Race Weekend Central

Full Throttle: Sponsafy This!

We’ve all seen the commercials with Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and David Reutimann.

“Who doesn’t love love?”

“Who doesn’t love kittens, bunnies and baby seals?”

“I love you. Thanks Sweetheart. No, write that on the spoiler. OK.”

We heard about it for months, how a fan’s design was going to be put on a car and actually race in a Cup series race. Little did we know what a true farce the whole extravaganza really was.

77,500 people submitted car designs for the contest. Over a million people voted for their favorite designs and the final 10 were put before a panel who selected the winner and four runner-ups. After all of the build-up, fan participation and endless hype, the winner’s design was put on Michael Waltrip’s car for Infineon. That’s right, the paint scheme that was going to run in a Cup race was put on the car of a part-time driver who would have a single lap to try and put the car into a race on a road course! Talk about a sick joke.

Waltrip has run 19 races at Sonoma and has just one top-five finish. His average starting position is 20.8 and he’s landed a total of seven top-10 finishes there in his career. Those are hardly the kind of statistics that would make one feel secure about a driver making it into a race to run a one of a kind paint scheme that outlasted tens of thousands of others to win a competition that would allow it to run in a Cup race. What were the people at Toyota thinking?

Granted, the parameters of the contest never said who was going to drive the car for the winning scheme, but wouldn’t you think that they would put it on a car that was assured of running in the race? Mind you, Joe Gibbs Racing and Red Bull have sponsor commitments for the entire season and getting one of their sponsors to give up a race may have been difficult to do. However, there are a couple of teams who most certainly would have loved to have Toyota put a special scheme on their car for the race.

There’s no doubt that Joe Nemechek would have gladly had Toyota’s money put a scheme on his car for a week. It would have been better than running with nothing or having to call in a favor from Rick Hendrick to have his Hendrickcars.com site on the car. Better yet, Robby Gordon was most certainly going to have a decent run at Sonoma. His small organization would have definitely benefited from having some of his manufacturer’s money put a scheme on his car for the weekend.

The truly sad result of this whole fiasco is that a paint scheme that was developed for a very special reason and was hopefully going to draw some much needed attention to the plight of a young man with a rare disease ended up being on the track for practice and one lap of qualifying. Waltrip looked like the kid who loves Amanda Berkman driving the car around the track and was one of three cars who went home, not to mention the only Toyota. It really is a shame that the people who spent millions on advertising the contest were so shortsighted when it came to actually putting the scheme on the track.

It was announced before the race that Busch is going to run his pink paint scheme during the Nationwide race at Richmond in the fall. Here’s hoping that Toyota can see clear to possibly put the “Praying for Karson” paint scheme on a car that same weekend, so that the winner of the first Sponsafy contest is given the kind of exposure they deserve from winning out over 77,500 designs.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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