Auto racing's military sponsorships questioned

The National Guard forks over about $20 million to sponsor NASCAR's Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The National Guard spends about $20 million to sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR's most popular driver. The U.S. Army pays $7.4 million to sponsor Ryan Newman. The U.S. Air Force doles out $1.6 million to sponsor AJ Allmendinger.

Some lawmakers believe those deals are excessive and unnecessary.

Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., recently proposed an amendment that would have banned the Pentagon from using taxpayer dollars to sponsor NASCAR race teams. The House voted down the proposal last week by a 281-148 vote, but McCollum insisted the fight was far from over.

She planned to introduce broader legislation that would 'prohibit taxpayer funds from being used for sponsorship of race cars, dragsters, Indy cars, and motorcycle racing.' If passed, it would affect just about every level of motorsports.

'This was a vote about priorities and making smart choices,' said Bill Harper, McCollum's chief of staff. 'With trillion dollar federal deficits, this vote to protect taxpayer-funded race cars shows that even a Tea Party Republican-led Congress is not serious about cutting wasteful spending.

'The American people need to know that a majority in Congress is willing to cut homeless veterans, community health centers, and family planning services, but spend millions of tax dollars for race cars.'

McCollum's strong beliefs raised eyebrows at Daytona International Speedway, where NASCAR team owners, drivers and military officers kept a close eye on the Capitol Hill debate.

Along with Newman's sponsorship, the Army spends another $8 million for NASCAR programs that help recruiting efforts. The Army also spends $3.9 million to sponsor Tony Schumacher's NHRA dragster.

Associated Press