The Frontstretch: Voices From the Heartland: Bad Economy Or Bad Decisions? by Jeff Meyer -- Thursday July 2, 2009

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Hey look, I know times are tough, but has this sport finally reached a point where a man must sell his soul for a sponsor?

I speak mainly of Joe Nemechek, Kevin Conway, Steve and Rusty Wallace and their current sponsors, ExtenZe and US Fidelis respectively.

Now, unless you have been living under a rock the last few years, you know that the television airwaves (or digital signals as it has now become) are filled with offers of magic pills specifically designed to enlarge your penis. Even if you are a woman, these pills are hawked as a good idea for the ‘penis’ that you DO ‘own’, i.e. your mate’s! One would think, with the frequency of such commercials every night, that if every man in the country would just buy and take these pills, all of our society’s problems would be solved and Barack Obama’s Presidency would merely be symbolic!

The most annoying of these penis pill commercials has to be, without a doubt, ExtenZe! Yes, I know there is ‘Smiling Bob’ out there with his Enzyte but at least they have DIFFERENT commercials and at about half the frequency. It has become so annoying that it is my common practice to find two things on tv that I want to watch simultaneously and as soon as that network runs an ExtenZe ad, I immediately switch to my alternate until they run one also, at which point I switch back to the first. And yes, given the frequency of such ads, I usually get to watch most of both shows! At any rate, I cannot describe the incredulousness I felt the first time I saw an Extenze commercial featuring part time Truck and Nationwide Series driver Kevin Conway.

The first thought that popped into my head was; what team could possibly THAT hard up for cash as to sport a sponsorship from ExtenZe? Better yet, what driver would want his OWN name associated with them? So I did a little research and the answer was Joe Nemechek. Oh Joe! Say it isn’t so! ‘Front Row Joe’, as he is known as for his history of qualifying prowess, is the owner of the Conway’s ride that has been sporting the ExtenZe sponsorship. Ok, so times are tough in the lower series, I admit that, but overall, in a sport that is known for it’s fan’s ‘brand loyalty’, is it necessary to have a sponsor like Extenze?

Steven Wallace’s sponsor, US Fidelis, has a laundry list of complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau, but are times so tough that any sponsor is better than no sponsorship at all?

If you do a google search on ExtenZe, you will find out rather quickly that there are far more complaints about the product and parent company, Biotab Nutraceuticals, than there are praises or ‘before and after’ photos. Website after website has hours of reading, with the most common complaint that in order to get your ‘free weeks supply for the cost of a postage stamp’, you must give you credit card information first. If you do that however, with the intent of ‘canceling’ your order before the first ‘monthly’ shipment arrives, good luck! You’d be more successful getting rid of herpes.

Further research found that the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has very little known information about Biotab Nutraceuticals, garnering them a BBB rating of ‘F’. But enough about Conway and Nemechek, let’s swallow a pill and move on to, well, bigger names! (and who doesn’t like BIGGER!)

We’ve all seen the US Fidelis commercials featuring the father and son duo of Rusty and Steven Wallace. US Fidelis is the primary sponsor (with 5 Hour Energy Drink as an associate sponsor) for Steven in the Nationwide Series since the beginning of the current season. Advertising is a very powerful thing and one would think (and what THEY want you to think) that if Rusty Wallace is hawking a product, well, it must be ok. After all, Rusty is a former Cup Champion and a household name (whether you like him or not) among NASCAR households. Steven on the other hand…well, anyone who has ever met Steven instantly realizes that the LAST thing he needs is a 5 Hour Energy Drink! Be that as it may, I did some research on US Fidelis as well.

US Fidelis sells auto warranty insurance. Basically, they sell you a contract that says, for so much a month, depending on the year, make and mileage of your auto, if it breaks, they will fix it… IF that part is not excluded somewhere in the fine print of their specific contract…a contract which, the potential buyer does NOT get to look over BEFORE giving credit card information to sign up. (One of many complaints against the company.) However, again let’s check with the BBB.

