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Sponsors jumping off the NASCAR ship in a hurry

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.

Watkins Glen was tough on Hendrick teammates Gordon and Earnhardt. Click the link below:

NASCAR isn’t the only sport with failed drug tests and twisted tales. Click the link below:

Topics: Articles |

29 Responses to “Sponsors jumping off the NASCAR ship in a hurry”

  1. Charlie Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 6:22 am

    It will get worse. What caused the problem is when fox came into the sport. They demanded payment from sponsors over and above what they were paying to the teams or tracks.
    Before this, NASCAR was a great marketing tool. Remember the panoramic (probably mispelled) views of the field and you could clearly see the sponsor on the car? Go back and watch TNT, CBS, or ESPN’s old broadcasts. Announcers would mention the sponsor. Companies could get a little bang for their buck.
    Not now. Even ESPN did not mention Allstate as the sponsor of the Brickyard. I guess Allstate felt the money it spent to name the race was sufficient, and it should have been, to be mentioned.
    One reason we don’t see as many driver interviews after a wreck is the fear one will mention a sponsor that hasn’t ponied up to the network.
    The camera angles prevent you from seeing the number or sponsor on a car. If I were a company, NASCAR would not earn a penny of my marketing dollars. It’s not good business. $20 million to sponsor and then prostitute myself to the network for a mention, or even a glimpse of my car?
    Blame the goobers at Fox for this decline. It’s a shame and a sham.

  2. Charles Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 7:06 am

    If the ratings keep falling, I can forsee problems with Nascars TV contract when its time for renew!

  3. Eddie D'Hondt Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 7:13 am

    Interesting article…. filled with junk.

    NASCAR is right in pointing to the downward economy. Due to the length of most contracts and the time frames they run to, the downward turn of the economy is just now moving into full swing in affecting these sponsors relationships with the teams, NASCAR itself and the race tracks. Most deals are mutli year deals and if a sponsor was struggling financially, most these companies couldn’t get out of a contract until now.

    The racing we are seeing now, especially with the brilliant insertion of the double file restarts, is some of the most competitive and entertaining racing we have seen in years, maybe ever.

    Do us all a favor and do some homework when you write an article like this instead of just writing what we already know as far as sponsors that are opting out. Any Jayski reader knew this stuff weeks ago Captain Obvious.

    Some homework would have found that all three of the U.S.A.’s major sports i.e. NFL, MLB and the NBA are all struggling and in most cases, worse than NASCAR for the advertising dollar and fans in the stands.

    The sky is not falling dude and in a short period of time our sport will rise again and we certainly won’t have people like you to thank as we all work our butts off to secure sponsorship for 2010 and beyond only to have a bean brain like you post an article like this. Thanks for nothing !

    Do your homework as we rate you on it and you failed here !!

  4. Ken Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 7:49 am

    Eddie, what fantasy world are you living in? Charlie is pretty close regarding sponsorship spending. Sponsors want to associate themselves with honest operations with high integrity. NA$CAR is not even though many of the teams are. Why pay for sponsorship and be ignored? Sponsorship doesn’t make me buy products but it sometimes causes me to not buy products. If other people are like me, not sponsoring a team would be a wiser move than sponsoring one.

  5. Rick Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 8:15 am

    I totally agree with the article. I work for one of the biggest teams in NASCAR. I have to deal with sponsors as well as the fans. Although their are still times when the racing is very good, in general, people don’t like the COT. The sport has become such a money machine that the racing has become secondary. Everything all the way down to the grass in the infield has a sponsor. Its so saturated its hard for the sponsors to get any bang for their buck anymore. They still have advertising money to spend, economy or not, they are just getting tighter with it. The teams have just priced themselves out of too many companies budgets. Will the sport survive? I’m sure it will. But until NASCAR realizes that the true bottom line is the fans, then they will continue to fall. If the product they were selling was good enough, people would always come see it. If the problem was only the economy, attendance would be down, but TV ratings would be through the roof. I’m pretty sure thats not the case. I appreciate articles like this one. The truth hurts sometimes.

  6. Charles Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 9:03 am

    TO Eddie D’Hondt

    After reading your comments I can truly see how the “inside the oval” crowd are getting from the fans!

    You dont tell fans and give lectures about the state of Nascar when it use to have a ‘grassroots”fan base that would go in a bad economy, I am thinking 1973, 1979 to 80, and 1990 to 1992 and 2001 wtc recessions and the sport still grew!

