. We are excited about our sponsorship with Go Fas Racing No. 32 and Corey LaJoie. We feel this partnership is the best way to help us communicate this message to the NASCAR community and encourage all Americans to do their part by heading to the polls," the PAC’s Jeff Whaley said.
Per a Federal Election Commission filing posted this week, the PAC paid the team $350,000 on June 29. It’s unclear if that payment is for the full sponsorship or if there will be future payments.
After the sticker was on LaJoie’s car at Pocono on June 27 and 28, he briefly added a line to his Twitter bio that he didn’t have anything to do with what went on his car. His Twitter account is now private.
PAC’s shady dealings?
This isn’t the first time the Patriots of America PAC — or the PAC of a different name that preceded it — has gotten involved in NASCAR this year. The PAC has previously sponsored a backmarker Xfinity Series team and tried to sponsor a Truck team that never made it to the track.
The PAC came back on April 14 with its current name, though we couldn’t find any donations on its FEC page.
According to the Daily Beast story in May, the financial maneuverings of the PAC are conspicuous. The PAC was initially formed around the same time as a Race Fans for Trump LLC was formed by part-time NASCAR driver Tim Viens. That LLC folded when the first PAC folded and that can be a sign of shady behavior.
“This Race Fans for Trump 2020 LLC has all of the characteristics of a straw donor: it was created one week, gave money to a super PAC the next week, and then folded,” said Brendan Fischer, the director of federal and FEC reforms at the Campaign Legal Center.
It’s illegal to make political donations in another person’s name, and shell companies set up to funnel money into a political group—without conducting any actual bona fide business—are an increasingly common means to do so.
“There are some apparent legal violations here,” Fischer said. “It seems apparent that the $27,000 came from a source other than the LLC, which does not appear to have any legitimate business or investment revenue.”
First Trump car in Cup since 2016
Indianapolis will be the first Cup Series race with a car bearing Trump’s name as a the primary logo since 2016, when Premium Motorsports ran a Trump/Pence scheme days before the election.
A Trump car in the Cup Series should come as no surprise given NASCAR fans tend to lean Republican and NASCAR’s extravagant hosting of the president at Daytona in February. Trump flew to Daytona on Air Force One and spoke before the race. He even led the field on a pace lap in his limousine.
The PAC’s decision to commit to a sponsorship also comes as NASCAR has tried to be more aware of racial and social injustice. NASCAR president Steve Phelps said in a pre-race speech on June 7 that NASCAR needed to do more to help fight against racial injustice and drivers filmed a video preaching the same message.
Before that race at Atlanta, Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver racing full-time in NASCAR, wore a shirt in support of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement. Three days later, NASCAR banned the Confederate flag hours before Wallace drove a Black Lives Matter car at Martinsville.
And then on June 21, NASCAR was scheduled to have a Cup race at Talladega for the first time since the ban. The rope of the garage door in the stall assigned to Wallace was tied like a noose and NASCAR feared a hate crime against Wallace had been committed. After federal investigators looked into the noose’s origins they determined that the noose was tied in October of 2019 during the previous NASCAR race weekend at the track and that no hate crime had been committed.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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