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Martin, Busch proving sponsors and owners should be looking for talent over image

By admin | June 16, 2009

By Richard Allen

What does it say about a sport when one of the oldest participants is tied with one of the youngest participants for most wins? That is exactly the case in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to this point in 2009.

Mark Martin turned 50 years old just prior to the start of this season. His win in Michigan this past Sunday was his third of the season, which pulled him into a tie with Kyle Busch for most wins. Just last month Busch turned 24 years of age.

Two drivers are tied for the most wins. One of those drivers is twice the age of the other.

This occurrence actually says one very important thing about the sport. It says that the corporate mold sponsors and owners are using to find drivers is all wrong.

A race car does not know who is pushing the pedals and turning the steering wheel. Martin proves that the older guys can still get it done. This should serve as a message to owners and sponsors that winning races is the important thing, not maintaining a certain young, pretty boy look. And it takes talent to win races.

Sponsors seem to be enthralled with good looking, young drivers. And, they seem to have little concern for the ability to drive a race car. Since sponsors want fresh faces, owners go out and find them. So, the sport is now filled with a bunch of drivers who are out of their league.

To answer the question as to which is more important fitting a certain mold or being able to drive a race car, who do you think has gotten more positive publicity from sponsoring a race car this year, Kellogg’s or Jack Daniel’s? Kellogg’s or UPS? Kellogg’s or Crown Royal? Kellogg’s or Home Depot?

At age 50, Mark Martin is not a young, pretty boy. He may not be the person some Fortune 500 companies want filming their commercials. But, he does win races. And having a picture taken of the car a company sponsors in victory lane makes for a pretty nice advertisement.

On the other side of this issue, Kyle Busch also breaks the corporate image mold. Granted, at 24 he is young. He is not just young, but talented.

Young and talented doesn’t sound so bad to the image spinners until Busch starts talking. He loves to stir controversy. He purposely picks at other drivers and their fans. He seems to relish getting booed in pre-race introductions. He is far from the robotic, politically correct corporate mold.

He has been criticized, here and other places, for his actions but at least those words and actions aren’t always the same old scripted chatter of a New York publicist.

While some corporate types may not wish to be associated with controversy, Busch offers a good return on investment because he is often in the headlines whether he is winning or losing. But the key is, he is often winning.

Darrell Waltrip was never very well liked when he was winning races and championships in the 1980s. Still, his cars were always well sponsored because he was getting photographed and interviewed from victory lane on a regular basis.

Back in Waltrip’s day almost every driver in NASCAR would have broken today’s corporate mold. Thankfully, those guys were around then. But unfortunately, Mark Martin and Kyle Busch are among the very few racing today who are not among the corporate clones.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

Topics: Articles |

6 Responses to “Martin, Busch proving sponsors and owners should be looking for talent over image”

  1. Mary Says:
    June 17th, 2009 at 8:39 am

    Bush is a pretty face?

  2. Lori anderson Says:
    June 17th, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Just a thought. As a sponsor I would prefer the mark Martin type. someone children could look up to as a role model. Kyle Busch actions and attitudes would not be what I wanted. Who would want their children acting like he does? I would want the driver to have talent , show respect, no nasty attitude and tantrums.

  3. Speedway Guide Says:
    June 18th, 2009 at 10:39 am

    I think Kyle Busch has accepted that right now he is not popular with the fans and just plays to the role of unpopular driver.

    On the other hand Kyle’s brother
    Kurt Busch is not popular with the fans but tries too hard to have the fans like him and he comes across as fake.

    I agree that Kyle is a lot like Darrell Waltrip of the 1980’s. I don’t think his sponsors will mind if he plays the ‘Bad Boy’ role as long as he keeps winning.

    This week they will be at Infineon Raceway and since Kyle is a good road racer and he won both road races last year I think he might give the fans one more reason not to like him!

  4. Rhonda Says:
    June 18th, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Guys like Kyle & Mark who were not blessed with faces like Jimmy Johnson do use what they came into the sport with their racing abilities. If this sport was based on gorgeous drivers many like jr, Mark, Kyle, Bliss, Tony and so on would never get to be in a car.
    As for Kyle’s actions, i wonder if we were all followed to work or in our daily lives how well we would look. Just because he puts himself in a spotlight does not mean he will not be himself just as you would not not be yourself if u were. His actions are not always rosie but i have seen many in this sport with the same ugly actions or worse. I do not excuse him for what he does but i wont condemn him because I am not any better than him in any way. So any time anyone wants to bag on him or other drivers for their actions bag yourself first, fix it then remember u are still no better than any one else. :)

  5. H. Risher Says:
    June 18th, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    Kyle Busch is a great driving talent no doubt–just think if he would have been blessed with a famous racing name like Earnhardt to start with—–May be the Jr fans woild stop bemoaning the fact the Busch is outdriving Jr, in every facet of the sport with Jr. driving for the Richest Team in Nascar!! Hey Jr. fans –I’ll take Busch at Sonoma and give you 10 to 1 odds he outdrives ‘Ironhead Jr” ! Yes, if I were a sponsor I would want a race winner-not an average driver living off his famous Father’s Reputation !! Look at the record since Hendrick got rid of Busch for Jr—what is it now? Someting like 30 total Nascar (all series) wins for Busch and a freak fuel mileage win for Jr!!!!!! Get Real-Busch can drive and is controversial–but that sells tickets just like DW used too!!! FACTS and TRUTH are more reliable than Emotional Stupidity when it comes to chosing who is the Best in DRIVING TALENT!! That’s what sponsors really look for =RESULTS in thw WIN Coiumn !! PERIOD!!

  6. Rhonda Says:
    June 19th, 2009 at 8:31 am

    OHHHHHHHHHHHHHH H. Risher, u are sooooooooo going to NASCAR hell for those comment!….Very well put :)