Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Thursday August 19, 2010
There are a few things that I hate in this world. I don’t “hate” a lot, mostly because it is a waste of time, but there are a few things that really get my loathing up. Among those are; stupid people, stupid products, and stupid commercials, in no particular order. Unfortunately, stupid products usually go hand in hand with even stupider commercials… leading me to wonder if the people starring in them or endorsing the product, are stupid as well. I mean, who in their right mind would want their claim to fame to be endorsing a stupid product or acting in a stupid commercial?
Such has been my opinion of ExtenZe ever since I saw their very first commercial. Since then, I have publicly mocked their product, their commercials, the actors in them and, most recently, have found renewed uselessness for Jimmy Johnson (the old guy, not the racer). To a lesser extent, I have been disappointed by Joe Nemechek and Kevin Conway for their simple association with ExtenZe, but I can see their reasons for it. Joe needed a sponsor and Kevin needed a ride – the latter of which is the point of this column.
When ExtenZe decided to go racing in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series back in 2009, as near as I can tell from my research, Kevin Conway has been their guy. Conway raced 12 times in ’09 under the influence of ExtenZe, the first 5 being for owner Nemechek, 6 with Dusty Whitney and 1 with Robert Richardson, Sr.
In 2010, ExtenZe decided to step it up and go Cup racing, providing primary sponsorship for Bob Jenkins on one of his three Cup entries — most recently the No. 34. And that folks, almost brings us to the present day! Almost!
On August 9th, it was reported that Conway, after 21 races this year with Jenkins, was in danger of being dumped for “poor performance.” ExtenZe, at the time, was expected to continue their sponsorship of Jenkins’ machine. But all of a sudden, the company revealed they had other ideas, as a press release later that same day would indicate:
“Contrary to some Internet reports out there that recently surfaced after the NASCAR race weekend concluded at Watkins Glen, ExtenZe and Alteril are 100% committed to Kevin Conway and the sport of NASCAR,” said Robert Wilhovsky, Director of Motorsports Marketing. “While we are currently evaluating our options for 2011, Kevin Conway has been and will continue to be the foundation of our NASCAR program in the years ahead.”
Now folks, I have to be honest with you here. When I first read that, I was a bit skeptical. It was after all, a “press release,” which usually is the standard response, especially in this sport. On August 13th, however, my skepticism turned to outright surprise.
“We decided to make a driver change,” said Front Row general manager Jerry Freeze. “ExtenZe (Conway’s sponsor) has asked to take a hiatus. They’re taking a break, and could be back later this Fall. Tony [Raines] is on the entry blank thru Bristol, and then we‘ll reevaluate.”
My surprise turned into downright respect, for at least the marketing department of ExtenZe, when they immediately suspended their relationship with Jenkins and Front Row Motorsports just hours after Freeze announced Conway’s firing.
“As was released earlier this week, ExtenZe and Alteril are 100% committed to Kevin Conway and the sport of NASCAR,” said Wilhovsky. “We are currently evaluating our options for the rest of 2010 and next year.”
I still don’t like their product, their endorser Johnson, or their commercials, but I do admire their loyalty to Conway. Kevin is a nice and personable guy who has always had time to talk to me when asked. I hope he and ExtenZe find a more appreciative team to sponsor in the near future.
By the way, in case you are wondering, here is a bit of history about Bob Jenkins and his racing program.
The decision to fire Conway was based solely because the No. 34 was (at the time) in the 35th spot in the owner standings. One of Jenkins’ other cars, the No. 37, was somewhere just above that while the No. 38 was outside the top 35. Now, I understand the need or desire to keep your car inside the top 35, but at the cost of a primary sponsor? And to replace Conway with Raines?
Tony Raines is also a nice guy who’s talent, in my opinion, has never fully been tapped and he has driven for Jenkins before, but really… was Conway’s performance all that bad?
Conway’s average start this year has been 40.0, with his average finish at 31.6. He has no wins, no top-5s, and no top-10s but he has won over 1.8 million dollars. In 150 career Cup starts as an owner, Jenkins’ cars have all recorded 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 0 top-10s and 0 poles. Over that six year period, Jenkins’ cars have had an average start of 37.2 with an average finish of 32.1… all with a list of drivers as long as your arm, the most notable of which is probably John Andretti!
So, Conway’s performance was “poor” compared to whose? Perhaps Bob Jenkins should focus on building a car that can qualify a little better! Oh, that’s right… hard to do when you lose primary sponsors!
My hat is off to ExtenZe’s loyalty! But I still ain’t taking their pills!
Stay off the wall,
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