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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Voices from the Heartland: Bad Economy or Bad Decisions?

Hey look, I know times are tough, but has this sport finally reached a point where a man must sell his soul for a sponsor?

I speak mainly of Joe Nemechek, Kevin Conway, Steve and Rusty Wallace and their current sponsors, ExtenZe and U.S. Fidelis respectively.

Now, unless you have been living under a rock the last few years, you know that the television airwaves (or digital signals as it has now become) are filled with offers of magic pills specifically designed to enlarge your penis. Even if you are a woman, these pills are hawked as a good idea for the ‘penis’ that you DO ‘own’, i.e. your mate’s! One would think, with the frequency of such commercials every night, that if every man in the country would just buy and take these pills, all of our society’s problems would be solved and Barack Obama’s presidency would merely be symbolic!

The most annoying of these penis pill commercials has to be, without a doubt, ExtenZe! Yes, I know there is ‘Smiling Bob’ out there with his Enzyte but at least they have DIFFERENT commercials and at about half the frequency. It has become so annoying that it is my common practice to find two things on tv that I want to watch simultaneously and as soon as that network runs an ExtenZe ad, I immediately switch to my alternate until they run one also, at which point I switch back to the first. And yes, given the frequency of such ads, I usually get to watch most of both shows! At any rate, I cannot describe the incredulousness I felt the first time I saw an ExtenZe commercial featuring part-time Truck and Nationwide series driver Conway.

The first thought that popped into my head was; what team could possibly THAT hard up for cash as to sport a sponsorship from ExtenZe? Better yet, what driver would want his OWN name associated with them? So I did a little research and the answer was Nemechek. Oh Joe! Say it isn’t so! ‘Front Row Joe’, as he is known as for his history of qualifying prowess, is the owner of the Conway’s ride that has been sporting the ExtenZe sponsorship. OK, so times are tough in the lower series, I admit that, but overall, in a sport that is known for its fans’ brand loyalty, is it necessary to have a sponsor like ExtenZe?

If you do a google search on ExtenZe, you will find out rather quickly that there are far more complaints about the product and parent company, Biotab Nutraceuticals, than there are praises or ‘before and after’ photos. Website after website has hours of reading, with the most common complaint that in order to get your ‘free week’s supply for the cost of a postage stamp’, you must give you credit card information first. If you do that however, with the intent of ‘canceling’ your order before the first ‘monthly’ shipment arrives, good luck! You’d be more successful getting rid of herpes.

Further research found that the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has very little known information about Biotab Nutraceuticals, garnering them a BBB rating of ‘F’. But enough about Conway and Nemechek, let’s swallow a pill and move on to, well, bigger names! (and who doesn’t like BIGGER!)

We’ve all seen the U.S. Fidelis commercials featuring the father and son duo of Rusty and Steve Wallace. U.S. Fidelis is the primary sponsor (with 5-Hour Energy Drink as an associate sponsor) for Steven in the Nationwide Series since the beginning of the current season. Advertising is a very powerful thing and one would think (and what THEY want you to think) that if Rusty Wallace is hawking a product, well, it must be ok. After all, Rusty is a former Cup champion and a household name (whether you like him or not) among NASCAR households. Steven on the other hand… well, anyone who has ever met Steven instantly realizes that the LAST thing he needs is a 5-Hour Energy! Be that as it may, I did some research on U.S. Fidelis as well.

U.S. Fidelis sells auto warranty insurance. Basically, they sell you a contract that says, for so much a month, depending on the year, make and mileage of your auto, if it breaks, they will fix it… IF that part is not excluded somewhere in the fine print of their specific contract… a contract which, the potential buyer does NOT get to look over BEFORE giving credit card information to sign up. (One of many complaints against the company.) However, again let’s check with the BBB.

First off, the BBB gives U.S. Fidelis an ‘F’ rating. U.S. Fidelis is headquartered in Wentzville, Missouri, which is basically a suburb of St. Louis. The BBB has given the business an ‘F’ rating for six basic reasons. 1. 1,069 complaints in the last 36 months. 2. 14 complaints that have not been resolved. 3. Government action(s) against the company. 4. Advertising issues. 5. Length of time to resolve complaints. 6. Failure to cure pattern(s) that cause the complaints.

The one that really sticks out is number 3, Government actions against the company. In March of 2008, the Missouri Attorney General filed suit against the company, citing among other things (see details at above link) misleading mailings and violation of Missouri No Call lists. In April of 2009, it was revealed that attorney generals from 40 states have launched a coordinated investigation into the industry and are in negotiations for a settlement from the company. Think about that folks, 40 out of 50 states! Also in April, the Missouri Department of Insurance sued owners Darain and Cory Atkinson, and their company, demanding they comply with a subpoena, a subpoena that the Atkinsons “forgot” the date of. And speaking of owner Darain Atkinson….

In 1986, Darain Atkinson was convicted of burglary, theft and forgery. In 1987, he plead guilty to federal charges of counterfeiting after being accused of manufacturing $40,000 worth of $20 and $50 bills. After his release from federal prison in 1990, in 2001 Atkinson started a company called Big Time Productions (later to become U.S. Fidelis). Atkinson is currently building a $17-million home, complete with an underground entryway, on the shores of Lake Saint Louis. But hey, let’s get back to Rusty Wallace and sponsorship, because you can google Darain Atkinson on your own if you want to.

Has the climate in NASCAR become that in which owners are so desperate that they will accept sponsorship from shady companies? Did Rusty not do his homework on this company, which is supposedly run under ‘Christian concepts’, or did he just simply ‘sell out’ when the sight of all that green caught his eye and he simply looked the other way? Has the stupidity of the general American populace risen to such levels that less than reputable companies like these even HAVE the millions to get a former Cup champ to hawk for them?

When it comes to NASCAR fans’ brand loyalty, I am there to a point, but when it comes to less than reputable companies, I lose respect for those that choose to paint their racecar with their logo.

While I am happy with my penis, if someone could make a pill to make my bank account bigger, well, I’d be all over that sponsorship. Apparently, some NASCAR names have found just that!

Stay off the wall, (especially if you’ve taken “those” pills… you might fall off!)

Jeff Meyer