TAMPA, Fla. -- Publishers for the late L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, have discovered a new way to promote his controversial ideas -- they're sponsoring a stock car racing team.
Two bright yellow Porsches in this weekend's GTE World Challenge of Tampa sportthe logo, 'Dianetics,' title of Hubbard's best-selling self-help book and the 'science' of healing deep-seated psychological problems that is the heart of Scientology.
One of the cars was to be driven by Mario Andretti.
Race press officer Janice Butler said there is no link between the church or publishing house and Andretti and his son and racing partner, Michael Andretti, nor to the other two drivers, George Fouche and Volker Wiedler.
'This is just a one-race deal,' she said.
The book is published by Bridge Publications of Los Angeles, the for-profit publishing arm of the non-profit Scientology enterprise, according to 'Publisher's Weekly.'
Hubbard is Bridge's only author.
With the race expected to draw 150,000 fans over three days, plus nationwide broadcast exposure on ESPN, the race sponsorship 'should help us with the exposure of our books. We like to sell books,' said Scott Welch, senior vice president for public affairs at Bridge.
Scientology, with headquarters in Clearwater, has been called a cult by former members and is currently under fire by legal authorities in Spain.
A Spanish judge said, following the round-up of 70 leaders during an investigation of the Civil Dianetics Association, 'The real god of this organization is money.'
Jailed without bond in Spain are Heber Jentzch, president of the Church of Scientology International, and 10 others in an investigation of alleged fraud, flight of capital and tax evasion. The church is accused of mounting a pyramid scheme.
Welch told the St. Petersburg Times, in an interview published Saturday, that there is no connection between the book and church activities.
'Mr. Hubbard's worn a lot of hats in this lifetime,' said Welch, himself a scientologist. 'I don't think melting them together is fair.'
But Hanna Eltringham Whitfield of Los Angeles, an associate of Hubbard in the 1960s and 1970s, said the church, 'Dianetics' and Bridge are all tied together.
Welch said Bridge has previously sponsored cars at Long Beach and Indianapolis.