First off, the BBB gives US Fidelis an ‘F’ rating. (taken from their website)US Fidelis is headquartered in Wentzville, Missouri, which is basically a suburb of St. Louis. The BBB has given the business an ‘F’ rating for six basic reasons. 1. 1069 complaints in the last 36 months. 2. 14 complaints that have not been resolved. 3. Government action(s) against the company. 4. Advertising issues. 5. Length of time to resolve complaints. 6. Failure to cure pattern(s) that cause the complaints.

The one that really sticks out is number 3, government actions against the company. In March of 2008, the Missouri Attorney General filed suit against the company, citing among other things (see details at above link) misleading mailings and violation of Missouri No Call lists. In April of 2009, it was revealed that attorney generals from 40 states have launched a coordinated investigation into the industry and are in negotiations for a settlement from the company. Think about that folks, 40 out of 50 states! Also in April, the Missouri Department of Insurance sued owners Darain and Cory Atkinson, and their company, demanding they comply with a subpoena, a subpoena that the Atkinsons “forgot” the date of. And speaking of owner Darain Atkinson…

In 1986, Darain Atkinson was convicted of burglary, theft and forgery. In 1987, he plead guilty to federal charges of counterfeiting after being accused of manufacturing 40,000 dollars worth of 20 and 50 dollar bills. After his release from federal prison in 1990, in 2001 Atkinson started a company called Big Time Productions (later to become US Fidelis). Atkinson is currently building a 17 million dollar home, complete with an underground entryway, on the shores of Lake Saint Louis. But hey, let’s get back to Rusty Wallace and sponsorship, because you can google Darain Atkinson on your own if you want to.

Has the climate in NASCAR become that in which owners are so desperate that they will accept sponsorship from shady companies? Did Rusty not do his homework on this company, which is supposedly run under ‘Christian concepts’, or did he just simply ‘sell out’ when the sight of all that green caught his eye and he simply looked the other way? Has the stupidity of the general American populace risen to such levels that less than reputable companies like these even HAVE the millions to get a former Cup Champ to hawk for them?

When it comes to NASCAR fan’s brand loyalty, I am there to a point, but when it comes to less than reputable companies, I lose respect for those that choose to paint their race car with their logo.

While I am happy with my penis, if someone could make a pill to make my bank account bigger, well, I’d be all over that sponsorship. Apparently, some NASCAR names have found just that!

Stay off the wall, (especially if you’ve taken “those” pills…you might fall off!)

Jeff Meyer

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Today on the Frontstretch:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum


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07/02/2009 04:53 AM

Jeff, I would also think that nascar would be doing somekind of background check on these sponsors. I seem to remember nascar not allowing some sponsors.

07/02/2009 09:54 AM

There have been shady sponsors on race cars from the beginning of time . Sadly , most racers will take the money , pull their hat down over their face so no one sees them doing it , and its off to the races . I guess we can go back and blame Mark Martin and Jack Roush for starting this mess .
Heres the bigger problem . TV networks running those ridiculous ads over and over , every ten minutes , all day and all night . The networks had to choose between taking the ad money , or finding real companies who wanted to advertise . The networks chose the easy route as always .

don mei
07/02/2009 09:57 AM

American populace stupid?? LOL…been watching the hysteria over Michael Jackson? Actually I have it on good authority that he’s not really dead; he and Elvis are opening a 7-11 in Ensenada.

Doug Scholl
07/02/2009 11:13 AM

I’m sure Jeff is limited in length of article but also lets not forget that Red Horse racing Just released a DEFENDING CWTS Champion for Timothy Peters because he brought along a sponsor (who I will not plug).

07/02/2009 02:48 PM

Jeff, I appreciate your article and the points you try to make. You hit the nail on the head with the Extenze commercials and sponserships. The commercials are ludicrous, annoying and even border on offensive. The only fact you life out was that it is not the first time those types of products have been a sponser. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when Jack Roush and Mark Martin sat down and talked about the Viagra sponsership on the 6 car.

