The Frontstretch: The Poaching of Dollar General Another Blow to the Sport by Amy Henderson -- Thursday October 13, 2011

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The Poaching of Dollar General Another Blow to the Sport

Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Thursday October 13, 2011


In a press conference today, Joe Gibbs Racing and Dollar General announced a sponsorship agreement for 2012. It will include primary sponsorship of Joey Logano’s No. 20 Sprint Cup car for 12 races and Brian Scott’s Nationwide Series car for the full season. The company will also provide sponsorship to either the No. 20 or the No. 18 in ten additional Nationwide Series races. Finally, the Dollar General colors of yellow and black will return to the No. 18 truck of Kyle Busch in the Camping World Truck Series for ten races for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

On paper, it’s a great deal for both Dollar General and JGR. The Cup Series is undoubtedly a step forward for the company, which has been a longtime supporter of Nationwide Series teams, most recently the No. 32 of Turner Motorsports. It’s obviously a boon to JGR, especially Scott’s Nationwide operation. “We are thrilled to have Dollar General partner with us at Joe Gibbs Racing,” said Gibbs on Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “Our goal is to promote the Dollar General brand by delivering victories on the track. This is an exciting day for JGR and NASCAR.”

Too bad it’s not so exciting for Turner Motorsports. One of the last competitive independently owned Nationwide Series teams, Turner currently has two drivers in the top ten in series points: Justin Allgaier in fifth and Jason Leffler in sixth. Reed Sorenson, who is third in the standings, was released by the team last week for performance issues (despite his points standing, the team did not feel that Sorenson was providing adequate feedback during races), and Leffler was told that he is free to pursue other options for 2012 as sponsorship dwindles and current sponsor Great Clips will be moved to another car within the team.

Even contending for a championship and winning a race couldn’t keep Dollar General in the camp of Reed Sorenson and Turner Motorsports, who will join powerhouse Joe Gibbs Racing in 2012.

Sorenson’s third place standing is the highest of any independent Nationwide team (currently that’s MacDonald Motorsports), and Dollar General was a big reason for that. Sorenson and Brian Vickers have also brought Dollar General into the spotlight (the No. 32 is seventh in Nationwide Series owner points; the best of the independents, and ahead of the No. 11 that JGR fields for Scott in 16th). No independent Nationwide team has won the series championship since ppc Racing in 2000.

It’s a series in crisis, and what is needed more than anything, is for loyal sponsors to step up, and for those teams to get adequate coverage by the television crews and adequate promotion from NASCAR.

But the sponsors want the Cup drivers, say the masses. That’s true. But the drivers and teams are the ones who make it so. If those drivers didn’t make themselves available, the sponsors would have to look elsewhere. If the television coverage didn’t focus on the Cup stars even when they aren’t running up front, there would be return on the investment in a Nationwide team. It would take a concerted, community effort, but nobody is willing to do it, and with Cup teams actively poaching sponsors from the Nationwide-only teams, the future isn’t pretty.

Poaching sponsors is nothing new; it happens all the time in racing, but there’s something that just smacks of entitlement and greed when a Cup team woos a sponsor away from an independent Nationwide or CWTS team. It does make sense for the sponsor, there’s no denying that, but that’s in part enabled by a sport so enamored by a chosen few that they fail to promote dozens of drivers and teams, including some even at the Cup level in favor of the vanilla, over-exposed chosen few.

The deal between JGR and Dollar General is hardly unique, but there is one more aspect to consider. Gibbs’ team reportedly asked Home Depot to scale back their sponsorship of Logano’s Cup car in favor of Dollar General. That’s right; there was already a full year of sponsorship in place for the No. 20, yet Gibbs and Dollar General told them to cut back. That’s a slap in the face to teams at both the Cup and Nationwide Series level who struggle and scrape for sponsors, sometimes race to race. It would be nice if Home Depot would step up and sponsor another Toyota team for the money JGR told them to keep.

Turner Motorsports, of course would be an excellent choice in terms of both performance and poetic justice. They already have a relationship via Raceday on Speed with Kenny Wallace, a three-time Nationwide Series Most Popular Driver whose single-car independent team does more with less than perhaps anyone in the series, and for whom that money could go a long way toward buying the speed it takes to win. If the company wants to stay in the Cup Series, the No. 13 Germain Racing entry is a Toyota and is not fully sponsored, having to start and park several times during the year for lack of funds.

