The Frontstretch: Sponsor Dollars Buying More Than Hood Space On Cars? Jack Roush Says So by Mike Neff -- Thursday August 30, 2007

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Sponsor Dollars Buying More Than Hood Space On Cars? Jack Roush Says So

Full Throttle - Special Edition · Mike Neff · Thursday August 30, 2007


Sponsors spend a ton of money getting their name and logos painted onto cars in the Nextel Cup series. Some of them pay more than 30 million dollars, in fact, just to spend a full season on the hood of a top flight team. However, it appears as though some people in the garage area feel as though that large amount of cash is purchasing more than paint on a car, or perhaps a simple sponsor appearance at a national office. No, that type of money appears to take a team one step further – to the point of purchasing favoritism from the ones who make the calls in NASCAR each weekend. Sound a little crazy to you? It doesn’t to Jack Roush, the legendary NASCAR car owner who had no problem raising such concerns on live television last weekend.

During the NASCAR Victory Lane show on SPEED, taped after the race on Saturday night, Roush made it very clear that he felt sponsors purchase the favor of NASCAR by the amount of time that they purchase during race broadcasts. He made the following comment during the show: "It's a different world now. Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was the politician, he was the NASCAR doctor. He could get things through the sanctioning body that nobody else could. And that paid some dividends for him, he reaped the benefits from that. It is a different world today. It is as much a matter of who you know but what you do, and what your sponsor does. The more TV time your sponsor buys, the better shape you are in."

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what Roush is insinuating; the more money you pour into NASCAR’s seemingly unlimited bank account, the more chance you’ll have of getting the break you need exactly when you need it. While that is a rather bold statement from Mr. Roush, at the very least it provides some food for thought with a sport that continues to struggle with basic issues of legitimacy.

At first glance, Roush’s statements don’t have solid evidence to back them up. In looking back at the past few years in Cup, the series champions have not been some of the sponsors that pay quite a bit of money for advertising time during the race broadcasts. For example, last year's champion was Jimmie Johnson, who drives the Lowe’s Chevrolet for Rick Hendrick. Now, Lowe's owns the naming rights for the race track in Charlotte, and even does the occasional television commercial – but they are not one of the main NASCAR sponsors. In fact, Lowe’s doesn’t even fall within the Top 10 companies that spend the most money on the sport itself, beyond just its sponsorship of the No. 48 car.

Along those same lines, major sponsors don’t appear to be dealt the hand of favoritism Roush implies. Tony Stewart was the champion in 2005, and Home Depot is a rather big television advertiser; however, Stewart has certainly not received any preferential treatment from the sanctioning body when it comes to fines and probations. Just look at his track record for proof. Meanwhile, 2004 saw Kurt Busch raise the Cup as the first winner of the Chase, driving for Sharpie, Crown Royal, and Irwin Tools. While Sharpie sponsors a race, and almost everyone in the garage has a box full of them in their pocket, they aren't that big of a television advertiser. So, there you have it – at least from the championship perspective, it appears as though Roush might be more than a little off base.

It is understandable where Roush was heading with his comments – he truly believes that the biggest dollar sponsors in the sport can get some better calls and quicker rule changes than when the little guys speak up. At the same time, for someone like Roush to say that is a bit of a surprise – Roush Fenway racing is one of the bigger teams in the sport, one of the most financially stable in terms of sponsorship and future growth. The team’s drivers are as high profile as they come – for example, there are as many Office Depot commercials with Carl Edwards that appear during the races than any other sponsor that doesn't brew beer in St. Louis. And with the Car of Tomorrow coming into the sport, the amount of rule changes that can be applied that will affect one manufacturer over another are rather nonexistent.

So, if you’re Roush, why make such a dangerous statement?

Just one word can explain such an inappropriate action : bitterness. The ultimate sound of this statement by Jack Roush is that of a man who feels as though he was wronged by the sanctioning body in the past; and now, years later, he's taking a pot shot in order to feel the cool taste of revenge.

