June 6, 2006 -- The Church of Scientology is gearing up to bring its message to a whole new arena: racing fans.
"Ignite Your Potential" is the mantra Scientology uses to get Tom Cruise and other Hollywood celebs jumping up and down. Now that message will be used to fuel the engines of a new NASCAR race team.
The venture is called "The Dianetics Racing Team," named after the best-selling self-help book written by the movement's founder, science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.
Kenton Gray, a California race-car driver who has said Dianetics helped his life and driving performance, will head up the Dianetics team.
"It's markedly improved my focus and my consistency," said Gray in a statement. "Through Dianetics I've handled stress and increased my performance and ability to compete -- both on the track and in life."
Gray finished first in five regional races over the last year and ranked in the Top 5 in dozens of other races.
Influencing Minds Via NASCAR
The team is hoping to spread messages of Scientology through weekly tours on the track, although it will compete on the local circuit, not NASCAR's premiere national events.
NASCAR is the most popular spectator sport in the country, with 75 million fans. Most people know the church through its famous members like Tom Cruise, his fiancee Katie Holmes, Kirstie Alley, John Travolta, and Kelly Preston.
Followers of Scientology tout its ability to improve their lives, but the organization has drawn considerable criticism over the years. Recently, Cruise made headlines for controversial comments opposing the use of psychiatric drugs, and for following Scientology's practice of "silent birth" with Holmes.
NASCAR did not address the idea that it now has a controversial new participant in its very successful money machine.
"We're not going to comment on the sponsors that the local weekly tracks secure," Kerry Tharp of NASCAR.