    Yes some of us fans for 45 years see a ship sinking and are trying to upright it, “not the status quo’”you seem to

    Where is all the competition between the brand of cars, this spec car series has never worked, just look at IROC, IRL, CART, etc!

    Having to pay 6 dollars for a drink at Darlington, 30 dollars to park, then after going to the Labor Day race form 1963 to 2003 in a row and then take it, Rockingham, North Wilkesboros away from us to go to tracks like Somona, and Glen for lesser attendence and more cost for the teams to build special cars for two races a year, Yes I will complain!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I use to borrow money, stay out of work to go to a Nascar race and a lot of my freinds did, now I can afford and dont wont to go!!!!!!!!

    I have given to this sport my whole life and most of the fans of Richards Columns are trying to help not hurt and just because you are looking for a sponsor dont take your grief or look for any apologys from us!!!!!!!!

  7. Mark Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 9:05 am

    Look…we can all come up with an excuse to validate the ecomomic woes of NASCAR. This sport has become a leagalized form of GREED. Sponsored by this…, presented by that…, brought to you by…., 2 hr pre race shows. Scarcity is what make GOLD worth its price. Pull back a little on the corporate influence! The empty seats, that is plain and simple due to $4.00 hot dogs, out of line price tags on the tickets, the on-slought of t-shirt vendors(not to mention buying one, then have a sponsorship change, just after you put it on). Don’t pay $25.00 for a t-shirt, they cost about $1.00 to make. WISE up NASCAR fans, take a break step back, relax for a bit, let the value slip, let the France family sweat so they appreciate the FAN a little more.

  8. Pat Gorman Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 9:27 am

    As the article states It’s a sinking ship and Eddie is a good example of what is wrong with the sport…I mean busines now. Eddie is a prime example of a corporate drone…just like king “Brain” If you say it often enough…”everything is OK” or it’s the economy, you start to believe it. First generation, Think of it and build it, Second generation Watch it grow and prosper, and third generation screw it up. Look out the window Eddie….we aren’t so ignorant as you think. Our sports is controlled only by money…the fans and the racing are secondary…..Top 35 …Lucky Dog…you name it. The COT is boring and so are the vanilla drivers that are scared to really say what they think….the passion left along with the good racing. I’ve been a fan since the 60’s and to be honest I haven’t watched an entire race yet this year and most of last. Blame it on the economy if you must but I don’t see the same reactions from the fans on baebal and football websites. somebody need to stand up and tell the “KING” he has no clothes on…..if you remember the story

    Sadly…. a Fan no more

  9. Richard Allen Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 9:45 am

    As I have said before, I rarely comment in this section unless I have been asked to clarify a point made in the piece in question. This is a place for reader comments and as long as they are kept clean the readers say will always be heard here.

    With that said, I feel compelled to respond to Mr. D’Hondt’s comments, especially since he challenged my “homework”. As a teacher, I can’t let that go.

    The article is filled with facts, not emotional rhetoric.

    DeWalt Tools leaving a NASCAR champion’s team is a fact.

    Allstate leaving The Brickyard, the most historic track in racing, is a fact.

    Lowe’s leaving the track in Charlotte is a fact.

    Jack Daniel’s is rumored to be leaving, as was stated in the column.

    Attendance is down significantly at almost every track. The statement “Tickets available for the night race in Bristol” is all that needs to be said.

    Television ratings are indeed down.

    There has not even been so much as a rumor of a new company coming in any significant way.

    And as for the homework, here’s some: NFL attendance was down last year…by 1%. Yes, 1%.

    MLB attendance is down this season by just over…3%, and that is with the steroid scandal.

    I’m no ‘NASCAR Insider’ and I never said the sky is falling, but as one of the responses above states, if someone doesn’t attempt to send a wake up call it will be soon.

    Thanks for your comments, everyone.

  10. Carl Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Actually, try closer to 6% decline for MLB, according to the SBJ.

    As far as the NFL, I consider that to be a bit of a different animal. First, it’s BY FAR the most popular sport in America. It stands to reason it would not suffer the decline that NASCAR has seen.

    Secondly, an NFL team plays at the same venue for every home game, whereas NASCAR travels the country, which results in higher travel costs for attendees (gas, airfare, hotels, etc.).

