The Frontstretch: Did You Notice? Where Are The Sponsors? Martinsville Madness ... And Beyond by Thomas Bowles -- Tuesday October 23, 2007

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Did You Notice? … That even with all the driver changes in motion for next year, there has been just one primary sponsor announced for 2008 that's new to the sport? Sure, a few old faithfuls are moving on up from the Busch Series; 3M is increasing its involvement to sponsor the No. 16 Cup car next year, for example. But most of the sponsorship movement has been in the form of recycled material: Budweiser moving to the No. 9, M & M's to the No. 18, and so on. In the meantime, Domino's and Burger King are cutting ties with Michael Waltrip Racing, leaving the No. 00 car sponsorless along with a handful of others: Yates Racing (Nos. 28 and 38), Bill Davis Racing/Jacques Villeneuve (No. 27), the Haas CNC cars (Nos. 66 and 70), Chip Ganassi Racing/Dario Franchitti (No. 40 - although Canadian Club is rumored) and perhaps even the No. 10 Gillett Evernham entry if Valvoline moves elsewhere. Right now, Pepsi / Mountain Dew is the only clear-cut new sponsor you could claim for the Cup series; and even then, you'd have an argument, as the company has sponsored Jeff Gordon in a handful of races over the past decade. In the meantime, companies that in the past could sponsor one car with ease now have to team up with someone else to share space over the course of the season: Interstate Batteries and M&M's are one such example for Joe Gibbs Racing next year.

So, let's summarize…five to six unsponsored cars on tap for 2008, with one brand new sponsor added, which flocked immediately to the series' most popular driver. And you wonder why investors are coming into the sport? They're the only people left willing to pour in the amount of money needed to make these teams competitive nowadays…

This is going to get ugly.

Did You Notice? … That over in the Craftsman Truck Series, Ron Hornaday is contending for the title with an organization fielding just one full-time team – an amazing scenario considering the current NASCAR economic climate. The No. 33 truck has had a teammate for roughly two-thirds of races this season, but the rest of the time, it's been Hornaday alone carrying the Kevin Harvick, Inc. banner to their highest level of success. Considering the amount of top-level manufacturing support main rival Mike Skinner receives from Toyota, it makes Hornaday's 2007 season all the more impressive. In case you're wondering, the gap between the two stands at just 11 points with four races left to run.

Did You Notice? … That Carl Edwards' much-publicized incident with Matt Kenseth occurred after the guy had spent hours in a steaming car with all the fans off? At a track where carbon monoxide poisoning can be severe, Edwards was suffering from alternator problems which forced him to cut electrical power in order to survive the race.

"The thing was overheating and I didn't have my fan on in there," said Edwards. "I was getting a little hot … we're auctioning off this City of Hope suit and helmet and it's going to be the sweatiest auction item in the history of the world."

That's not a total excuse; in today's Mirror Driving, you'll read about an incident on the track where Kenseth and Edwards made contact, another reason why Edwards was none too happy with his teammate after the race. But it's not out of the question the difficult conditions in the race car could have easily affected Edwards' state of mind; I mean, think of how Ricky Rudd needed an oxygen mask here after winning underneath similar conditions in 1998? These are things that should lead to someone getting the benefit of the doubt; and for those speculating on possible drug use over one post-race shove … that's why I sometimes cringe when people use the word "media" next to my name. Those people should be ashamed of themselves, and I don’t want to be associated with those who speculate off of one incident like that…

Did You Notice? … That if Casey Mears had made the Chase, he'd be in fourth in points right now with 5,820. That would have, hypothetically, left Hendrick cars 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 6th in the playoffs; and as it is, if Kyle Busch hadn't been wrecked by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. you'd likely have numbers even better than that. Is there any question left as to how Hendrick dominated the sport this year? No? OK, we can move on.

Did You Notice? … That even though most fans have openly said they don't care, this two-man championship battle is proving to be a great matchup on paper. Right now, Jeff Gordon leads Jimmie Johnson by 53 points – but that number seems destined to shrink. The No. 48 team wrapped up their title last year with finishes of 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, and 9th; in comparison, Gordon had runs of 6th, 9th, 4th, and 24th over that same stretch. If both repeated those same performances this year (forgetting about laps led), the title would actually go to Johnson by 53 points - so believe me, this thing ain't over yet, by any means.

