As word spread through Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich., on Friday (June 12) that General Motors Corp. will pull its support from the NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck series and reevaluate as soon as this week where its Sprint Cup dollars would go, drivers were quick to respond, according to the Detroit Free Press.
“I’m not sure what the cutbacks mean, and what it is going to mean for the sport,” said defending Cup champion and Hendrick Motorsorts ace Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet. “It’s obviously a tough time for GM. It’s a tough time for our country. One thing that I do know is that racing sells cars. And hopefully we can do that for Chevrolet and for GM and go out and win on Sunday and sell on Monday.”
Ryan Newman, who drives the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevy for Stewart-Haas Racing, said, “I don’t know the entire financial situation on any of the Big Three (manufacturers). The bottom line is we’re here to support all of them, and whatever we can do as drivers, team owners and sponsors to help the economy, to help GM, Ford, Chrysler and Toyota is what we need to do.”
According to a report on NASCAR.com, Kevin Harvick’s Nationwide and Camping World Truck teams will lose GM support, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Nationwide outfit, JR Motorsports, also is a victim of the budget cuts.
“We will try to do the best we can to cover the void that will create,” Earnhardt said. “Chevrolet is going through some very challenging times.”
Greg Biffle, who runs the No. 16 3M Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, thinks teams can survive cutbacks and continue to compete.
“As we probably know, there have already been cutbacks from the support of those auto manufacturers,” said Biffle, who built his own cars early in his career. “And what people have to get through their head is that we are going to be racing cars with or without that support. The amount of support provided us is important, but we can continue to race without that support. It just means cutting back on technology or testing or whatever else.”
NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter spoke to the Free Press on Friday’s reports.
“It’s no secret GM is going through serious restructuring,” Hunter said. “How it will affect NASCAR we don’t know. I would expect you’ll still see Chevys on the racetrack. In the short term, we don’t expect it to have serious effects. In the long term, NASCAR doesn’t have answers to that.”
While the Camping World Truck Series is on the longest break of its season, sponsorship woes continue to plague its teams, according to the Bleacher Report in San Francisco, Calif.
With the economy in a downturn, the report notes, it was predictable that in NASCAR the truck series would be most affected.
While there have been full fields of 36 trucks racing three or four times, a change is becoming apparent as the trucks prepare for an April 25 race in Kansas.
Half a dozen of the full-time teams due to lack of sponsors may be forced to switch to “race-to-race mode, run a part-time schedule, or park their trucks for good.”
No team owner or driver has been immune to the difficulty of landing sponsors for their teams, the Bleacher Report notes, while a few have been successful with finding and securing sponsors.
“Probably the lone bright spot has been Kevin Harvick Inc. who landed Monster Energy Drink, Longhorn Brand Smokeless Tobacco and has been adding a bunch of one-race sponsorships from Oakley Sunglasses, Charter Communications and Bounty.
“The team over the off-season lowered their asking price for sponsorship, worked it out that they aren’t affecting the team’s performance on the track, and maybe some of these other struggling teams need to follow suit,” the report notes.
“We’ve seen Todd Bodine win at Daytona in a sponsor-less No. 30 truck, then follow it up the next week with a second-place finish at Fontana and haven’t been able to attract a sponsor. They flirted with Tilted Kilt, but nothing materialized from the one-race deal and had Whelen on board at Martinsville. They are now in race-to-race mode and no sponsor, no race. This is a shame, since they are a contender for the championship in 2009,” the magazine stated.
While the report mentions several other part- and-full-time teams and their “sponsorship woes,” Camping World Inc. President Marcus Lemonis, whose firm agreed last October to a multi-year title sponsorship of the former Craftsman Truck Series, insists that the industry would be better off worrying about other things.
“As we see it,” Marcus told RVBUSINESS.com, “the sport of NASCAR is healthy. ”What all of us need to be focused on is the health of our entire RV industry, not just parts and pieces. It is paramount that we understand the interdependence of our sector, and NASCAR is only one arena in which our industry’s products are dominant in usage. This, along with other arenas, is important to showcase what our industry has to offer.”