NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Voices from the Heartland: Sunoco Misses Yet Another Advertising Bonanza

Remember way back in February, when Kevin Harvick was firmly ranked first in the Chase after winning the Daytona 500?

Remember all the hoopla by racing pundits everywhere about how Kevin had the Chase all but sewn up?

Me neither!

What I do remember, though, is all the whining by Sunoco, The Official Fuel Supplier of NASCAR, that the Shell emblem on Harvick’s car was way too big, and that it was unfair because, because, oh yes, because the Shell car won and the emblem was too big. You see, Sunoco, The Official Fuel Supplier of NASCAR, had paid millions of dollars to be The Official Fuel Supplier of NASCAR, and they felt it just wasn’t right that the car sponsored by a competitor twice as big as themselves won the Daytona 500, or some such drivel.

What I also remember from way back when was that I said that Sunoco, The Official Fuel Supplier of NASCAR, had obviously spent way too much to actually be The Official Fuel Supplier of NASCAR and not enough on their advertising team. If they did, they would have come up with a clever commercial pointing out the fact that, “Even the Shell car – the winner of the 2007 Daytona 500 – was powered by Sunoco, The Official Fuel Supplier of NASCAR!”

But no; they opted instead to whine and cry about the big Shell emblem, totally missing out on an advertising bonanza in the process. And here we are – eight months later – and all of a sudden, they seem to be missing out once again.

In case you have become a “causal fan” and have not been living and breathing all things NASCAR – as per King Brian’s delusional assumptions – you might not know that varying amounts of water were found in the fuel cells and carburetors of several Cup contenders after last Sunday’s race in Atlanta. Multiple cars, including the No. 29 Shell car of Harvick and even the race-winning car of Jimmie Johnson showed signs of contamination when analyzed during post-race inspection. However, none were affected to the degree that matched the No. 11 Chevy of Denny Hamlin.

“When I hit the gas, it took off, then it stopped. It took off again, then it stopped,” Hamlin said after a late-race restart that ended in a multi-car pileup. “I was just waiting for the hit from behind. We weren’t getting the full potential on fuel. I don’t know how (stuff) got in there. We just poured what we had out of the carburetor, and it was a good amount – a very, very good amount – of water in there. Even the bolts were oxidized.”

While NASCAR’s Nextel Cup Director, John Darby, disagrees that Hamlin’s restart problems were caused by fuel contamination, he did assure the media that NASCAR was working aggressively with Sunoco to pinpoint the problem. Darby was also quick to reveal the facts as he understood them.

“There are multiple teams that are showing positive for some level of water contamination level in their fuel,” said Mr. Obvious, I mean, Darby. “I can’t tell you the exact number. It’s more than two and less than 43 at the moment. It’s a brownish-colored water. If it was just water, it would be more clear.”

While NASCAR has narrowed down the number of cars affected to be between two and 43 – and, more importantly, correctly identified the color of the water – Sunoco, The Official Fuel Supplier of NASCAR, has been strangely silent. Too silent, to the point that you can almost imagine every Sunoco employee has been asked just to stand there, staring at the ground and shrugging their shoulders while muttering, “I dunno.”

Now, I can understand that having water found in your “Official Fuel” may be embarrassing to Sunoco, but now is clearly not the time to remain silent. What they really need to do is to treat their advertising team to a really nice lunch and have them put a positive spin on all this mess. Something like,

“Sunoco fuel, even watered down, it still wins at NASCAR’s highest level. Just ask Jimmie Johnson!”

Or,

“Even in drought conditions, Sunoco can quench your engine’s thirst!”

No, you might not be able to take Kasey Kahne to dinner – but you can take his fuel! Just make sure to leave a little earlier!

Stay off the wall,

Jeff Meyer

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