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Last updateThu, 19 Nov 2015 8pm

   20140901MetroCastweb

Lack of sponsors becoming serious

 With just nine races left in the 2011 season there are an exceptionally large number of race teams whose plans for 2011 are up in the air. The culprit? The economy. From the mighty Hendrick Motorsports and Penske Racing, to the new kid on the block Kyle Busch Motorsports, Cup series, Nationwide series, or the Camping World Truck series, the economy is squeezing the life blood,  (sponsor dollars) from the sport.
Running a top-notch truck team is typically a $1.5 million venture. Want to compete at the Nationwide level? You’ll need about $10 million dollars per year. A Cup series team needs $25 to $30 million. Like everyone else in this day and age the Fortune 500 types that have advertising and marketing budgets large enough to write the checks big enough to sponsor a race team are mostly cutting back.  

When Jeff Gordon’s team at Hendrick Motorsports is still looking for major sponsorship, it speaks volumes about the seriousness of the situation. DuPont, Gordon’s primary sponsor since his Cup debut in 1992, is cutting back its sponsorship commitment for 2011. It was widely rumored that retail giant Wal-Mart was replacing DuPont as primary sponsor on the 24 car in 2011. Last week, after extensive negotiations Wal-Mart announced they did not see the value in the $25 to $30 million needed to become Jeff Gordon’s primary sponsor, and walked away from the table.
Asked for his comments on his current sponsorship situation at New Hampshire last weekend Gordon said; “I’ll be honest, as a driver, it’s not something that I put a lot of thought into. I mean, I certainly would like to see us with a sponsor that could be really good for our organization - good for the sport and good marketing and wants to be a part of our program and get behind it. Right now, my focus is on driving and trying to get out there and be as good as we can be in the Chase. Pretty much the message that has been sent to me through Rick Hendrick is ‘don’t worry about it.’  We have good people working hard on it and it’ll come together. The Wal-Mart thing was a little disappointing because I felt like everybody was wanting to see that company in this sport for a long time and we would have loved to represent them.”  
Hendrick Motorsports is not the only top tier team having trouble lining up sponsorship for next season. Penske Racing announced last week that Verizon, the primary sponsor of Justin Aligaier’s Nationwide team, will not return as sponsor next year.
Penske is also losing sponsorship for Sam Hornish’s No. 77 Dodge. In light of Shell–Pennzoil leaving Richard Childress Racing and its sponsorship of Kevin Harvick’s No. 29 Chevrolet to sponsor the No. 2  Dodge driven by  Kurt Busch next season, Mobile 1 will no longer sponsor the  No. 77 Penske Racing Dodge. Reportedly, Penske has given Hornish permission to shop for another ride for next season.
Tony Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, is also still trying to secure sponsors for next season.  He met with members of the media last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and discussed his current situation. Asked, ‘With the economy in a slump, is it surprising that guys like you and Jeff Gordon, stars of the sport, are looking for sponsors at this point in the season?’  Stewart responded, “Not necessarily. We all understand the situation. We all understand corporate America has had to pull the reins back a little bit. So is it a surprise and a shock? No, not necessarily. If you look in the garage area, it’s still a thriving sport and it’s still represented by a lot of Fortune 500 companies. I wouldn’t stand here and say that we’re in bad shape because the sport is very healthy right now.”
Kyle Busch said he’ll probably have to shut down his truck team at the end of the year for lack of adequate sponsorship. Busch said if he is forced to shut down his truck operation, “I think it’s going to be pretty detrimental to not have me in the series. The truck series is struggling. There’s a lot of guys struggling to find funding. For me it’s hard, it’s very hard.”
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