GOP top-tier presidential candidate Ben Carson won a coup with NASCAR fans after a racing legend gave him an unofficial endorsement. Richard Petty, one of the South’s most famous race car drivers, said he was impressed with Carson after he paid a visit Sept. 28 to a camp for disabled children funded by Petty’s foundation.
“We’re hoping he’s endorsing the camp, we’re not necessarily endorsing him, but we are — you know what I mean?” Petty said in an Associated Press interview. Although he wasn’t formally endorsing Carson, Petty posed for pictures on the presidential candidate’s campaign bus.
Petty said he appreciates Carson’s character.
“He’s very humane,” Petty said. “That’s one of his strong points as far as we’re concerned.”
The relationship between the South and the racing community is somewhat complicated for Carson because of the Confederate flag issue. Carson has compared the rebel flag to the Nazi swastika in that both are considered a “symbol of hate” for many people. Carson, the sole African-American running in the 2016 presidential election, negotiated the issue by stating that the rebel battle flag is “a local issue.”
“If it’s a majority of people in that area who want it to fly, I certainly wouldn’t take it down,” he said.
He said the only condition is that the flag be flown on private property instead of government grounds. It is an important point for racing fans because the battle flag often flies prominently at NASCAR events around the country.
There’s more good news for Carson. He got a significant fundraising bump after he made controversial comments regarding a hypothetical Muslim as a U.S. president. Carson said he could not advocate for a Muslim candidate to advance to the office of president unless that person completely rejects Sharia Law. He said Sharia Law is not compatible with the U.S. Constitution.
While the comments irked many in the media, in progressive politics and even among other GOP presidential contenders, Carson apparently struck home with grassroots voters. Campaign reports state the presidential candidate’s campaign raised between $600,000 and $700,000 after his comments were publicized. His campaign collected $10 million for its coffers in September and has garnered nearly $20 million for the quarter. The Carson campaign has raised an aggregate of $30 million since his campaign launched.
Carson said while visiting the Petty-funded camp in North Carolina that his comments probably contributed to a bump in the latest polls.
“There’s no question that the people of America recognize that America is a unique place, and I don’t think that anybody wants to give that away. We want to be fair to everybody, but we certainly don’t want to change it into something else,” he said.