By admin | June 28, 2009
By Richard Allen
Recently, NASCAR let it be known they were talking to other manufacturers about the possibility of new makes of cars being brought into the sport. If you do not happen to speak NASCAR, allow me to translate. “We are in the process of losing one of out biggest sources of income and are desperately seeking someone to fill the void.”
I have no inside information here, but I do have at least some ability at deductive reasoning. That reasoning has led me to believe that Honda may be the next auto company to enter NASCAR and the obvious team for them to enter with would be Hendrick Motorsports.
Let’s look a little further. HMS is clearly the standard bearer for Chevrolet. However, it is certainly no secret that General Motors, Chevrolet’s parent company, is having major financial difficulties. As a matter of fact, it was brought to light through court proceedings recently that GM had failed to make a scheduled payment to Richard Childress Racing to the tune of $2.5 million. It would seem logical to assume that the same amount was withheld from HMS as well.
It does not matter who you are, $2.5 million is a significant amount of money.
Even powerful HMS might have to go looking for another partner without the financial support they are used to getting. Honda would be the logical choice to take the place of Chevy. Rick Hendrick is a major dealer of General Motors cars, but he is also a major dealer of Honda automobiles as well. There was a well documented legal matter regarding Hendrick and Honda to further illustrate his relationship with the Japanese auto giant.
The recent rumor, as reported by mikemulhern.net, that Danica Patrick is all but assured of landing a ride with HMS next season further confirms my suspicion of a move to Honda.
Patrick is a leading spokesperson for the Japanese auto maker which is heavily involved in IndyCar racing, where she currently applies her trade. Honda already uses the highly marketable female driver in their commercials and infomercials.
Honda totally dominates IndyCar competition. They are the only engine supplier for that form of racing. However, they have indicated a desire to be in a more competitive environment. And more, IndyCar racing appears to be on the verge of once more tearing itself apart. That’s all the more reason for both Honda and Patrick to move on.
Honda has previously denied having any interest in coming to NASCAR. Now, however, the timing is much better. Dodge appears to be headed on its way out of the sport. Chevrolet is treading on corporate thin ice. Ford and Toyota seem to be on more solid financial footing but have each indicated they are not looking to expand their involvement in racing, and have in fact pulled back in the Camping World Truck Series and the Nationwide Series.
When Toyota announced its intention to come to NASCAR they were forced to pay the sanctioning body a hefty sum of money just for the right to enter. Then, they were told they would have to prove themselves in the lesser divisions before getting the opportunity to move to Sprint Cup racing. Perhaps Honda was turned off by these rigid stipulations in previous years.
Also, the possibility of adding the sport’s most successful team with the biggest personalities driving for them could serve as a major draw.
Now, with the possibility of other manufacturers leaving, NASCAR likely does not have the luxury of being so rigid. Within the next couple of years they may be staring the possibility of having only three, or even two, manufacturers involved in the face. They might be a bit more welcoming in the very near future by striking the requirement of the payment in exchange for an agreement to place teams in the ailing lower series’.
Likely, HMS would not serve as the initial Honda team. Perhaps James Finch’s team or even JR Motorsports might field the first Hondas, like Michael Waltrip Racing did for Toyota.
However, within a year of their announcement Hendrick Motorsports might just be the team to carry Honda to NASCAR prominence in the same way Joe Gibbs racing did for Toyota.
There will not be any Hondas in NASCAR in 2010 but I would not be surprised to hear of their arrival by 2011. And I would also not be surprised to see Rick Hendrick and some of racing’s biggest stars on the stage when the announcement is made. After all, it is business and one should never say never when big money is involved.
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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