It’s not even a performance issue. Turner’s team is currently outperforming the JGR team of Brian Scott in the Nationwide Series. Joey Logano is a talented driver, but he’s not Kyle Busch or Denny Hamlin. Logano and Busch are ineligible for points in the Nationwide Series, so wins will come, but championships will not, though they might have with Turner in a year or two. That makes the situation even sadder. Performance simply doesn’t matter to sponsors in NASCAR as much as being attached to a name.

There has been talk among fans that perhaps NASCAR should simply get rid of the Nationwide Series and redistribute the sponsor dollars among Cup and/or CWTS teams, but what kind of solution is that? Not only would there be a heavy toll on the NASCAR community with the potential for 40 entire teams being laid off and the end of numerous driving careers that don’t deserve to end in that way, it would be a huge historical loss to the sport to lose a series that’s been around for decades and boasts some of the sport’s most memorable names. But the bleeding of sponsor money to the big Cup teams has to be stopped.

I’m not naïve; I understand the business side of decisions like this. However, it’s an ugly side of NASCAR. It bares a part of the sport’s underbelly that is not only sordid and greedy, but also very vulnerable. When the poaching of sponsors is taken to the level that teams are actually turning away money while others struggle to survive, it’s not exactly a sign of a thriving sport. It’s a sign that changes need to be made, and soon. There needs to be a concerted effort between NASCAR and teams to make sure that that money is being spent well, and television networks to make sure that there is a return on a significant investment.

I’m sure is was a great day for Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing, and Kyle Busch Motorsports. Too bad it’s such a bad one for Turner Motorsports. As the clouds gather, dark days look to be ahead for the Nationwide and Cup independents. Then again, the best time for poaching is the dead of night…

Contact Amy Henderson

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old farmer
10/14/2011 01:39 AM

So, Amy says that sponsorships are business deals and that both owners and businesses need to do what’s best for them.

With that in mind, just what is she bitching about? Or is she just filling up space?

Does anyone ever pay any attention to what she says?

It’s always all about business.

Bill B
10/14/2011 07:16 AM

Yes, and the rich get richer. Hard to believe anyone is still surprised at that.

Maybe these independent teams should protest… I can see it now… Occupy Victory Lane.

10/14/2011 09:40 AM

If Amy thinks it would be sad to see the Nationwide series go away because it has been around so long, she should take a peek at what is going on with NASCAR’s oldest division. The Modifieds!!

Michael in SoCal
10/14/2011 10:38 AM

I thought Brian Scott brought sponsorship when he went to JGR. Where did that go?

And no way did JGR ask Home Depot to scale back their sponsorship of the 20. No way.

10/14/2011 10:52 AM

If it’s not the mega teams that gobble up the available sponsors, it’s NASCAR taking a big bite. Not a lot of difference between NASCAR today and the mega banks and brokerage houses. More than ever it’s the haves have and the have not’s never will. Four car teams with several satellite affiliations should never have become the norm and BZF should never have been given the head chair at the table.

10/14/2011 11:41 AM

….and the beat goes on…and the nationwide continues in it’s death throes. Just cancel the series. The only teams making money are the cup teams anyway. The series championship is a farce.

10/14/2011 11:58 AM

Business is business, thats the way of a Capitolist economy. From the purest racers viewpoint my problem is there is no way for a young person to have a shot at being successful in racing unless your parents have deep pockets . I was fortunate to race at the local level at a time when you could build your own equipment and be competitive but that day is gone. I got a big kick out of a story about how much Denny Hamlins parents sacrificed for Denny to start racing. Poor ol Denny had to drive a used Lexus to high school

10/14/2011 12:04 PM

Yeah I gotta agree with my homey so cal mike on this one…I read more than a year ago that Home Depot was withdrawing ALL sponsorship in racing. Sounds like two sides of the same coin one way or the other. One of the deepest pockets in racing is backing off at the least, if not leaving altogether. JGR saying they asked them to back off would be whitewash on the fact that they backed the wrong horse when they gave up on Smoke in favour of Logano.

