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Did You Notice? Where are the Sponsors? 2007 Subway 500 at Martinsville Madness & Beyond

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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‘s 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 racecar could have easily affected Edwards’s 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 first, second, fourth and sixth 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, 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 second, second, second and ninth; in comparison, Gordon had runs of sixth, ninth, fourth 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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