Race Weekend Central

Shakedown Session: Tis The Season For Layoffs & Uncertainty In NASCAR

Make no mistake, NASCAR fans. The current economy has been none too kind to consumers and sports sponsorships in general. Perhaps the sport hit the hardest by the lack of revenue coming in has been NASCAR. Vanilla, blank cars are becoming more and more of the norm and more teams are having to rely on start-and-park efforts to even survive. Even teams like Roush Fenway Racing are facing a cloudy, at best, sponsorship picture in 2012. Some teams, however, have been hit harder than others. Teams have either suspended operations, have potential lay-offs on the horizon, or in some cases, shut down the organization due to lack of a sponsor. The days of sponsor-after-sponsor coming into the sport have long since passed and not only team owners have suffered, but crew members and drivers looking to support their families have also suffered in the wake of the potential loss of income.

For example, Turner Motorsports, in part due to the unexpected departure of long-time sponsor Dollar General, has given their employees a notice of potential downsizing at the end of the season. This comes as somewhat of a shock for a team that was fielding four Nationwide Series and three Camping World Truck Series teams. Now rumors are that the organization is down-sizing to two full-time teams in each series with a possible third part-time team in the Nationwide Series.

The driver line-up for 2012 looks to be uncertain as well with Jason Leffler being told to search for a new ride when longtime sponsor Great Clips wanted to go with a different, yet-to-be-named driver. Things got more muddled when Reed Sorenson was stunningly released from the team despite being third in Nationwide points. Brian Vickers has been named temporary driver of the No. 32 Dollar General Chevrolet for the remainder of the year, but there is no indication on if Vickers will be in the ride in 2012 or if perhaps James Buescher will be promoted to the Nationwide ranks.

Another team that has given the state of North Carolina official warning of potential layoffs is Germain Racing. While Casey Mears will be back with Geico in the No. 13 Germain-owned car, the rest of the forecast in the organization is uncertain. What is known is that the organization is trying to line up sponsors next year for Todd Bodine, but it remains to be seen if he will be in the Camping World Truck Series or the Nationwide Series next year. It looks as if current Germain Truck Series drivers Brendan Gaughan and Max Papis will be gone in 2012, with Gaughan rumored to be shopping his sponsorship around elsewhere. For a team that started the year with four trucks and two Sprint Cup entries, it looks like downsizing is in the cards for the organization as well. No word on how this will affect the Germain off-shoot team Germain-Osceola Racing at press time.

Not even Kevin Harvick, Inc. could escape the job-axing epidemic. The storied Nationwide program has merged with Richard Childress Racing in 2012 and the Truck Series operation will cease to exist at the end of the season. This leaves Ron Hornaday, Jr., in particular, looking for employment elsewhere and an uncertain future for 140 KHI employees. While Eddie Sharp Racing has bought out the KHI Truck Series equipment, it has yet to be determined if all of the KHI employees will land on with the newly-expanded ESR operation.

And how could NASCAR fans forget the ailing Red Bull organization? Drivers such as Brian Vickers and Jacques Villeneuve have tried to round up investors to keep the team going, but to no avail as hundreds of Red Bull Racing Team employees will be facing uncertain futures, including current driver Vickers. One has to wonder if the $6.5 million lawsuit filed for wrongful termination by Scott Speed and the bad press caused by a former employee’s inappropriate tweet have made potential investors a bit skittish of buying the assets of the organization?

But at the end of the day, this is just the brutally honest reality that the motorsports industry has to face. With sponsors not as eager to spend money frivolously hand-over-fist on a sport such as NASCAR, it makes things all the more tougher for those that are trying to survive. Sadly, this may only be the tip of the iceberg in the long run unless the economy improves to where sponsors are willing to come back to the sport. But, the real question is wheter these employees facing unemployment wait that long to find a new job?

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