    I think it’s a little bit of an apples to oranges to compare the NFL to NASCAR.

    Having said that, you are accurate about companies not flooding into the sport. I do think NASCAR has done its best to kill the golden goose, so to speak, by selling too many sponsorships, teams driving the prices of sponsoring a car up too much, etc.

  11. steven Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    I personally am especially tired of hearing BOOGETY BOOGETY etc. If I never hear that again it will be toooo soon.

  12. Bobber Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    I was a HUGE fan of CART/IRL. Then all the cars had to follow stringent specs. No more innovation. Remember how exciting it was when Parnelli Jones showed up with the rotary engine? NASCAR has done the same thing. Taken away innovation. I like the fact the the COT is safer but the races are boring. The track owners are also culpable in this by not realizing they need to lower prices to fill seats. It was sad to see so many empty seats at Indy as well as other tracks.

  13. Richard Allen Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    I stand corrected on the MLB numbers as I went back and realized the stats I saw were from the first three weeks of the season.

    At the All Star break attendance was down 5.5%.

    Like NASCAR, the economy excuse may not be well suited to the MLB as it may be the one sport run more poorly than NASCAR.

  14. Jake the Snake Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Wow Eddie D’hont. interesting view of reality you’ve got there.

    One question. If the double file restart is so brilliant why did they wait 50 years to start using it?

    Looks more like an act of desperation than brilliance.

    By the way Dr. Punch: we get it. the restarts are “Shootout style”

  15. Randy Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Just one other thing that has run me away for NASCAR is when was the last time you bought any NASCAR product that was MADE IN AMERICA!!! Everything from keychains to t-shirts to $150 jackets are not MADE IN THE USA. Why would I spend my hard earned money on the CHEAPEST made products they can purchase. Their fun is about OVER……

  16. banzaibonnie Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    When the chase was instituted,I expected problems. Little did I realize how bad it could get.Now,all we hear is the top twelve-even in the first week,as tho the other 31 drivers have no fans,much less sponsors.Then along comes the top 35 rule,adding insult to injury.If your favorite is not yet a superstar,dont expect the media to notice him untill he attains that status.Unless his name is Dale!Mrn radio still reports on everyone,as tv used to.

  17. midasmicah Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    Hey Eddie. Get a reality check. I don’t know what bubble you’ve been living in, but the only person you have any business calling out is yourself. NAS$CAR HAS DONE EVERYTHING POSSIBLE IN THE LAST FEW YEARS TO DRIVE BOTH VIEWERS AND SPONSORS AWAY. Any sport that would drive At&t out of the business needs to get their ducks in a row. I’ve been following this sport for 25+ years and the last 5 have been painful. To put it bluntly I’m restating the same things I’ve been saying for those same five years. Lowe’s leaving is a huge blow. All these sponsors leaving should be setting off alarms amongst the heirarchy of the sport, but like Nero, Mr. France continues to fiddle away while the empire his betters built is slowly crumbling. I used the be a fanatic. Now I’m barely a fan. Good article, Rich

  18. midasmicah Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    One last thing. I don’t need to see all these percentages to know what the truth is. Three things tell it all. HALF-FILLED GRANDSTANDS, FREE-FALLING TV RATINGS, AND SPONSORS LEAVING IN DROVES.

  19. Hambone Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    How to fix NA$CAR:
    1. Hang Brian France from the tallest tree in Rockingham.
    2. Return Rockingham and THE Southern 500 to thier rightful places on the schedule.
    3. can the stupid & insulting chase for the chumps points scam.
    4. can toyoya. (They make a fine car/truck but have NO place in NASCAR(.
    5. Hang Brian France from the tallest tree in Rockingham.
    As a former fan of 45+ years, these are what must happen before I’ll ever give NA$CAR the time of day again. Brian France has taken what was the best racing in the world and turned it into just another insignificant TV sitcom. Good riddance to it.

  20. keith Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    If you were a sponsor would you pay 20 million to be on a car then get extorted every week by TV to be seen or would you sponsor a race or track and have them not say your name or worse yet have the race called by another name from the TV network. These greedy fools are killing themselves.

