Richard Childress Racing is considering dropping to a two-car organization next year if Menards moves sponsorship to another team. Roush Fenway downsized this season, and with sponsorship struggles, it’s possible other organizations could follow suit. Cutting back seems like a sound plan, but is it best for the long term?
Michael Massie: If RCR downsizes, then it needs to be its XFINITY Series program. The team has struggled since putting a fifth entry out there. I don’t like the idea of downsizing in Cup. Paul Menard is not working out, so they should move on, but the team should try everything in its power to keep the third car out there. Remember when Roush was a five-car team or when Richard Petty Motorsports had four cars? Downsizing just leads to more downsizing.
Amy Henderson: Yes and no. While cutting back absolutely cuts millions in expenses, it also costs the organization in terms of information, and it can put the team behind in terms of performance. Roush Fenway is a good example…the team hasn’t performed at the same level as when they were a four-car operation. I’d actually be a little surprised if Childress actually cuts a Cup team, because Ty Dillon. On the other hand, the team could let the Brothers Dillon split an NXS ride next year and save some money there.
One of the most notable names not already on the playoff roster is Joey Logano. His teammate has wins, affiliate Ryan Blaney has a win, and Logano even has one, though it can’t be used for playoff inclusion due to a rules violation… but Logano has struggled since. Can he still make the cut, and if he does, can he contend?
Henderson: Logano has multipie wins at the tracks he’ll run between now and Richmond, so if he can find just a little speed, he can qualify. From there, he can get lucky enough through three rounds (as can anyone else in the field) to make Homestead, and NASCAR has a one-race title, so sure, he’s got as good a chance as almost anyone. Of the drivers hovering around that “need a win to make it” mark, Logano is probably the most realistic shot to get one.
Massie: Team Penske as a whole is struggling, but it will turn things around. Logano’s problem in the past was he peaked to soon, so maybe Penske is going to peak when the title is on the line. Meanwhile, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson will likely fizzle out at playoff time and leave the door open for someone else.
The XFINITY Series heads for Indianapolis this weekend, and will run restrictor plates in an attempt to close up the field. What can fans expect from the experiment, and has NASCAR overstayed their welcome at Indy as the racing has not been up to expectations?
Massie: The restrictor plates could only make the racing better because it could not get any worse. NXS has never had any business racing at IMS. It was a lot more fun when NXS raced at Indianapolis Raceway Park (don’t confuse everyone, Lucas Oil) the same week that Cup raced at IMS. Indy is a legendary track that produces quality racing, just not with NASCAR’s current aero package. Cup should keep racing at Indy, but please make these cars less aero-dependent to get rid of the clean air advantage.
Henderson: I agree that it probably won’t get worse… but the only time NASCAR ran plates on a flat track (remember that race at Loudon? I was there, and it really was that bad) was a disaster, so it’s hard to say what will happen. The plates could give the cars the chance to slingshot around one another… or they could make passing nonexistent. Call me pessimistic, but I’m guessing it’ll be that second one. NASCAR never belonged at Indy anyway, and it’s time to replace it with better racing. Iowa, anyone?
Richard Petty Motorsports announced this week that they are actively seeking sponsorship for Darrell Wallace, Jr. to drive the team’s second car in 2018, adding them to a list of teams and drivers looking for backing, including Hendrick Motorsports and Kasey Kahne and Stewart-Haas Racing for both Clint Bowyer and Danica Patrick. All four drivers are popular with fans, but why aren’t they attractive to sponsors, and how can teams improve their chances of selling sponsors on their programs?
Henderson: I’d really, really like to say it’s all about performance, but it’s not that simple. There are drivers who don’t perform any better than that group who have never had to worry about backing. Wallace was winning and running well in trucks, so by all rights should have had no trouble carrying that into sponsorship in XFINITY—he’s got a great personality to go with his chops on the track. Ditto Bowyer, who fans seem to like, and Patrick is hugely popular, as is Kahne. So if it’s not just star power and not just performance, what is it? I think the big teams have gotten to the point where they’re kind of priced out of the market because they’ve driven the price so high. There aren’t a lot of companies out there willing or able to pony up $25 million or more, and even cobbling that much together piecemeal is tough. Over half a million for one race is a lot for a smaller company who might have been interested at $100,000.
Massie: Kahne and Patrick had great sponsorship deals and they lost them due to a lack of performance. If they started actually living up to the hype then they might attract sponsors again. Nobody wants to sponsor a top-10 car that has a 25th place driver. Bowyer had sponsors when he was winning races, and I think he will draw in more once he starts winning consistently. I think Wallace will attract more sponsors after his recent stint in the No. 43 and how much publicity he received for that. His problem in the XFINITY Series is that Kyle Busch and other Cup drivers made sure the sponsors Wallace did have got little to no exposure.