NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Dollars And Sense: U.S. Army is Downsizing, Starting With NASCAR’s Ryan Newman

Tuesday the U.S. Army announced that it will not continue to pursue sponsorship opportunities within NASCAR. The much anticipated announcement is unfortunate to say the least for Stewart-Haas Racing and Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet.

Other drivers could be caught up in the resulting whirlwind, because someone is expected to be displaced in the forthcoming Silly Season ripple effect, should Ryan Newman test the free agency market due to losing the Army as a 12 race primary sponsor. Not having a full-docket of sponsorship for the 2013 season is likely to send Newman searching elsewhere, causing another driver to start searching for a new employment.

But it would be much more than unfortunate, if our nation were to continue spending millions of dollars in an effort to recruit new soldiers, when the Armed Forces are in the process of “downsizing by nearly 100,000 troops”:http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jan/26/panetta-says-2013-defense-budget-to-cut-land-force/ . Whether it has anything to do with political pressure or not, the Congresswoman from my childhood hometown has been taking a lot of credit for the Army not continuing their sponsorship in NASCAR.

“By ending its sponsorship of NASCAR, the Army made the right move to eliminate a wasteful program and protect taxpayer dollars – which has been my goal all along.” said Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) in a “press release”:http://mccollum.house.gov/press-release/mccollum-commends-army%E2%80%99s-decision-stop-wasting-taxpayer-dollars-nascar-sponsorships . I applaud the Army’s decision to terminate its funding of NASCAR.”

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An Army of None: The U.S. Army will no longer be sponsoring the No. 39 of Stewart-Haas Racing in 2012. All military sports sponsorships are currently at risk due to a bill before congress, co-sponsored by Minnesota Democrat Betty McCollum and Georgia Republican Jack Kingston, that would prohibit the military from spending any money “to sponsor professional or semi-professional motorsports, fishing, wrestling or other sports.”

Rep. McCollum is misrepresenting the truth to the nation, by saying in her release that the U.S. Army sponsored NASCAR; the fact is, they sponsored a single race team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. She will also gladly have you believe that her fight to end military sponsorship of motorsports is what caused this. The fact is, the U.S. Army is also cutting back on its recruiting efforts. They still have sponsorship deals that exist in other sports, such as their long standing involvement with the NHRA, and Tony Schumacher’s “The Sarge” Top Fuel entry.

Rep. McCollum says that the Army has spent $16 million of the more than $80 million the Pentagon has allocated for professional sports sponsorships this year — including motorsports, fishing, and MMA. Currently the National Guard is a sponsor of Hendrick Motorsports and the U.S. Air Force sponsors Richard Petty Motorsports, also in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Along with Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA), Rep. McCollum has been urging the Department of Defense to stop spending taxpayer dollars on sponsorships and claims that facts show sports sponsorships aren’t effective. Rep. Kingston said that if the government were to cut sponsorship funding, it would be a “great place to send a signal.” But on the other hand, Defense subcommittee chairman Bill Young (R-FL) has said on the subject that the military needs to be visible in the community.

I’ll tell you this much, I have made deployments with the Massachusetts Army National Guard to Iraq and Afghanistan. I have never met one person who says sponsorship within motorsports has helped sway them into the military. I can’t even find fans of NASCAR when I am overseas. I have never been able to watch a single race with someone else, while on these deployments as well.

In this small sample study based on my experiences while on active duty, I would have to say that our tax dollars could be spent better elsewhere. The typical soldier can’t even tell you who drives the Army or National Guard cars.

“The U.S. Army has worked with Stewart-Haas Racing in a mutually beneficial and highly successful relationship for the past four seasons, and they’ve performed superbly as our partner on and off the track, said John Myers, director, marketing support element, Army Marketing and Research Group. “The same can be said of other members of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series family we have sponsored during the past 10 seasons. The sport, our drivers and the passionate NASCAR fans embraced the Army’s participation and created a tremendous opportunity for Americans to learn more about the profession of the Army Strong Soldier.”

The military sponsorship activation efforts appear more like a U.S.O. event where service members get free tickets to a race and everybody can show their support towards the troops. But it has done very little in helping recruit NASCAR fans to the Army or even foster esprit de corps within the service. The next time the Army needs to ramp up on recruiting, they could still have exposure with NASCAR fans while sponsoring on a smaller, more fiscally responsible scale.

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