NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Harvick, Kahne & the Sponsors That (Don’t) Love Them

Business is picking up on the NASCAR scene. From driver hires to $20-million sponsor associations, the last couple of weeks have given us a glimpse at the future NASCAR landscape – one that we rarely see this early in a season. We’ll address all that fun and more this week.

Let’s get to it….

Q: If the buzz is true, Budweiser is shopping its sponsorship around. Some people don’t think Kasey [Kahne] is “Bud” enough with the image sponsors want and I guess fans expect. As a Kasey fan, I like having the support a sponsor like Budweiser brings. What are the chances they stick with Kasey or go elsewhere, in your estimation? Thanks Matt! – 9 Fan Soon to be a 5 Guy

A: Budweiser holds all the cards here, and that’s what it has going for it… which is nice. In a sponsor market that’s slim at best, a company such as Anheuser-Busch, despite its new European ownership, will have team owners streaking the quad if that’s what it takes to land it.

Budweiser is also one of the most readily identifiable and familiar products in NASCAR dating back to Junior Johnson’s “Double Thunder” Chevys. To don the Budweiser colors is to earn instant credibility, move merchandise, and attract plenty of camera time.

Yes sir, it’s a big one.

To your question, 5 Guy, I can’t honestly tell you what the odds are that it stays with Kahne when he makes his move to Hendrick, or Stewart-Haas, or a Mark Martin-owned project that doesn’t even exist yet. Hendrick and Budweiser didn’t end their relationship with a long walk in the park and a warm embrace, so it’s no surprise the King of Beers is exploring its options, and it’ll be no surprise if (when) Bud goes in another direction. Plus, there are some exclusivity rights that pop up with the beverages Hendrick currently pitches – but nothing that couldn’t be worked through, I’m sure.

The reason you’re reading about Bud meeting with Michael Waltrip Racing officials, though, is because Bud is meeting with officials from darn near every team… the MWR thing just made it to Jayski’s big board. Remember, Bud is in the luxurious position to be wined ‘n’ dined for a while. And I’m sure the relationship Ty Norris must have once shared with Bud while the parties were associated at DEI helps.

My honest opinion is in line with what was whispered about (until the four-letter network got hold of it), and that’s that a Richard Childress Racing/Kevin Harvick/Budweiser team would make the most sense. Harvick fits the look, RCR needs the backing and Budweiser needs a high-profile car.

Q: OK, explain to me why Shell-Pennzoil is making the switch to Penske from RCR. Looking at the programs, I don’t see that [Kurt] Busch’s team is a better one than Harvick’s. It seems like a lateral move. In fact, I think Harvick has a better chance at a title than Busch this year. I’m sure the economics of the switch tell the story, but we don’t get to see that side of the story.

And can you share any information about who the No. 29 will get to sponsor their car? Thanks! – Laura Downs, New Jersey

A: You’re correct in that the economics tell the story, because that’s what this deal was about – not Busch vs. Harvick.

Because Penske is a global brand with enterprises that reach beyond motorsports, this new “alliance,” as they are calling it, will partner Shell-Pennzoil with Penske across its broad platform of ventures.

Sorry I’m sounding a little press-release-y there, but the point is, the reach of Penske is greater than that of Childress on a diverse national and global scale. The benefits of having associate sponsorships on Penske’s three IndyCar teams is upgrade enough, and that’s solely in the motorsports realm. Factor in his myriad other businesses, and you start to realize the shear mass of this deal.

Q: If [Dale Earnhardt] Jr. doesn’t win this weekend, do I have your permission to trash my Budweiser and AMP stuff and start over with somebody else? – Frustrated in Boone, N.C.

A: Do you need it?

Q: Hey Matt. I missed the race on Monday and saw my boy Elliott Sadler had a respectable 18th. I haven’t seen it on replay and I didn’t tape it (work). Did anything notable happen to him? Also, his contract is up at the end of the year, do you think he will be back at RPM? (I don’t). If not, where? Thanks for your help! – Patty M., Vicksburg, Va.

A: Considering he started 39th, an 18th wasn’t too bad for Sadler and the No. 19 team. They went down a lap on two separate occasions, only to make them up via the wave around. Sadler said they could just never get the handle right.

“We started off decent at the beginning and felt like we had something to work with, but we just never could get it better and get it [to stick to] the racetrack like we needed to,” he stated afterward. “We salvaged the best possible finish we could get, but you always want a little bit more.”

As for next season, I doubt he’ll be back at RPM either, and I wonder if he’ll have a home at all. Elliott has a way of hanging in there, and the sponsors love him, but I’d say his days with the bigger teams are nearing an end.

On the bright side, I like him as a possible sleeper at Talladega this weekend. Keep the faith, Patty.

Q: Matt, on a picture from Scott Speed on Twitter this week I saw a stack of tires at the Indy test that had tread on them. Not zig-zag tread like on a street vehicle, but straight-line groove tread. What the hell kind of tires are they testing up there? – Mel Walker

A: Anti-gravity tires, Melvin. The grooves create lift and the cars hover.

Actually, those aren’t test tires you’re seeing. They are what’s called “tow tires” and are used on a racecar like we’d use house slippers. They are mounted onto the car for travel in the hauler and at other random times during the race weekend when racing slicks aren’t needed.

Thanks for the convo this week, folks. Keep those emails coming… remember, without ‘em this column doesn’t exist.

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