I do take issue with most of the other two thirds of your article. I believe you are a better writer than what it displays and am real disappointed with it.

1. The facts around the Fidelis case that you state were almost verbatim from several other articles that I have seen on the subject with no attribution. It would not past the plagiarism test anywhere-very disappointing.

2. The statitistics presented were not given any context which makes a huge difference in what they mean. When you see how many warranty policies were sold compared to how many complaints there are, the picture would seem VERY different. 1069 complaints in 36 months is miniscule in comparison to the amount of warranties sold even if you assumed that the actual amount of problems were double what was reported.
3. You failed to mention that the actual issue with the no call lists and viral marketing was a third party issue that was resolved 9 months ago after it came to the attention of Fidelis.
4. The attorney general issue in this case is about a wide net to draw in more funds to state coffers, not an actual desire to protect the American public.
5. While it is popular to cite the BBB. They in actuality are not much better in their practices than what is insinuated in these accusations against Fidelis. In fact they operate much like a protection racket, “you pay us and we won’t say you didn’t want anything to do with the BBB”. I have been a small business owner who has been hounded by these guys, not over complaints, but because they wanted me to be a dues paying member. They are not very nice. Trust me if the media were required to deal with the BBB the way most businesses are, your stats would be much worse than Fidelis. You find out how many warranties those guys have sold in the last 3 years and see if you still can intellectually honestly, still draw the same conclusions.
6. You parroted the same things I have seen in other articles about the family that owns this business. How does what they have compare to some drivers for Nascar. Again, if you are being intellectually honest is it then as big of a deal??? How many Nascar drivers have built a church, and supported LOCAL charities at the level that these guys do. Not for publicity, but because they think it is right. You’ll only be able to name a couple that freely give as MUCH as these guys do and ironically, most of those are thought to be the “Bad Boys” of Nascar. Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart come to mind.

Finally, I am quite distressed that you have put me in the position of defending something I don’t even like. I am not a fan of most extended warranties or the companies behind them. I am just tired of the 60 minutes approach that basicly doesn’t look at ALL of the facts in context, just to sensationalize something.

I Hope that in the future you stay above the journalistic crap that surrounds you and stay at the level that you are capable of.


Jeff Meyer
07/02/2009 05:42 PM

I did not include Viagra in this article for one simple reason. It is a medical drug that is used to treat impotence. It and other drug like it require a prescription from a doctor and are used to treat a medical problem.

As for US Fidelis, well you can look all the stuff up yourself. Its all out there. You can take a hardened turd and carve it into a beautiful rose, but ya know what? You still have a piece of S&%t!

40 states are investigating them, the owner claims it is a faith based company run on christian principles. If it were, it would not have the problems and deception appearences it does now. Deal with them if you want….after all, they MUST be ok if Rusty Wallace says so, right?! Good luck!

07/02/2009 05:52 PM

Well, if this is happening because of the bad economy then get ready for more….the economy will not be getting better anytime soon…if fact it’s going to get a lot worse.

The four hour erection may be the only thing to look forward to in the future.

(and if I were a driver, I sure wouldn’t want to be advertising penis enlargement pills. Well, maybe if I were Danica.)

07/03/2009 12:52 AM

Hey, Don:

You missed one—JF Kennedy is sweeping the floors at the new Elvis & Michael establishment.

07/08/2009 03:52 PM

We would like to address several points in your posting. USfidelis takes customer satisfaction very seriously. That is how the company has developed long term relationships with more than 280,000 customers. Last year, the companies represented by USfidelis paid out customers more than $20 million in auto service claims. All of that money went to help drivers keep their cars safe and on the road, especially important during this difficult economic time. The complaints that you reference in your posting represent less than one half of one percent of the company’s total customer base. And, in fact, the company has already resolved all but a handful of the BBB complaints.
Also, the company is proud to be sponsoring the Wallace Team this racing season.
If you would like any more information about USfidelis, please visit


Contact Jeff Meyer

Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:

Voices From The Cheap Seats: The Tale Of Two Tires
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