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« Joey Coulter Getting Dirty to Improve His Racing Skill Set | Main | 10 Reminders for Camping World Truck Series Drivers Going from Eldora to Pocono »

The case of Danica and Newman shows how little performance matters in racing

By admin | July 31, 2013

Ryan Newman won the Brickyard 400 but has lost his ride at SHR. 

By Richard Allen

All my be fair in love and war, but very little is fair in racing. That is especially true of modern day, sponsor driven racing.

For proof of that, just take a look at this past weekend in the NASCAR Sprint Cup event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Ryan Newman pulled off an emotional win in his home state to capture the trophy for one of the sport’s biggest races. That’s a sponsor’s dream, right? Well, it may be but it didn’t come in time to save the driver’s job.

Just a few weeks ago, Newman was told by Stewart-Haas Racing that he would be released from the team after the end of the 2013 season. That announcement coincided with the poorly kept secret that Kevin Harvick and sponsor Budweiser would be moving from the #29 car at Richard Childress Racing to SHR in 2014.

While each ownership organization is allowed to field as many as four teams, SHR has apparently opted to stick with its current number of three going into next season. This is no doubt largely due to a lack of sponsorship funding for a fourth team.

Kevin Harvick and Budweiser will be moving to SHR in 2014.

Since Newman has driven for SHR, his #39 car has relied on piecemeal funding from various companies, which is commonplace in the current economic landscape of NASCAR. However, Harvick’s Budweiser backing will bring multi-year stability along with unrivaled marketing power. Bud may be the “King of Beers” but it is also the “King of Sports Marketing” as well. And that will provide added exposure to the team that no one seemed to be willing to offer up for Newman.

Harvick will join current SHR drivers Tony Stewart(team co-owner) and Danica Patrick when he makes the move next year.

Patrick provides the quintessential example of modern day racing as it relates to sports marketing. While her performance pales in comparison to many other drivers, she is fully sponsored for the foreseeable future. So far in 2013, she has managed only one top-10 finish and has placed outside the top-20 in 16 of the 20 races contested.

Danica Patrick will start the Daytona 500 from the inside of the front row.

At the same time Newman was earning the right to kiss the bricks at IMS, Danica was meandering her way to a 30th place finish in a race that had been ballyhooed as her return to the track of her racing dreams.

With Sunday’s victory, Newman has one win along with three top-5 and nine top-10 results for 2013. He also qualified on the pole for the Brickyard 400. Even though he only ranks 16th in the overall Sprint Cup standings, his win gives him a very real chance of earning a wildcard invitation into the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

But as anyone who has followed racing for very long knows, performance is rarely the deciding factor in determining who gets what ride. At some point in the sport’s history, the onus of acquiring sponsorship fell completely on the drivers while the teams seem to have disavowed themselves of any and all responsibility in the matter.

The phrase, “If he(or she) can bring sponsorship, he can have the ride” has become common. The days of teams going out and signing a talented driver then landing a sponsor to go with said driver seem to be gone forever.

The case of Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick just happens to be a convenient example after recent events, but there are many others. Just look at the number of drivers from wealthy families who have rides despite the lack of talent worthy of their place for more examples of the power of finance.

Performance in racing is nice, but it is hardly the only thing that matters. This past weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway proved that.

Topics: Articles |

25 Responses to “The case of Danica and Newman shows how little performance matters in racing”

  1. Jeff Says:
    July 31st, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    Well Paul Menard comes from a wealthy family and honestly I think he is just as good as Newman. I really believe Danica will be gone after next year if she doesn’t improve. Newman hasn’t been the same as his early years at Penske. As far as sponsors go, it’s not that the teams aren’t trying its just difficult to get them to sign. It is certainly a bonus if a driver can bring sponsorship.

  2. Leto Says:
    July 31st, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    Paul Menard is as good as Newman? That’s hilarious. A guy who has never finished Top 15 in points is just as good as a driver that has 9 points finishes higher than him? That’s laughable. Menard has 1 Cup win, Newman has 17.

    Fortunately for Newman, he likely has pretty decent options even though he currently is without a ride. Penske almost signed him and Quicken Loans for his third Cup car, but the deal fell apart because QL wouldn’t pony up for the full season.

    As long as Quicken Loans, Outback, etc go with Newman- and SHR has already said that they are losing at least some of those sponsors, so it would appear they are at least POSSIBLY going with him wherever- he will likely land with a good team.

    RCR, Furniture Row, and Roush have all expressed interest in signing Newman. Penske wanted him last year. JGR apparently wants a 4th Cup team, and if Newman brings $ they could attempt to sign him (or wait and hopefully snag Edwards next year).

    Almost all NASCAR fans saw something like this coming- that eventually, Danica would stay at SHR (or some other team) while a far superior driver was kicked to the curb, all because she has GoDaddy money backing her. Apparently though that GoDaddy contract might end next year, so if she doesn’t step up her game she might be left sponsorless for once.

