By admin | August 10, 2009
By Richard Allen
At the rate sponsors are leaving, NASCAR looks almost as if it would be better named the NASTANIC. Apparently, just like in 1912, everyone wants to get off a sinking ship and several major sponsors within the sport have either announced their intentions to jump ship or are rumored to be jumping ship as soon as possible.
There is always going to be sponsor attrition, even in the best of times. Companies will fall into financial trouble, decide they want to go in another direction or simply not be able to keep up with the rate of growth. However, even the most vociferous of NASCAR apologists must be alarmed by the fact that within a space of less than three weeks four major sponsors appear to be moving on.
At least two tracks and two teams appear to be on the verge of losing partners going forward.
2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Matt Kenseth and his Roush Fenway Racing team have been notified by long time sponsor DeWalt Tools that the company will not return in 2010 as the sponsor of the #17 Ford. On the surface, this situation looks to have an easy fix. Crown Royal, backer of the #26 RFR car driven by Jamie McMurray, will be moved over to the #17. However, this still leaves RFR down one source of funds.
At the end of the season, RFR has to cut down from its current five teams to four per NASCAR mandate. Had DeWalt renewed its deal, this would have meant the #26 team and driver would have simply moved across the street and raced out of the Yates Racing shops. Now, it looks as if the #26 team will be shut down altogether and McMurray sent on his way.
Another team, Richard Childress Racing, may also find itself in the same predicament as RFR. Jack Daniel’s, which funds RCR’s #07 car for Casey Mears, is rumored to be on the way out. If this indeed occurs, RCR could find itself preparing three cars next year rather than its current four.
Aside from teams, tracks have also lost the backing of major companies in this recent round of cutbacks.
Lowe’s, the company that broke somewhat new ground when it bought the naming rights to the track in Charlotte, has decided to depart from that long time relationship. This story came out several days ago but Speedway Motosports, Inc., owners of the track in Charlotte, quickly attempted to dispel the rumors as false and declared that negotiations between the two sides were ongoing. Lowe’s wasted little time in affirming that they were indeed leaving.
Even the most historic of racing facilities has found that it is not immune from the departure disease sweeping the sport. After this year’s running of the NASCAR race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, race sponsor Allstate made it known they would not return in that role.
Worse, there does not seem to be a mass of new companies looking to throw money at NASCAR. In the past, there has always seemed to be some new corporation that wanted the exposure stock car racing offered and were willing to pay for it. The rumor mill does not look so promising this time around.
Declining television ratings and empty grandstand seats do not seem to be the stuff potential advertisers are looking for. NASCAR wants to blame the economy for its current woes. What this means is, the ship is going down and all they are doing is describing the water.
There is more that needs fixing than the economy. If so much fan discontent is not soon addressed, there will be more sponsors leaving and few sponsors coming in.
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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