Kevin Rutherford · Friday September 27, 2013
Landon Cassill’s Johnny Davis Motorsports team got a boost when it was announced today (Sept. 26) that his No. 4 car would be sponsored by Oskar Blues Brewery at the upcoming Nationwide Series race at Charlotte.
The announcement got me thinking about beer and, more specifically, its role in the NASCAR Nationwide Series throughout its history. The series was, of course, sponsored by a brewery for its first two decades in existence before Nationwide Insurance took over in 2008. Beer has continued to be a major player in Cup Series sponsorship over the years as well, particularly Brad Keselowski’s Miller Lite-sponsored organization.
But interestingly, for a series that was propped up by alcohol sponsorship, finding a beer sponsor in the Nationwide Series has been much tougher over the past few years since Busch left. In fact, Oskar Blues will become the first brewery to sponsor a Nationwide team this season when Cassill takes the track at Charlotte. In terms of alcohol sponsorship as a whole, only Defiant Whisky has been any sort of presence, adorning Make Motorsports’ No. 50 in select races over the past weeks.
But Oskar Blues’ entrance into the sport actually follows another brewery. A little over a month ago, Richard Childress Racing announced that Ty Dillon would make the jump to the Nationwide Series in 2014, driving the No. 3 his brother Austin has run the past few seasons. The team has primary sponsorship from Yuengling for eight races next season, along with 25 races of secondary sponsorship from the Pennsylvania brewery.
So after years of decline, is beer sponsorship moving back into the Nationwide Series?
It’s tough to say at the moment. Oskar Blues’ first foray into NASCAR sponsorship is currently a one-race deal, while Yuengling will be a formidable but not inescapable presence in the series in 2014 — certainly unlike Miller Lite, which adorns Brad Keselowski’s Cup car nearly every week.
But what is encouraging is the entrance of Oskar Blues — a craft brewery — into the sport. The vast majority of beer sponsors in NASCAR have been some of the largest in America — Miller, Budweiser, Coors and the like. However, the past few years have seen a boom in production of craft brews across the country, with microbreweries opening up in every state to get in on the trend. These breweries don’t have the visibility of the bigwigs, but they have dedicated followers and, oftentimes, some of the highest-ranked beers in the world.
Oskar Blues is one such brewery. Founded in Colorado in 1997, the brewery was the first craft brewery to can its beers, something that’s becoming more and more common in the last year alone. Ever seen, say, Dale’s Pale Ale on the shelf at your local beer-selling supermarket? That’s an Oskar Blues creation, and arguably its most popular.
The Oskar Blues-JD Motorsports pairing makes a tremendous amount of sense. Even some of the largest craft breweries in America don’t necessarily have the funds to cover some of the sport’s elite teams, meaning a lower-budget organization will be the way to go. Cassill is a younger driver who fits snugly within the demographic of people most likely to drink craft beer, making him a fitting face for the product.
That means Oskar Blues could be the first of many such beer companies to try to make it in NASCAR. The sport may not be as raucous as it once was in regards to throngs of people drinking to drunken stupors at races, but beer is still an important part of the NASCAR dynamic. The series is also a major stage on which companies can promote their products, even if just for a race. You can bet viewers this weekend that have never heard of Oskar Blues will be more likely to seek it out — or at least notice it — in the beer aisle next time.
Heck, perhaps NASCAR could abet the craft beer boom even further. Getting a number of smaller breweries involved with some of the smaller teams could cause a greater leap in beer sales.
Of course, this is also coming from an avid craft beer drinker, so take this as you will. Seriously, at the very least, try some Dale’s Pale Ale if you get a chance. It’s pretty good.
-The Sprint Cup Series won’t be the only circuit conducting pre-season testing at Daytona next year. In 2014, Preseason Thunder will expand to include the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series as part of the January test. The Nationwide Series’ test sessions will be run Jan. 11-12, a Saturday and Sunday.
-The Motorsports Group welcomes a new driver to the fray this weekend at Dover. TJ Bell will pilot the team’s No. 40, with sponsorship from TheFireStore.com. The car is usually piloted by Reed Sorenson, who will drive Leavine Family Racing’s No. 95 in the Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday.
-Cold Stone Creamery is coming to NASCAR. The ice cream franchise will adorn Nelson Piquet Jr.‘s No. 30 for Turner Scott Motorsports this weekend.
-TJ Duke has been out of the Nationwide Series since 2011, but all that will change at Dover. Duke will drive Go Green Racing’s No. 79 in his second series start, sponsored by Brysonfuel.
Looking Ahead: Dover
Stats (Entered Drivers):
Most Wins: Joey Logano, Kyle Busch (3)
Most Top Fives: Kyle Busch (8)
Most Top 10s: Kyle Busch (11)
Most Poles: Kyle Busch (3)
Entered Past Winners: Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Jeff Green, Morgan Shepherd, Joe Nemechek, Brian Vickers, Mike Wallace
Top Average Finish: Brian Vickers (5.5, 6 races), Joey Logano (5.9, 9), Austin Dillon (8.0, 3), Kyle Larson (10.0, 1), Kyle Busch (11.2, 16)
Dover Nationwide Debuts: TJ Duke
Season Debuts: TJ Duke
Series Debuts: none
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