Scientology hits the road with Nascar race team

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The Church of Scientology, the religion founded by a former pulp fiction writer, which includes Tom Cruise and John Travolta among its followers, is trying to reach out to more Americans by embracing US motor sport.

Scientologists will sponsor a Nascar racing team and participate in a sport traditionally associated with the nation's "red states".

The venture will be called the Dianetics Racing Team - the name is based on the belief system drawn up by the late L Ron Hubbard, Scientology's founder, during the 1950s.

The team will be led by Kenton Gray, a California-based driver who has said Hubbard's teachings have helped his driving performances and his life in general. He said: "It's markedly improved my focus and my consistency. Through Dianetics I've handled stress and increased my performance and ability to compete - both on the track and in life."

Mr Gray finished first in five regional races last year and ranked in the top five in a number of other contests. His new team will race on the local circuit, rather than the leading national events that attract the very best drivers and cars. The car will bear the Scientologists' slogan "Ignite Your Potential".

Nascar is the most popular spectator sport in the US, with 75 million fans.