Race Weekend Central

Did You Notice?: A Monster Move For NASCAR Sponsorship

Did You Notice? … Monster Energy could be the last title sponsor in NASCAR Cup Series history? Tuesday’s one-year extension, through 2019 was huge for a sport that has been hemorrhaging corporate sponsorship at the team level. Adding Monster for one more year after months of indecision finally gives them some financial news to boast about.

ALLAWAY: MONSTER ENERGY EXTENSION DETAILS

But it’s what happens after next season that has everyone talking. NASCAR Chief Operating Officer Steve Phelps revealed the sport may forego title sponsorship in favor of a new model that heavily involves both teams and television partners.

“I wouldn’t suggest that entitlement is not working,” Phelps told Bob Pockrass of ESPN. “But we want to make sure our sport is as easy or easier to do business with.”

To a certain extent, that’s true. Title sponsorship has always been difficult considering the deals both NASCAR teams and tracks have with competing companies. The old Nextel deal, for example, wound up pushing out competing cell phone companies like AT&T and Verizon from team sponsorship. It’s difficult for the exclusivity contract to be enforced with so many different players at the table.

But I also think NASCAR knows the writing on the wall. While preventing a short-term catastrophe of the Monster deal falling through, 2020 and beyond has to produce a new business model for the sport.

It’s simple math. Companies are leaving teams, costs are still high and there’s no money being infused to replace them. It doesn’t matter how much title sponsorship the sport has if there are no cars on the grid capable of running competitively.

The BK Racing bankruptcy case is a recent example of the sport’s financial troubles. This backmarker team has lost $30 million in three years, entering Chapter 11 bankruptcy where it’s currently being run by a trustee. That’s despite collecting millions in NASCAR prize money and being vested in the sport’s charter system. All that cash, including $35 million of owner Ron Devine’s own money, was spent just for the team to finish around 30th place.

You can imagine, then, what the costs are for the sport’s top teams. Wind tunnel time, testing, engineering and aerodynamic fine-tuning add up. Sponsorship woes have finally hit the big teams like Hendrick Motorsports (losing Lowe’s after this season) where they can’t possibly find companies willing to keep up.

NASCAR must find a way to make owning a franchise profitable. We don’t have major financial losses within MLB, NFL or NBA ownership. The sport also has the cash to spread around to make this happen. A $440 million per year NASCAR TV deal with NBC alone combines with additional revenue from FOX ($300 million). There’s plenty of secondary sponsorship deals and revenue for both the sanctioning body and the tracks themselves. ISC, for example, produced over $670 million in revenue through the first 11 months of 2017.

Can everyone work together to share a piece of the pie? I’ll strike an optimistic tone here. Team owners (through the Race Team Alliance) have more direct, honest communication with NASCAR than ever before. Decisions like cost-cutting through smaller pit crews and the controversial pit guns came with their input.

Meanwhile, the Drivers Council gives the sport’s big names a direct line to top NASCAR officials. The nine-member council does a good job of keeping their peers informed while pushing major issues like safety and competition.

Even France himself is sharing power and resources these days with plenty of other names. They range from Phelps to NASCAR President Brent Dewar and Vice President of Racing Operations Steve O’Donnell.

Finally, the sport’s TV partners also have a financial reason to work things out. They can’t be happy with ratings that continue spiraling downward despite paying (at least in NBC’s case) over 40 percent more for this 10-year deal that began in 2015.

Getting all these people to agree is going to be tricky. But it’s possible. At least in the short-term, the sport can beat down the narrative of “the sky is falling” as a major company has finally sat there and said, “I’m going to keep investing.”

Did You Notice? … The potential for restrictor plates in the NASCAR All-Star Race next month? Rumors keep growing as the sport weighs trying the XFINITY Series package from last summer at Indianapolis on a larger scale.

Could the sport be two-for-two in 24 hours? It hasn’t happened often as of late. But this type of exhibition is exactly where you try this type of package. Let’s face it; the racing at the 1.5-mile Charlotte oval can’t get much worse. There’s a reason we’re using the road course in the fall; just two years ago, Martin Truex Jr. nearly led all 400 laps in the Coca-Cola 600.

The sport’s intermediate package continues to be its biggest concern long-term. Just this Sunday, Brad Keselowski was quoted the cars aren’t “meant to run side-by-side” on those types of ovals. Say what? You mean the best part of racing, the actual act of running two and three-wide at high speeds, is impossible to do? That’s a problem.

With that in mind, NASCAR is smart to try the idea of plates. It’ll come with its share of critics but if the race is competitive? People won’t care. After all, this race is for the fans, right? Why not try and put a better product out there?

Remember, that package comes with aero ducts and a taller rear spoiler, too. Those are crucial changes in car construction that can be tinkered with down the road. It’s good for the sport to try something rather than sit there and pretend intermediate track racing is going just fine.

Did You Notice? … Quick hits before we take off…

  • Yes, NASCAR can make the pit guns better. I understand why crew chiefs are so upset. But there’s no denying the challenge those guns made Texas that much more interesting. I feel like there’s this push these days by both drivers and teams to make it a little too easy. If the cars are all the same speed, aren’t tough to drive and nothing ever breaks, wouldn’t racing become single-file driving on the highway? Racing involves risk; removing it risks killing the sport. NASCAR needs to rediscover where that fine line surrounding risk is and what’s acceptable for all involved.
  • Jimmie Johnson has had horrible luck this season. But Texas should have been a big weekend for the No. 48. I think Dover in three weeks is a huge race for them. If they can’t run well at the Monster Mile…
  • Keep an eye on Darrell Wallace Jr. this weekend. He’s a driver who runs on confidence and getting a top 10 at a cookie-cutter track was a big deal. His team is at a disadvantage at those places and Wallace needed a confidence builder after a month of poor performances. Now, we head to a short track in Bristol, a place where his No. 43 team has run well. Add in Richmond, Talladega, and Dover (where Wallace almost won in XFINITY) and it could be a great stretch coming up for him.
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Bill B

I have a hard time believing restrictor plates are the answer. I would hope they try other things first. Such as making the cars less aerodynamic.

