By admin | April 10, 2008
NASCAR Racing is too expensive
By Richard Allen
Tony Stewart has a commercial in which he says when he started racing he had a plain, white car. He explains that he decided to paint it because cars with bright paint jobs go faster.
The simple truth of the matter is that cars with flashy paint jobs do go faster, but it has nothing to do with color.
Painted cars go faster because of the enormous amounts of money corporations pour into the budgets of NASCAR teams. Although no team openly says what they receive from sponsors some estimates run as high as $20 million per year and more. Amazingly, teams seem to have little trouble in finding ways to spend every bit of that money.
SpeedTV analyst Kenny Wallace said on Sunday that he has heard it takes as much as $400,000 per race to field a Sprint Cup team, depending on just how competitive the team wants to be.
It is easy to see why some teams are forced to put multiple sponsors together for each car they field. The car driven by Matt Kenseth is a good example. One week his car may be sponsored by DeWalt, Arbyâ€™s another week, then USG Sheetrock after that and R&L Carriers the next week. Rarely can one corporation foot a bill that large.
It is also easy to see why some teams do not have a sponsor at all. If a company is going to spend the amount of money it takes to become part of NASCAR, they are going to want assurances that the car carrying their name is going to be running near the front of the pack. Many companies would rather share time on a car they know will challenge for wins than be exclusively on the side of a car that will run in the middle of the pack at best.
Two of NASCARâ€™s most historic teams find themselves having difficulty with sponsorship. Yates Racing had two cars competing at Texas Motor Speedway with the dreaded white paint scheme. Although the cars ran relatively well, 15th and 18th, that can not keep up long without someone to help defer the costs.
In Bristol, one of the Yates cars had â€™11 Millionâ€™ printed in bold letters on the hood to signify that there are that number of people watching NASCAR races on a weekly basis. It was the teamâ€™s way of sending a message to potential sponsors as to how many people they can reach. Unfortunately, the fact that both Yates cars remain unsponsored is potential sponsorâ€™s way of sending the message that the sport has become too expensive.
The other stalwart team to be suffering sponsorship troubles is Petty Enterprises. It was announced last week that the primary sponsor for Pettyâ€™s famed car #43, General Mills, would be leaving to join a start up fourth team at Richard Childress Racing.
Most teams in NASCAR today operate under a multi car system like that of RCR. Having multiple cars allows a team to get the most benefit from its resources.
Next year, NASCAR will implement a four car rule. In other words no team will be allowed to field more than four cars. This may actually open the door for some of the smaller teams to survive as they may become satellites for the larger operations thus being allowed to use the larger teamâ€™s engineering and other resources in exchange for sharing information with their partners.
NASCAR has tried to implement measures to keep costs down. The Car of Tomorrow is designed to help by being versatile enough that the same car can be used on a variety of tracks. However, the initial building of the CoT is part of what has caused the expense problem in the first place. NASCAR has also moved to limit test dates and prevent the use of specialty engines and other parts.
However, competitors operate several steps ahead of their overseers. When NASCAR implements one cost saving measure the teams have already moved on to the next way to spend money.
Darrell Waltrip often says that, â€œYou can make a small fortune in racingâ€¦ if you start off with a large fortune.â€ That is not just a joke.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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