I just hope you haven't dozed off already.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…
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Travis Rassat
10/24/2007 05:35 AM
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In regards to the sponsors, I think the high entrance costs to sponsor a team are what prevent most companies from joining. It’s kind of an odd paradigm – you spend money on a car, and then you spend a lot more money promoting the fact that you sponsor a car. The bang for the buck is probably not very good – due to the poor television coverage, there’s a good chance your logo won’t even be seen on TV, except maybe during qualifying. Declining TV viewership doesn’t help – the Daytona 500 probably has about 15 million viewers (estimated based on the ratings on jayski.com) which is less than 5% of the U.S. population. It just doesn’t make much financial sense – there are a lot of other, more effective ways to spend $10-20 million on advertising.

What I also find interesting about this is how it will affect the investors coming in. I’m not sure what they are investing in. I assume that they are planning on making money somehow, but if the sponsor dollars start going away, the investors will start going away, too. They aren’t going to pour money into the sanctioning body unless they can get something in return. Like Darrell Waltrip has said, if you wan’t to make a small fortune in racing, start with a big one. It just doesn’t make sense, at least from my perspective.

Like you say, it’s going to get ugly.

Frank Vessell
10/24/2007 06:01 AM
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Companies are finding that the amount of money spent on NASCAR does not deliver the return on investment. Declining viewship and attendance has shown corporate marketers that their money can best be spent elsewhere.

As far as Carl Edwards is concerned, this is not a single example. In the past, he has been shown knocking a beverage out of a crew members hand, driving and acting like a child. I believe that NASCAR needs to institute a drug testing policy that will put these questions to rest and if needed, get the driver in question necessary help. As for me, enough is enough with Carl’s behavior. It is time for him to grow up or get treatment.

JT
10/24/2007 07:52 AM
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NASCAR’s “victory” over AT&T will come back to haunt them. Running major corporate sponsors out of the sport is not the way to keep it healthy.

As for Casey Mears, 2007 has been his “breakout” year.

Michael
10/24/2007 09:25 AM
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I suspect that the influx of investor money in most cases is in anticipation of Nascar announcing a franchise system . It’s been rumored for some time and appears to be getting very close .

Dan O'Keefe
10/24/2007 09:36 AM
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it won’t be long until the only car companies with enough money to commit to teams will be toyota, honda, and some german entries…that is when i will become a former ja$caroc fan like many before me…go ron hornaday!!

Denny
10/24/2007 10:34 AM
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I am surprised at the assumptions being made about the demise of Nascar by Mr. Bowles. We are at the end of the season with many new sponsorships to be announced soon. There is great opportunity to get your name out by using Nascar. It is not unusual for a company to try the waters in Busch or Truck series before jumping into the top seris. Like 3M, others are following this procedure. Great Clips, Aflac and others are all edging their way into the big times. It’s too early to announce the demise of Nascar just before the time the announcements are to be made. After all there are more sponsors in Nascar than at any time in the sports history.

Scott
10/24/2007 11:10 AM
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Why would any new sponsors want to come into the series when they have to worry about NA$CAR possibly suing them like they did with A T & T?? I am afraid that this little idiotic move by both NA$CAR and Sprint/Nextel will hurt the series for several years.

As for the Truck Series, I believe that it is at the point that NA$CAR was several years ago, before they started getting greedy and King Brian took the reins. In the Truck Series, you have no one team dominating the series each week. Every week, there are many teams that have a possible chance to win. Also, the drivers in the Truck Series seem to drive harder, just like NA$CAR about ten years ago. Personally, I would rather watch a Truck Race than a Cup Race.

Ken in Va.
10/24/2007 11:22 AM
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HAVE YOU NOTICED? The 2 man race looks good on paper and nobody cares. I don’t care and don’t know anyone else cares which Ken doll wins. They have nothing in common with me or anyone I know.

Dan O'Keefe
10/24/2007 12:27 PM
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ken- there are plenty of jg and jj fans out there who do care and watch for that reason…which is the biggest debacle of the chase, i.e., if your driver doesn’t have a chance to win it, you could care less if you watch…for instance, if any toyota driver was in a battle with crybaby stewart, i would be gladly bagging leaves instead of watching…

Disappointed
10/24/2007 01:29 PM
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Carl Edwards is a CLASSIC bipolar case!

 

Contact Tom Bowles

Recent articles from Tom Bowles:

Did You Notice? ... Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
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Did You Notice? ... Toyota Trouble, Limping Into Action And Testing The Waters
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