Are rulings in NASCAR races subjective? Certainly they are, and they have to be; each situation has variables that constantly change when you’re going around in circles at 200 miles per hour. However, the degree of favoritism that is played by the sanctioning body is rather hard to substantiate. Considering the fact that last year's Champion, the two most popular drivers in the sport, and one of the biggest hotheads stock car racing has ever seen have all been fined $100,000 and docked 100 driver points this year, it is extremely difficult to prove that there is any kind of favoritism in the NASCAR's calls.

So, in the future let's hope Jack Roush can focus his energies toward making his organization better and enjoying the victory that his driver earns, instead of taking a cheap shot at the sanctioning body on national TV. Just a few years back, Roush stood at the pinnacle of the sport; the sole reason his domination came unglued was simply because he didn't plan properly for the Car of Tomorrow – not because NASCAR made a series of bad calls. Unused to falling so far off the pace, he appears bitter that it has cost him a lot of time and money to catch up.

However, none of Roush’s problems appear to be NASCAR’s fault – and they shouldn’t be labeled as such. Hopefully, going forward he will not feel the need to lie on TV again, just to gain attention for an accusation that simply isn’t true.

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08/30/2007 07:27 AM

My eyebrow went up when I heard that remark also. My thought was that money spent on advertising went to the network and not into Brians pocket. Indirectly Nascar could benefit by the size of the TV contract but $$$ spent on advertising shouldn’t be a factor.

08/30/2007 08:05 AM

Mr. Neff, any poll you would care to take on this subject, whether it be from fans or competitors, would show that fully 90% would disagree with you and would take the Roush side. You obviously haven’t been paying attention.

Old Timer
08/30/2007 09:16 AM

When Roush and Yates teamed up to build engines that came to dominate the sport, NASCAR officials went ballistic. That would never have happened—and hasn’t—if Chevrolet teams were the ones collaborating. Years ago, when the France family campaigned cars, they were Chevys. Earnhardt, while driving Chevrolets, undoubtedly received special consideration. NASCAR took a championship from Martin and gave it to Earnhardt because Martin’s carburetor spacer was welded instead of being bolted. This bias finally led both Ford and Chrysler to boycott NASCAR for many years. The death of Mr. France has probably helped to remedy this bias. It still permeates the sport, though. Mr. Nelson and other key decision makers show a clear bias favoring Chevrolet. It’s interesting that NASCAR races won by Chevy drivers are never found to be boring by the motorsports press, while any race that isn’t won by a Chevy driver is at risk of being tagged with that label. Why is this? Is it “editorial support” for the writers’ employers? Ironically, it was Chevy driver Tony Stewart who said it best: “NASCAR is the professional wrestling of motorsports.” There exists a long history of empirical evidence to support Mr. Roush. Given that, Mr. Neff, your closing remark is libelous and should be retracted immediately with a public apology to Mr. Roush.

08/30/2007 11:53 AM

I think Mr. Neff has only used superficial evidence to try to foolishly dispute the statement of Jack Roush.
Any fan that has watched Nascar for more than 5 years will have to believe Jack is correct. Look at the favortism given to Jr. eventhough he has failed to live up to the hype. We all know how Nascar gave a win to Jr at Daytona. We all know about the debri flags given to help Chevy championship contenders stay on the lead lap. When Roush had 5 cars in the chase they could not wait to change the rules but now that Chevy is winning its because Ford is behind on testing.

08/30/2007 09:00 PM

you sound like NASCAR put you up to this. what isn’t being talked about is that GM new enigne was out before ford new one, the dodge one isn’t even out yet.
in the first COT races hendrick had 30hp on everyone. as far as penalty’s go it is very biased, roush had a crew chief suspended for 6 weeks because a piece of duck tape came off during qualifing. that allowed air in to the trunk, i doubt that gave any aero advantage.
hendrick crew chiefs have been caught cheating with shocks,carb base plates,fenders and the list goes on. there fines are minor compared to the intent.hendrick and NASCAR are 1 they are the same. you can bet the money is tied

08/31/2007 01:15 PM

Old Timer you nailed it. Nascar has been bias against Ford from day 1. And Jack is by far their least favorite owner. Keep after them Jack, you have more support out here then the so-called motorsport journalists can imagine. By the way old timer, I’m an old timer also, first race, Jan. 1967, Motor Trend 500 in Riverside


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