    While it’s really sad that Danica is being kept at SHR over Newman, at least it’s not like Newman was released mid-January or something and only had 2 weeks to put a deal together for the season. He was told several weeks ago SHR wouldn’t expand to 4 cars. He has plenty of time to go over his options and see who’s listening and who actually wants to sign him.

  3. Kellie Says:
    August 1st, 2013 at 2:15 am

    I understand you trying to bring a “wealthy” background into the mix, but in this case it DOES NOT APPLY. This women (and I am one) has done NOTHING to deserve her spot in the top tier of Nascar in regards to talent. All of the “wealthy” background drivers have out done her time and time again. This is what is turning fans away in droves..so Tony has her to pay his bills, but it is our minds and brains that suffer regarding the constant unwarrented media praise that is heaped on HER. If the media really cared about her as a driver and not her gender, her constant finishing position in front of the start and parks would be treated like a male driver…zero mention. I just got done watching Nascar Now, I had to turn it off..a segment on little girl racers praising DANICA for “PAVING THE WAY”..LOL. As a parent with a brain and moral code, I would tell my daughter, she is not it…it was just awful with Nicole B. in hyper mode…good grief..and they wonder why their is fan apathy?

  4. fuzzy Says:
    August 1st, 2013 at 4:38 am

    Jeff , when Menard gets 18 wins and 50 poles ,then he MAY be as good as Newman !! So far he has one win in both series !! Dude what are you smoking ??

  5. Bill B Says:
    August 1st, 2013 at 5:48 am

    The fact that this is reality in NASCAR is another thing that undermines NASCAR as being considered a real sport. Very few people have been able to “buy” their way into other pro-level sports.

  6. Lydia Says:
    August 1st, 2013 at 6:05 am

    I agree with Jeff… Newman has had “spotty” success…Stewart has been carrying SHR on his back since the teams inception and im sure hes hoping adding Harvick will lighten his load. Newman wasn’t lighting the world on fire his last couple years with Penske… He’s a good driver..and yes..he has better numbers then Patrick..but at some point good isn’t enough. Now as for SHR keeping Patrick…Go Daddy is with her through 2014…which may prove to be her “put up or shut up” year with SHR…in the meantime I’m sure the money she brings in is helpful to all three teams. It is a shame nowadays drivers must bring their own sponsors… I guess it’s kind of like a carpenter must “bring his own tools”… I know Paul Menard has a lifelong sponsor in his family..but I also believe he is turning into a pretty good driver…but I’m wondering which other drivers in NASCAR are there due to family $$$ ? (Well besides the obvious Earnhardt Jr. and Dillon brothers)??

  7. zhills fan Says:
    August 1st, 2013 at 6:21 am

    There is no SHR that is just a falacy, they are nothing more than an extension of Hendrick Racing, nothing less and nothing more.

  8. Sloomis Says:
    August 1st, 2013 at 6:33 am

    I don’t think Stewart let Newman go because of a lack of sponsorship or performance. This year, Tony learned a lesson about what happens to an organization when it moves too fast. Here all the teams at Stewart Haas struggled because they moved to a third team before they were ready. I don’t think Stewart wanted to experience another early season struggle in this regard.

    It would be nice if Stewart came out and talked about this though as he is really letting Danica and Newman get a lot of bad press.

  9. Ken Says:
    August 1st, 2013 at 7:01 am

    Rich, I have said this before, and I don’t know if anyone would agree, but, all I ask is to take one race, just one race, and take Danica out of that car and allow a certain young lady who is currently in Nationwide, and let her have a chance in good equipment. That is all I ask! Could the reason Danica was moved up to Cup so soon be that, in the few races where Johanna Long (she hasn’t run a full schedule yet due to limited funds and sponsorship) and Danica were in together, Johanna constantly finished ahead of Danica. And with a lot less funding too! And I personally think Johanna is better looking!

    Anyone agree about giving Johanna a shot at Danica’s equipment?

  10. Tony Geinzer Says:
    August 1st, 2013 at 7:42 am

    I feel strongly that the Sprint Cup interest needs to be brought back to life, and too, there are good racers who need Full Time Rides. I am not arguing who should and shouldn’t, but, it would be a better series.

  11. 61 starliner Says:
    August 1st, 2013 at 9:05 am

    I totally agree with the Johanna Long comment. It would seem the real reason that Johanna doesn’t get the breaks is she has not been willing to sell her sex, instead she want to be a racer. Can’t say the same for Danica

  12. Rufus Says:
    August 1st, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Rich, this is exactly what is wrong with Brian France’s NASCAR. Brian France has decreed that the people on the track are “celebrities” and not ‘drivers”, and that what is being watched is a “show”, not a “race”. Danica is a celebrity. Newman is a driver. Even Pastrana is a celebrity! He isn’t devoted to NASCAR. Heck, he isn’t even devoted to the manufacturer whom he is supposed to represent! (Travis appeared in a Dodge Dart commercial, and extolled the virtues of the car! Ford should have demanded that Roush boot Pastrana out of the #60 Nationwide car over that dumb move!) Danica attracts a certain male demographic France has been seeking. And that demographic doesn’t give a rat’s behind about the race, but show Danica’s picture of her in a bikini, and those males start drooling! With Pastrana, he caters to the video game junkies, who, more often than not, are the same male demographic who drool over Danica. They are also major sufferers of Attention Deficit Disorder! You know, the same babies who watch a race and find it too long! This is why NASCAR is failing miserably.

