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Sponsor numbers not adding up for some teams

Posted on: November 1, 2011 9:50 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 10:22 pm
By Pete Pistone

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(The days of associating one driver with a single sponsor for the entire season appear to be long gone)

The calendar has turned to November and there are still three races left in the 2011 Sprint Cup Series season. 

But the NASCAR world never slows down and while we still await the outcome of this year’s championship, plans for next year are finally coming into focus. 

Unfortunately it’s not a very pretty picture. 

Economic woes and the lack of sponsorship dollars are shrinking the Sprint Cup Series garage area at an alarming rate. The financial crunch is so strong it’s not just impacting mid-level and small teams but the superpowers of the sport as well. 

Roush Fenway Racing, Richard Childress Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing will see their stables contract while an entire organization like Team Red Bull’s very existence remains in doubt. 

“We’ve gone through a transition with our sponsors, going from a time when they wanted to compete for the top car to now where the sponsors want just enough of a car to be able to do their promotions," said Jack Roush, who faces shutting down his No. 6 Cup team unless last minute sponsorship for 2012 is found to replace UPS.

"It’s a really strange time. I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m not sure what we’ll have coming out of it. It will be different than it’s been in the past." 

Seeking one sponsor to foot the estimated $20 million bill to keep a top flight Cup team on track is virtually impossible in today’s climate. But even splitting that cost over the course of 36 races between multiple corporate backers is also a tough task. 

The merry-go-round of sponsors that now adorn Sprint Cup cars throughout the season makes for a variety of different color schemes and logos to associate with drivers and some argue that has taken away a great deal of NASCAR’s identity. 

In the not too distant past colors and logos were indelibly attached to drivers who were immediately recognized on track by fans who made the instant connection between man and machine.

Jeff Gordon’s colorful DuPont paint scheme. Rusty Wallace and the iconic Miller Lite “Blue Deuce.” Mark Martin and the Valvoline logo. And the most famous of all Dale Earnhardt in the silver and black Goodwrench Chevrolet. 

Today you can’t tell the drivers or their cars and colors without a scorecard on a weekly basis. 

Current Chase point leader Carl Edwards rarely carries the same look two weeks in a row rotating the No. 99 through a maze of sponsors including Aflac, Scott’s, Subway and Kellogg’s. 

Next year he’ll see Fastenal and UPS join the line-up all of which is just a necessary element of today’s NASCAR sponsorship game. 

"You have to put the pieces together," RCR’s David Hart told "It’s 20 races here, 10 races there and then getting someone for the last six races. You have to combo sponsorships together to run your race team. 

"This wasn’t all of a sudden and the hammer came down. You started to see it in the mid-2000s and, when the economy went down in 2008, it continued on that path. You have to look at the possibilities if you don’t have your number. You have to cobble sponsors as you can. You are looking to get as few as possible, but you want to get that number by bringing people to the table." 

Some teams like the Childress organization approach the sponsorship quest by bundling all its resources together and selling partners on a total experience rather than individual race cars. 

“We at RCR do it a little different,” Childress said. “We try to sell our whole company and corporation. The driver is a huge part of it because he plays a large role in the marketing of the product but we also try to sell RCR and make sure that we get the return on the investment for all the companies that we’re associated with. 

“At the end of the day I work for every one of these companies and I want to make sure I do a good job to get the return on their investment.”

The money squeeze is having a significant effect on next year’s landscape and forcing several well known names to the unemployment line. 

Among those Sprint Cup drivers who appear to be on the outside looking in include David Ragan, Brian Vickers and the most recent addition David Reutimann, who won’t return to Michael Waltrip Racing next year in favor of the team running a limited schedule in the No. 00 car with veteran Mark Martin. 

The story gets worse over at NASCAR’s number two and three divisions in the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series. Several teams in both circuits are struggling to find the necessary funding to compete in 2012, meaning sleepless nights for the likes of Reed Sorenson, Jason Leffler, Todd Bodine and even four time truck series champion Ron Hornaday

With current team owner Kevin Harvick deciding to sell his equipment to RCR, Hornaday has two races left with KHI before he finds himself out of work. 

The news came as a bit of a shock to the veteran who says the environment in today’s NASCAR world makes it extremely difficult for even a driver of his talents to find a competitive ride. 

“You sit there and you talk to people and they all want you to bring money,” Hornaday said of many team owners. “I’ve never done that. I got a phone call from Dale (Earnhardt, Sr.) in ’94 and I started driving for him. I got the same phone call from the Dr. Pepper team with Dave Carroll, and I got the same phone call from Richard Childress then Kevin Harvick called me.

“They know I don’t have three million bucks or two-and-a-half million dollars so I don’t hear my phone ringing but I keep winning races. There are some kids out there that are bringing some money and coming in here. I hate to say it, but that’s where this sport is going. You see Cup cars out there with no name on them and everything else.” 

There could be more of that on display next season with some of the sport’s biggest names piloting cars carrying only numbers.

Because right now for many NASCAR organizations at all levels of the sport the most important numbers aren't adding up.

For more NASCAR news, rumors and analysis, follow @ppistone on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. 

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Since: Mar 19, 2009
Posted on: November 3, 2011 3:31 am

Sponsor numbers not adding up for some teams

The product on the track is sub-par.  Has been for 10 years.  Crap rule changes and boring crap racing are to blame as well.  What would Big Bill think?

Since: Nov 14, 2006
Posted on: November 3, 2011 12:14 am

Sponsor numbers not adding up for some teams

The loss in sponsorship adds up to one thing.......GREED. It's just like other sports. Pro athletes want to be paid like gods. Paying a person to hit a baseball, throw or kick a football, shoot a basketball or a puck as well as drive a car millions of dollars is insane. What is happening is people are too busy working to make ends meet while watching their favorite sports team or figure smile at the camera whether they win or lose make boocoo bucks. It's time to pull the plug on the TV and take the family out for dinner and a trip to the park. NASCAR like other sports need a wake up call. This is it. The NBA is getting theirs. Guess what? They are finding out people will find something else to do than spend $50-$100 on a basketball game. Wake up NASCAR and lower prices on tickets and on race purses. The more major sports are facing the same issue. Baseball and football will again too. You can bank on it. We the fans are what make any sport (what ever one you like) go. I refuse to buy a ticket to a pro sports event. TOO ^&* 

Since: Jan 13, 2007
Posted on: November 2, 2011 9:36 pm

Sponsor numbers not adding up for some teams

Maybe sponsors are leaving because fans are leaving,it's quite evident when you look at the stands that NASCAR is losing it popularity rapidly,I don't want to hear the bull about the economy because you can't find a ticket for most big time college  and Nfl games.

Since: Jun 5, 2011
Posted on: November 2, 2011 3:33 pm

Thinning the herd...

NASCAR could probably use a little contraction.  It has been awhile since anyone has died on the track, but it would certainly be a lot safer if there weren't so many cars on the track.  I'm pretty sure that races with 25 cars would be just as exciting as those with around 40.  
I would only allow drivers to compete in one level.  Those who make it to Sprint Cup would be prohibited from racing in Nationwide.  Drivers are diluting their product and brand name by racing in more than one series.  Keep the lower divisions for drivers who can't make it at the top, whether they are on their way up or down.  

Something has to be done or there are going to be some problems.  Maybe a contraction to where all they need is the most loyal part of their fanbase to make money would work.  The thrill-seekers and bandwagon-jumpers are leaving in droves.  Keep the loyal people satisfied and they will keep NASCAR afloat.  

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