  21. Chuck Allen Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    After reading the comments posted before me, I can see that I’m not the only fan who is sick and tired of what NASCAR has become. I have been a fan for 20 years, spent thousands of dollars I couldn’t really afford, driven thousands of miles, and spent even more hard earned cash on merchandise. I haven’t bought a NASCAR item in over three years. I could care less about the races. I still enjoy the truck series. It is the only thing that remotely resembles the sport I once loved. As for NASCAR caring about the fans, all we have to do is look around to see that’s not their primary concern. Good luck rebuilding what little Brian France has so BRILLIANTLY destroyed. At this rate, it will be dead in a couple of years. Great article, Rich. I’m with you all the way!

  22. RAEckart Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 6:13 pm


    Not every article written on the web is for media experts or NASCAR insiders. Some are harmless blogs that convey information that the experts already know. So give this guy a break. He’s doing this for the love of the sport; not to take your job. You’re a pretty big fish to be knocking all the water out of this pond.

    - RAEckart -

  23. Joe in Pittsburgh Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Wow,all I have to say is I agree with everyone here except Mr D’hondt. If that is what the people involved in NASCAR actually think,then we should not be surprised as to the direction the sport has taken in the last 5 or so years. Hope you racing guys enjoy running around with your sponsors in front of empty tracks and maybe being broadcast on Versus—because that is where you are heading if you do not change that naive attitude. I’m with the one guy who said he spent thousands he didnt have on NASCAR but now if there is a NASCAR logo on it,I DONT buy it. Is that what the sponsors wanted–turning fans like me away? Someone better wise up before it’s too late (although it already is in my opnion).

  24. Marybeth Wallick Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    Jake the Snake,
    “By the way Dr. Punch: we get it. the restarts are “Shootout style” ”
    According to Kenny Wallace, who every now and then gets it right, they are all required by Nascar to call it “shoot-out style”. They have no choice.

  25. Ed Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    The fans spoke their mind this year at the Chicago race when 20,000 seats were not sold because you had to buy season tickets for all the races instead of the races you wanted to see. This is where the state of the economy really reared its ugly head. The fans had to make a choice and they said NASCAR and the tracks cannot dictate these things anymore. Good for them !

  26. Robert Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    Sometimes the truth is really hard to accept.Look at the focus Ford is starting to place on their dragracing programs.Probably will continue with NASCAR,but placing a lot more money around the other motorsports.GREED has been the ruin of many great beings,NASCAR is not immune.Brian France needs to come down from his ivory tower and listen to the fans.

  27. Al Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    So the only person here who thinks NASCAR is in fine shape is a NASCAR insider who takes it upon himself to try to kill the messenger instead of seeing the message, which is supported strongly by the actual fans who post here.

    Like most here I have been a NASCAR fans for many years (more than 30 years now that I count it) but I really can’t be bothered much with the sport any longer. I vaguely keep track of who wins races and where Ryan Newman is in the standings but we rarely watch races any more — and this is coming from a family who used to plan our Sundays around NASCAR races (well, back in the day when races were reliably held at a regular time on Sunday). I think for me the biggest problem is that NASCAR has come to see itself as the star, whereas it used to be that the drivers and even the tracks were the stars. NASCAR now squelches nearly every ounce of individuality out of the drivers, and as a previous poster mentioned, the idea of innovation in cars and engines has been killed and buried. Everything, EVERYTHING, is cookie-cutter — the cars, the tracks, and saddest of all, the drivers. A sport that once thrilled me now bores me to tears most of the time.

    I don’t see how anyone could look objectively at the sport and say it’ll be okay as soon as the economy turns around. Even before the worst of the recession hit, races weren’t selling out and TV ratings were down. We used to attend at least five races per year (including the All-Star Race), and this year the All-Star race might be the only one we attend and it has nothing to do with the economy. We’re simply not thrilled with the racing any longer and going to races is so ridiculously expensive that even the fun of tailgating with our friends before and after races isn’t enough to draw us in.

    NASCAR had better wake up fast. It’s on the verge of completely losing us as fans and if it can lose us, I’m guessing a lot of the newer fans will jump ship even more easily.

  28. djones Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    The main thing wrong with NASCAR is the way the Emperor France is ruining (oops, running) it.

    Too bad the France family doesn’t copy the folks over at the George family and kick him to the curb.

    He’s killing their goose. His so called leadership is going to affect all of them in their checkbooks.

  29. Chuck in Knoxville Says:
    August 12th, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    Come on Eddie. You sound like Jimmy Spencer. You will hurt your back carrying all that water. You know, just like everyone else here, the sport is in decline. The economy, combined with years of bad decisions have the sport struggling.