From NBC/NJ's Matthew E. Berger
LEBANAON, TN -- Cindy McCain came to the Firestone 200 Indy race Saturday to represent her husband, but don't expect the campaign to win racing fans over by sponsoring a car.
"Our money's a little tight," Mrs. McCain told NBC affiliate WSMV Saturday, a day after the Obama campaign refuted reports they were planning to sponsor a car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. "And as much as I'd love to put our name on a race car, love to do it, we really need to watch where we spend our money."
McCain, clad in a denim top and with her hair down, rode several laps in the pace car on a wet track, and spoke to drivers at the Nashville Superspeedway before the rain-shortened race. She toured the pit area, greeted members of the armed services, and posed with the guitar that doubles as a trophy for the winner.
But she had little to say about the prospect of one of the cars being emblazoned with her husband's opponent's logo. "How he spends is money is how he spends his money," McCain said of Obama. "Whatever he decides to do is what the Obama campaign does. I think, in my opinion, racing is open to all, everybody, and I hope he enjoys the race if he does it."
She described herself as a racing fan, saying she and son Jack picked up drift car racing while living in Japan. "We built a drift car together, so we race together," she told NBC News. "It's a lot of fun. When you're a bad driver like me, it's easy to skid."
Mrs. McCain is chairwoman of Hensley & Co., a beer distribution company she inherited when her father died. The company is the largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch products in Arizona, but McCain said she did not believe the beer company's potential sale to InBev would effect her business.
"At this point, I don't think it's going to have much of an impact on our business locally in Arizona," she said. "But we'll wait and see. I don't know. We're all kinda standing back and waiting to see. But we're a good product so we'll continue to sell."
She is heading to Rwanda this week, traveling with former Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist and other lawmakers. She will be traveling with the One Campaign, which works on health care in impoverished countries.
But yesterday, her eyes were on the race, which she viewed from the owner's box. "I am a race fan," she said. "I know what I'm talking about."