    Brian France needs to wake up! His “ideas” have almost killed the sport! The chase, celebrities instead of drivers, a show instead of a race, and so on. He has some dumb twerps running a marketing company out of New York who know nothing about the sport. But then, that describes Brian!

  13. GinaV24 Says:
    August 1st, 2013 at 9:20 am

    I agree with Kellie’s points on this. I know that NASCAR and the media want to insist that Danica is the savior, but she certainly hasn’t lived up to the hype. She is also NOT a female that I would point to as a role model for young women. Sure she’s raking in the cash and is able to drive a race car for a living (which is fine as far as it goes), but personally I find the salacious and suggestive ads repugnant, but then again, I feel the same way about the Kardashians, which is often what the media coverage surrounding DP seems like.

    I’d like her a lot more if the media would just cover her honestly as opposed to trying to tell all of us how great she is. As Ken pointed out, there are several other female drivers that I would love to see in well-funded equipment and see what they could do.

  14. Chad Says:
    August 1st, 2013 at 9:52 am

    “Pay Drivers” are an unfortunate reality of the current economic situation worldwide. Other series are not immune to it.

    There are a few names on the grid in F1 that wouldn’t be there except for their ability to bring sponsorship along.

  15. Richard Says:
    August 1st, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Ken,

    I like Johanna Long but to say see consistently out performed Danica is incorrect.

  16. Rob Says:
    August 1st, 2013 at 10:06 am

    I agree with the Johanna Long thing.

    That is a driver girls COULD look up to. She’s come up having to find her own funding, working on the race cars with her father, running small dirt and paved tracks in the south…not to mention she’s 10 years younger than Danica so that’s another driver that NASCAR could use for a young audience…

  17. midasmicah Says:
    August 1st, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Rich. I’ve beat this dead horse again and again. It just doesn’t matter how good a driver you are in nas$car any more. Sparkle pony doesn’t even need to be competitive. She’s pretty, sexy, and has a sponsor. Newman could drive circles around her and it wouldn’t make any difference. Let’s see. I don’t watch nationwide races anymore because the cup drivers take the wins and the top money. And, after 30+ years of watching nas$car, I pay attention less with each passing year. When nas$car loses die hard fans like me, they’d better start worrying.

  18. Ken Says:
    August 1st, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Richard, I did not say that Johanna out performed Danica. I said that Johanna constantly finished ahead of Danica. The main point is that Danica has had high quality equipment, whereas Johanna has been underfunded. yet, despite that, Johanna can hold her own, when luck goes her way. She is a racer first. Danica, on the other hand, is a celebrity first. She is more known for semi-porn style commercials than her driving ability.

    I said it before and I’ll repeat myself. Put Johanna in the same class of car Danica has, and we will see who is the better driver. It won’t be Danica!

  19. Richard Allen Says:
    August 1st, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    Just to be clear, the Richard who has commented above is not me.

    I always use Richard Allen when I comment.

  20. Sidney Says:
    August 1st, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    If Johanna long were so good she would have a better ride. The only reason people even know the name Johanna is in comparison to Danica. Johanna has done very little to make a name for herself and her average finishes do not mean she deserves a ride any more then anyone else.

  21. Chris Fiegler Says:
    August 1st, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    I Personally think that Johanna Long will be Racing in the Nationwide Series Full Time in 2014 & Probably Race in the Sprint Cup Series in 2016 at the age of 28.

  22. Chris Fiegler Says:
    August 1st, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    Correction 24 not 28

  23. David Says:
    August 1st, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    If Danica was a male she wouldn’t have enough credentials to change the toilet paper at SHR

  24. Leto Says:
    August 2nd, 2013 at 2:34 am

    zhills fan: I would say that SHR is a very real thing, since they have their own shop, employees, sponsors, etc. All they do is get engines and chassis from Hendrick, much like Phoenix Racing does and like Furniture Row used to do.

    Ken: Johanna only finished ahead of Danica 7 times in the 21 races in which they both competed. As for who ran better, Johanna Long’s average finish was 23.6; Danica’s was 18.8. Johanna never had a Top 10 (Danica had 4). Johanna never led a lap (Danica led 41).

    While Danica’s stats in 2012 weren’t impressive, Johanna’s was worse. I would love to see Johanna succeed as much as anyone, but the numbers don’t lie.

    I think I’m going to be sick though. I just defended Danica…. yuck.

  25. RacingFan Says:
    August 2nd, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    All they do is get engines and chassis from Hendrick

    So you have knowledge that they aren’t getting any set up and tuning information from Hendrick - maybe more than the lower funded teams were able to receive?
    If they were forced to build their own chassis, set up information wouldn’t be exactly the same, and Hendrick might not be as quick to share it, either (without the money flowing.)
    Stewart’s team went from being back markers to front runners quickly this season. It makes me wonder about the flow of information.