By admin | January 13, 2009
By Richard Allen
Seemingly hours ago Bobby Labonte appeared destined to drive the #8 car for Earnhardt- Ganassi Racing. Now, as if out of nowhere, he looks to be on his way to Hall of Fame Racing and the #96 car.
But that is not all. Not so long ago Hall of Fame Racing was aligned with powerful Joe Gibbs Racing and was in the camp of up and coming manufacturer Toyota. Then, as with many teams, they appeared to have trouble securing sponsorship and looked as if they might be on the verge of collapse. Now, as if out of nowhere, they apparently have aligned themselves with Yates Racing and Ford Motor Company.
What does all of this reveal about the current state of NASCAR? One word answers that question and that word is desperation
Rarely has there been so much maneuvering less than a month before teams will be sending haulers off to Daytona Beach.
Teams are desperate to find whatever funding they can. But unlike years past, the funding they seek is not necessarily to make their team competitive, but rather to assure their team’s survival.
Drivers are desperately seeking rides or even desperately clinging to rides as in the case of Elliott Sadler, who apparently had to threaten legal action against his team to hold his seat in the #19 car.
Labonte brings name recognition, a certain star quality, the ability to be a good spokesman and a championship provisional. Any number of teams would like to have him and no doubt several have been working behind the scenes to secure both the driver and a sponsor.
Let me be clear about one thing, I am not saying Labonte can’t drive and is only being sought because of the qualities mentioned above. What I am saying is that a driver who brings those qualities to the table is a hot commodity.
It looks as if Hall of Fame and Yates joined forces in this game of ‘Survivor’ to boot Earnhardt- Ganassi and others off the island.
Rumor has it the car will be sponsored by Ask.com.
The poor economy has forced corporations to come to their senses. For racing of all forms, that is a bad thing. There are fewer dollars to go around which will result in fewer teams by the time all is said and done. Everyone, including the formerly most powerful, is scrambling.
While all of this maneuvering is intriguing, the unfortunate thing is the best competition in NASCAR this year may be in corporate board rooms, closed door offices and back lot motor homes instead of on the track.
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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