By admin | June 13, 2009
By Richard Allen
Since 1969 one of the more important NASCAR race locations has been the Michigan International Speedway. Located in Brooklyn, Michigan the track sits basically in the backyard of the ‘Big 3’ automobile manufacturers.
Although the races held at MIS are not necessarily the biggest on the circuit, the teams and the manufacturers have always understood the importance of winning on the 2 mile track for each manufacturer.
The car companies used to go by the slogan, “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday”, implying that winning in NASCAR made an impact on auto sales. For the manufacturers, the slogan for the race weekend in Michigan was more like, “Win on Sunday, Brag on Monday”.
Whether “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” remains true today is highly debatable. What is not debatable is that the U.S. auto companies are in no position to brag about anything right now.
At one time, NASCAR teams were made to feel welcome by their hosts in the shadow of Detroit. The manufacturers both courted and were courted by NASCAR and its teams during the racing series’ two visits to the Irish Hills.
This year is an entirely different story. With the trouble in the auto industry, the situation going into Michigan is more like wandering into an area that has been ravaged by severe drought.
Instead of a welcoming party, NASCAR’s Chevrolet teams were greeted with the news that their manufacturer would be making deep cuts in its racing budget. Initially, the news came on Thursday that General Motors, Chevrolet’s parent company, would tighten its belt by slashing its budget in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck divisions. On Friday, however, a GM spokesman confirmed that the cuts would be NASCAR-wide, meaning Sprint Cup teams would be affected as well.
Currently, Chevrolet offers considerable support to Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing. The word considerable it would seem is about to be changed to limited, or worse.
It does not seem likely that Chevy will continued to support each of these teams.
If any team is to get full support it would certainly be that of Hendrick. This team has been the standard bearer for Chevrolet for years and fields cars for four of the best known drivers in motorsports.
Among the other three teams, they may be racing for more than trophies and points this week. They may be racing for their corporate lives. Impressing the higher-ups at GM could make the difference in getting some of the HMS scrapes and getting nothing at all for Childress, EGR and SHR.
As for the teams supported by other manufacturers, times are little better. Chrysler, like GM, was forced to accept a huge bailout from the federal government. That bailout, of course, will be accompanied by many attached strings. Dodge teams will be facing the same worries as GM teams throughout the rest of 2009 in regard to the amount of support they will receive.
While Ford did not accept a government bailout, they are not looking to add any new teams that may be dropped by their competitors. Just because the ‘Blue Oval’ was not in such bad shape that they needed a bailout does not mean they have an abundance of cash to throw around.
Even Toyota, who is not part of the Motor City brotherhood, has announced they are not looking to expand their racing budget. For that matter, they may be looking to make some cuts as well.
The bottom line is that NASCAR and its teams are going to have to learn to live without a seemingly unending flow of cash coming from Detroit. The manufacturers have had an on-again, off-again relationship with stock car racing throughout history and it looks like that relationship is definitely headed toward off-again.
NASCAR’s teams did not feel as welcome when they arrived in Michigan this time, and they’d better get used to it.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
Topics: Articles |