One of the stories surrounding NASCAR that continues to get attention is the one involving the title sponsor. For months now, the organization has let it be known that it was in negotiations and that it would unveil a sponsor when the timing is right. Apparently this message includes the caveat that those in charge of making the decision are still working with potential sponsors and had not whittled the list far enough.
So with no titular sponsorship announcement coming, what is to be made of the situation?
For some, not having a sponsor is seen as showing weakness, that NASCAR is unable to attract a company worthy of plucking down large amounts of money to put its name in front of the Cup championship. With declining ratings and attendance, not being able to announce the new sponsor makes the sport and governing body appear to many to have no clout and that the sport may be withering on the proverbial vine.
With all apologies to Tom Bowles, who makes it feel as though the sky is falling without a sponsor: Who cares?
Having, or not having, a sponsor doesn’t really change much about the sport. Having one helps, as it allows for incorporating various marketing strategies while also bringing an influx of cash that can be doled out, but it’s not the end all be all. Remember, a title sponsor first came on board in 1971, as NASCAR leased the naming rights to Winston.
Other sports, however, don’t need to name their series or trophies after corporations. The NFL does not hand out the Cialis Lombardi Trophy to the Super Bowl winner. Nor does the NBA give the McDonald’s Larry O’Brien Trophy to its champion. That’s not to say that these sporting enterprises don’t pimp themselves out to get every last dollar; it’s just that it’s not part of the overall aspect of the sport.
As NASCAR has pilfered so many companies from the racing teams to be the “Official” Blah Blah Blah of the sport, perhaps they should look at better ways to maximize those deals. Which may be the way things go, with sponsors each taking on sections of the season – one company with the first 13 races, another for the next 13, then the company paying the most getting the much beloved Chase.
Regardless how this aspect of the sport plays out, it continues to be interesting theatre.
Happiness Is… Addition. In a time when everything about the sport of NASCAR seems to point to the negative (see: ratings, attendance, feelings about the Chase, cautions), there’s the potential for a positive story out there. Greg Biffle, currently sputtering around driving for Roush-Fenway Racing, looks like he may be headed to a second car at JTG Daugherty Racing. Such a move would be a big one on a number of fronts.
First, it would get Biffle out of the disappointing ride that he’s been piloting for the past few years in hopes that RFR would make some gains. Sure, Biffle may be getting old and may not display his prowess on intermediate tracks as he once did but a change of scenery might be a perfect swan song to his career. For JTGD Racing, the move would indicate that they are able both to add a car and field it with a half-decent driver. That would seem to show that the organization is in stable shape and might be showing signs of being on the upswing. Sure, nothing has been confirmed and any proposed deals may fall apart, but this could be an enjoyable story from a little team that could, or is at least trying.
Happiness Is… Gordon. Yes, Jeff Gordon, in what is presumably his final race, managed to score only a sixth-place result at Martinsville. It hardly had the same celebratory feeling that his win last autumn at the track had, but still pretty good. For being a substitute driver, Gordon’s stats have been decent, with seven of his eight finishes in the top 16, and with two top 10s. In many ways, he hit the mark for expectations. But it might be Gordon to thank for Jimmie Johnson’s late-season bumrush.
What if it was Gordon’s ability to help shake down a car and provide additional feedback that brought Hendrick Motorsports back toward the front. Chase Elliott may be the future, but he’s still a rookie and might not have the tools in his toolbox to offer the insight needed to improve upon things. As for Kasey Kahne, well, um, not sure, no one’s heard from him in ages. So there might be one of Gordon’s true talents that rarely gets discussed, and is something to be lauded – unless, of course, you’re rooting against the No. 48 and number seven.
Happiness Is…Texas. This weekend all three NASCAR series will be making the trip to Texas. For Cup, it just continues the show, but one that is fraught with increasing intensity. Martinsville may have been somewhat tame, so one has to wonder if the pressure of the Chase will get to one of the remaining drivers and force him into a wild or silly move. It’d certainly be better than the follow-the-leader shows of late.
For the Truck series, yay, another weekend spent racing rather than the frequent off weekends that litter the schedule. Perhaps, however, the story is best about the XFINITY series that, for some peculiar reason, just sat out for the past two weeks. Owing to that fact, the drivers have had that long to sit and stew and wish that they were out racing. Not only must those drivers be jealous of their counterparts, but any frustration or score to settle has now been gestating for quite a while. Let’s have at it.
About the author
As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.
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