By admin | August 31, 2010
By Richard Allen
Remember when the talk around this time of year was whether or not some of the lower tier teams in NASCAR would find sufficient sponsorship for the next season? Well, that’s not exactly the case now.
For the second year in a row an organization that fields cars for a former Sprint Cup champion is searching for a backer. Last year, Roush Fenway Racing had to shuffle Crown Royal, which sponsored a team being forced to fold by a NASCAR team limit mandate, over to Matt Kenseth’s #17 Ford. Kenseth had been sponsored by DeWalt Tools since his rookie season prior to that company’s announcement they would leave the sport in 2010.
At first, Crown Royal only looked to place its name on Kenseth’s machine for a limited number of races. However, after RFR searched for additional sponsorship, it was finally announced that Crown Royal would be the primary backer on the car of the 2003 champion for the bulk of the 2010 season.
This year, it is Hendrick Motorsports looking to find sponsorship on the car #24 of four time champion Jeff Gordon. Longtime backer DuPont has announced a decision to reduce their role with the team and driver they have worked with for the better part of two decades.
Rumors initially had it that retailing giant Wal-Mart was going to step in and take up the slack left by DuPont in 2011. But now, such does not appear to be the case as it has been reported that the company issued a recent statement denying those rumors.
The fact that for the second year in a row a former champion is losing a longtime sponsor and is having to scramble to find a new backer speaks volumes. It speaks to the fact that the economy has drained companies that once seemed to have money available to throw away. It speaks to the high price of competing in this sport. And, it speaks to the fact that companies no longer seem to be lining up for a chance to be associated with NASCAR and its teams, no matter who the driver/spokesman might be.
Like Kenseth, Gordon will have sponsorship. However, obtaining that sponsorship will not be the foregone conclusion it would have been a few years ago for a still competitive former champion.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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