Brian

Restricter plates at a 1.5 likely are not the answer, look at what happened at Loudon where Jeff Burton led ALL the laps.

As far as pit guns go, yes the risk seems to lessening which might be part of the reduced viewership but it is one thing to have your own equipment fail, that is on a single owner group or team. It is quite another to have no control over the equipment and then have issues as it causes a crapshoot affect and feel and honestly nobody wants that. That these issues are random and such is what is concerning. It also reflects poorly on the sanctioning body from a knowledgeable fan standpoint as this whole process appears less than well thought out.
This has the same feel as many other things the new NASCAR has done that appear kneejerk reaction in nature. Thus the fans lose confidence. There has also been way too many examples of issues for this to be a non-issue. If it was once or twice a race and to maybe a single team then that is one thing but to have it happen so often and to many different teams it’s an issue.

janice

na$car needs a restrictor plate for their collective brains. plates are not the answer.

Russ

IMHO the pit gun issue is symbolic of whats going on with the “sport”. It was the RTA, not nascar (small caps intentionally) that asked for the standardized gun. But even they were split between those that could afford the costs of modifying the equipment and those that cant.
So now we, the drivers and everyone else that isn’t paying the bills complain about how its all about the money, yet complain about an attempt to save money.
So what’s the answer? Have a 12 car series comprised of teams that can afford lug nuts that weigh less than air?

It might be a little bit more interesting if there was a little less perfection. Where you were on the edge of your seat hoping your driver would make it to the finish line.

Rich Sachlis

Tom, I generally agree with your “editorials”. However, I disagree with your analysis of the pit, (air,tire, impact, whatever), guns. One, as I read that Harvick ranted on his radio show, it IS a safety issue. Two, it is forcing them to use a piece of performance affecting equipment that they absolutely can’t control the performance capabilities of. Three, the “apparent” randomness of which guns are substandard certainly creates the opportunity for the conspiracy theorists to sow their havoc.

Apropos of Three, the optics of the fist bump between Harvick’s crew member, (Car/Crew Chief?), and a pit road official over the non-penalty tire violation call.

jim

Aero is the problem at all tracks …open the grills up that should help to slow them down and be able to pass.
Every Sunday you hear it is hard to pass here no matter where they are. And then aero this and aero that
Mile and a half use to be great races.
Only thing Nascar is concerned about now is how to make the EURO tour a sucess

bob

Its pretty simple, get them up off the ground..

When was the last time you saw a “Stock Car” on the street with the front bumper and
the sides of the car scraping the ground.. (it does happen on occasion, and we all laugh
at it)

MANY years ago, before the COT and the splitter/side skirt/wing garbage.. I don’t remember
if it was Kenny Walllace or Michael Waltrip.. To stop the teams from trying to seal the car
to the ground, simply make a rule, ALL body work HAS to be 1 inch above the bottom of
the frame rails… Go as LOW as you want.. But if you go too low, you end up in the wall.

Upstate9fan

Maybe the thing that should be done with pit guns is have NASCAR start sourcing them from different companies. Get 3 or 4 guns with identical performance specs and let the teams choose what brand they want. It would give the teams some control of the situation while still controlling costs. Though likely the teams will find something new to bitch about.

On one hand the Monster deal is good and deeply troubling. However, I’ll be optimistic and hope in 2020 the business model of the sport will be fundamentally addressed in terms of costs, tracks, competition, etc. Not having a title sponsor is at once very worrying, but if done right could provide new revenue streams and encourage more sponsors to fund race teams.

bob

That won’t work.. I’m pretty darn sure the “Official Suppllier of Failed Impact Wrenches”
is paying a VERY pretty penny to Nascar…. And then the teams have to OVER PAY to
buy the “Official Guns” to cover their cost to Nascar.

Kind of like the spoiler.. Used to be a $20 slab of hot rolled A36, 3/16×6.. Now its a
couple thousand dollar piece that you HAVE to buy from one company for a few grand.

The roof flaps… Rousch was the “official supplier”, and they weren’t cheap.. Robby
Gordon made his own, and he got nailed for it.. Apparently Robby “didn’t pay enough”.

DoninAjax

Great! Give the television sponsors more say. They’ve really helped improve Brian’s product so far haven’t they? Isn’t it great how nobody is complaining about the broadcasts.

Capt Spaulding

Sure going to make the Charlottesville all star race a hot ticket to get…..sad

salb

Everyone knows that the problem with the cookie cutter tracks is aero related…so Nascar decides to use restrictor plates? Wouldn’t it be easier to ditch that ridiculous spoiler and side skirts and let air under the car?

bob

YES it would.. Carl Edwards always said that.. TOO MUCH DOWNFORCE..
At one point he even suggest giving the cars UP force, make ’em harder to drive,
and more fun..

And I believe it was BSki a few years ago said something along the lines of
“Down force is ruining EVERY series of racing”…

Russ

just remember you can generate downforce with air underneath the car as well. Look at F1.

Robert

Less horsepower is always a bad thing. Just ask any Indycar driver how that works. More aero is also always a bad thing unless you are a substandard driver. Less aero + more power = better racing. Simple math.

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