10/14/2011 12:24 PM

Great article Amy. It always amuses me that the “holy roller” Joe Gibbs is always at the heart of controversy. What a “Christian” example!

Wayne M
10/14/2011 12:25 PM

Amy..A lot of opinion from you and not much fact. Where did you show that JGR activley sought the DG sponsorship and where do you source Home Depots being asked to cut back sponsorship?

Bill B
10/14/2011 12:26 PM

re: “ they backed the wrong horse when they gave up on Smoke in favour of Logano.”

Usually when you make a statement you imply that backing the wrong horse means you lose something. But as I see it, Home Depot will be gaining back 20+ million per year by leaving a sport with diminishing relevance as fans back away.

10/14/2011 02:18 PM

@Bill B , not sure about anyone else but I am one who has actively tried to spend the precious few dollars I do have on sponsors of NASCAR. It is in hopes that the racing that I have loved for 50 years will be around through my grandkids lives. Although Mr. France is working hard to end it, I am doing my part to keep it going.

10/14/2011 02:35 PM

It very definitely is a business, with the good and the bad that comes with that. That generally means that the big get bigger, and the little guy closes down.
However I do find it hard to believe that JGR turned down ANY money. And of course, Dollar General has no control over what Home Depot does. Sounds like JGR is doing a little spinning to put themselves and Dollar General in a more favorable light.

Doug in Washington (State)
10/14/2011 04:29 PM

NASCAR isn’t doing anything to keep the NW series alive anyway. Yeah, I know- killing it off would end up causing layoffs. No kidding, but this slow death thing isn’t much of an improvement.

What NASCAR has done is help kill off the independent and NW-only teams:

1) By not limiting the amount of races Cup regulars run, the Cup Regulars eat up the majority of good-paying finishing positions (and prize money)

2) By implementing a new and very expensive COT that a number of teams simply could not afford

3) By sucking up “Official *** of NASCAR” sponsors, some of which have exclusivity agreements that prevent other companies in the same field from sponsoring teams.

4) Lowering purses so that prize money doesn’t even cover tires for a weekend unless you get a top-15 finish (coupled with Cup-affiliated teams sucking up the T15 spots every week, and the top sponsors)

Plenty more.

Matt L
10/14/2011 04:45 PM

It would be nice to read ‘——— Co. sponsoring Nationwide team’.

Shayne Flaherty
10/14/2011 07:10 PM

There are companies that would like to be involved with NASCAR. Unfortunately, NASCAR likes to steal the sponsorship opportunities for themselves. NASCAR gives their sponsors exclusive rights which slams the door in the face of any similar companies trying to compete. In this economy, how does NASCAR justify turning away good money? Look at what NASCAR has done to Robby Gordon this season, like Robby is such a threat to NASCAR’s bottom line. Unreal.

Tom Dalfonzo
10/14/2011 10:20 PM

Why not just do away with the Nationwide Series entirely? It has become nothing more than Cup Lite, and all the Cup-affiliated teams get all the wins, the glory, and the best of everything. NASCAR should only have the Cup and Truck Series.

As a sign of goodwill, I would want the Nationwide COTs’ to become the new Cup cars. Also, all the personnel members can sign on to current Cup Series organizations. In some cases, it would expand some teams from 1 or 2-car outfits to 4-car fleets.

There is a laundry list of big-name sponsors that I would love to see in the Cup Series: Staples, White Castle, T.G.I.Fridays, Mack Trucks, Craftsman, Dickies, HP, Applebee’s, Armor All, Briggs & Stratton, Texas Roadhouse, Parts Plus, Harley-Davidson, etc. Why do these powerhouse teams feel that its fun to fleece primary sponsors from struggling Cup operations, essentially leading them to shut down?

Also, exclusivity should be a federal crime. There was no reason for AT&T to be forced out of NASCAR like they were.

10/16/2011 10:41 AM

GO ROWDY! Drive that DOLLAR GENERAL truck like you stole it!!!


Contact Amy Henderson

Recent articles from Amy Henderson:

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Want to know more about Amy or see an archive of all of her articles? Check out her bio page for more information.