The Frontstretch: Truckin' Thursdays: From King To Canned - Sponsorship Woes Claim Another by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Thursday May 31, 2012

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Despite grabbing the win in the season opener at Daytona, John King now finds himself without a ride just five races into the year.

As the Camping World Truck Series haulers rolled into Dover International Speedway Wednesday afternoon, one team was notably missing — John King’s No. 7 Red Horse Racing Toyota. The team announced Tuesday that sponsorship issues had forced them to suspend operations of the No. 7 team until further notice, ending a freshman season that had started with such promise. The one area lacking on King’s resume, though, was money, a financial gap that became too big for investors at RHR to close. After running the first two races this year without primary backing, CONSOL Energy funded King at Rockingham, Kansas and Charlotte, but they won’t be returning this weekend at Dover. Still viable with its other two trucks, RHR will continue to field Timothy Peters’ No. 17 and Todd Bodine’s No. 11 entries.

In a season that’s already been through ups and downs just five races in — a win at Daytona, two DNFs and just two top-10 finishes — the Sunoco Rookie of the Year hopeful now finds himself on the sidelines wondering whether he’ll make another start.

Déjà vu, anyone?

Let’s look back to June, 2009 when the same RHR organization let 2008 champion Johnny Benson go just eight races into a season where he was brought on to “build a championship-caliber team.” The issue that left Benson without a ride? Sponsorship. In eight races, he’d had just one backer — the No. 1 Toyota featured K&N Filters at Daytona — and while it didn’t seem fair, he’d been replaced by Timothy Peters who brought along a sponsor in Strutmasters.com. Once the No. 1 team shut down, Benson made five starts with three different teams, all in 2010 but has since dropped off of the Truck Series map.

Johnny Benson’s reward for capturing the 2008 Truck Series Championship? Unemployment. An all-too familiar tale these days.

There’s a good reason Peters’ ride is safe and has been since he joined the organization in 2009—he’s just one point out of the championship lead, plus, he’s had financial backing from Tire Kingdom, Service Central, NTB and Strutmasters at some point in all five events so far. Add finishes of second, fifth, fifth, second and ninth to make it easy to see why this contender wasn’t the driver on the chopping block.

Then there’s teammate Todd Bodine, a man who’s no stranger to sponsorship woes. During his 2010 championship campaign, Bodine ran several races unsponsored, and the Germain family made a commitment to field Bodine’s No. 30 Toyota out of pocket regardless of whether they managed to find a full-time backer. The gamble paid off, and then some in the form of four wins, 20 top 10s and an average finish of 6.4 in addition to scoring the championship.

It’s amazing what can happen when a driver goes into the year knowing his ride is safe whether the team finds enough sponsorship or not.

Fast forward to the 2012 season, and Todd Bodine almost found himself on the sidelines much like Johnny Benson did in 2009. In 2011, he started out the year with Germain Racing but was sent to Randy Moss Motorsports in a joint agreement due to financial troubles. However, at the end of the year, Bodine was hit with the uncertainty of whether he’d even get to race come Daytona in February. Just a couple of weeks before the season opener, Bodine signed on with RHR with the intent to run as many races as sponsorship allows, and so far that’s been all six races this year (including Friday’s event at Dover). Bodine started off the year with backing from Good Sam Roadside Assistance, and his No. 11 has since featured Toyota Care in three races — Rockingham, Kansas and Charlotte.

So what makes Timothy Peters and Todd Bodine that different from John King? In a word: experience. King has just 12 Truck Series starts to his name and some would say he lucked into the victory at Daytona. Compare that to Peters’ five consecutive top-10 finishes to open the year and back-to-back top-5 runs and you can see why RHR stands behind the pair over the rookie who has yet to prove himself over an extended period of time.

Such criticism for King is somewhat overstated, especially when it comes to winning the series’ biggest race. Yes, while there were breaks that went the 24-year-old’s way, he still needed to be around by the time the checkered flag flew to capitalize on the victory. The rookie also followed it up with a ninth-place run at Martinsville, showcasing his raw talent on one of the CWTS’ more challenging short tracks.

Unfortunately, it seems like this decision is a matter of certainty, choosing the veterans with a history of performance over the freshman who remains a bit of a question mark. No matter the reason, the bottom line is that another young career has been cut short thanks to the ugly economic environment that has gripped all three of NASCAR’s top three series. There’s no reason to believe the young driver won’t have another shot at some point, but the sad reality is that with two DNFs in his last three starts, King doesn’t carry much of a lasting legacy that will see his name pop up if a potential ride does come open.

Author’s Note: The Frontstretch attempted to reach King but received no comment. Additionally, he’s been silent on Twitter since making a Memorial Day post on Monday.

Miguel’s Corner

Oliver Paludo Update:
“This week, we announced that we will be running a very special paint scheme on our truck next week at Texas Motor Speedway. Our truck will have the International Diabetes Federation’s ‘Unite for Diabetes’ logo on the hood and quarterpanels, as well as a picture of Oliver and myself on the bed top. We were already very excited about working with IDF and becoming a Blue Circle Champion prior to Oliver’s diagnosis, but finding out he was diabetic really motivated us to get started much quicker and to do this paint scheme. I want to bring awareness to diabetes and IDF, and most importantly, I want to show everyone, especially my son, that diabetes can’t stop you from anything.”

NASCAR Português:
Corrida: Race
Voltas: Laps
Ex. “2 voltas para o final” (2 laps to go)
Passar: To Pass
Ex. “Miguel Paludo passou Nelson Piquet, Jr.” (Miguel Paludo passed Nelson Piquet, Jr.)

Photo of the Week

Miguel and Oliver Paludo at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Previewing the Lucas Oil 200
Author’s Note: New this season is a feature very similar to the Frontstretch Folio found in Friday’s edition of The Frontstretch Newsletter where I’ll preview the upcoming race weekend. Love it? Hate it? Wish something more were in it? Let me know in the comments below.

Track: Dover International Speedway
Date: Friday, June 1st
Length: 200 laps / 200 miles
Broadcast Information: 4:50 PM EDT on SPEED
Weather Forecast: Isolated Thunderstorms / Wind (30% Precipitation); High 78, Low 64

Did You Know…

  • There have been five first-time winners at Dover in 12 events? Jason Leffler (2003), Chad Chaffin (2004), Scott Speed (2008), Brian Scott (2009) and Aric Almirola (2010) each scored their first career victories at the Monster Mile.
  • There have been 11 different winners at Dover? Kyle Busch became the only driver to “repeat” last season, when he visited Victory Lane after leading three times for 128 of 200 laps. Timothy Peters and Nelson Piquet, Jr. got together on the white-flag lap, forcing the race to end under caution.
  • Brian Scott will pilot the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota this weekend at Dover? In his last visit to the Monster Mile, Scott led just 14 laps en route to his first career victory; he’d led just 13 laps combined in his previous 38 career starts.

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Contact Beth Lunkenheimer

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Did You Notice? … Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on Growing Up Racing and Owner Loyalties
The Frontstretch Five: Flaws Exposed In the New Chase So Far
NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Darlington
NASCAR Mailbox: Past Winners Aren’t Winning …. Yet
Open Wheel Wednesday: How Can IndyCar Stand Out?
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john
05/31/2012 12:56 PM
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More and more sponsors stolen by NASCAR and Cup drivers, ruining it for the little guy. I hope he can land a ride, the guy won Daytona after all.

Contact Beth Lunkenheimer