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First shoe drops, GM discontinues support of Nationwide and Truck teams

Ever since the CEOs of Detroit’s big three auto makers hopped in their individual corporate jets and flew, hat in hand, to Washington looking for mega bucks from the government, the big question has been: How will the automobile industry’s dire financial condition affect their support of NASCAR race teams?
Friday we got the first part of the answer everyone in racing has been dreading. Sports Business Journal broke the story that General Motors is discontinuing support of the Nationwide series and Camping Worlds truck teams. “Chevrolet’s and General Motors involvement in racing is a sound business decision that translates directly into the sale of cars and trucks,” an unidentified GM source said in Sports Business Journal. “It is essential, however, that we continue to look at every penny we spend as General Motors takes the necessary steps to become a leaner company with a significantly stronger balance sheet.”

While it is not clear if any cup teams may feel the pinch, organizations such as Kevin Harvick Inc., Rusty Wallace Inc., and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s JR Motorsports operation will be affected. Last Sunday’s LifeLock 400 at Michigan International Speedway was the Big Three automakers’ chance for a closeup view of their sponsorship in action, but the race is also feeling the impact of the economy. Speedway president Roger Curtis said he anticipated ticket sales to be off 20% to 25% from last year’s spring race.
 Following General Motors announcement that it was discontinuing its support of the Chevrolet teams in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, Kelly Earnhardt, vice president and general manager of JR Motorsports, issued the following statement: “Obviously, the automotive industry is dealing with unprecedented business challenges, and we understand the need for restructuring to accommodate the need to reduce costs and maximize return. We have been proud supporters of the Chevrolet brand our entire lives and don’t anticipate that ever changing. We are fully capable of adjusting our business model to accommodate this change, and with the backing of Hendrick Motorsports, we will continue to lend our full support to Chevrolet. The manufacturer support GM provides at the NASCAR Sprint Cup level is more critical in nature than in the Nationwide Series, and I hope Chevy is able to continue supporting that level, as the promotion of NASCAR works well for its demographics.”
As the Nationwide and Truck teams scramble to rearrange their budgets to cope with the loss of GM support, the Cup teams have got to be on pins and needles waiting for the other shoe to drop. Cutbacks to the Sprint Cup Series cannot be far behind. Richard Petty Motorsports has expressed its unhappiness with the lack of on-time financial payments from Chrysler. Roger Penske has reaffirmed his intention to continue fielding Dodges on the Cup circuit, RPM management has made no secret that for the longterm they are looking for other options. What they can find with two of the three auto manufacturers in bankruptcy and Ford with severe financial problems is problematical.
  Jayski.com reported over the weekend that General Motors is planning to cut back its support of NASCAR teams in all of the sanctioning body’s racing series. Chevrolet spokesman Terry Rhadigan said, “GM, which is reorganizing through bankruptcy, is discussing incremental cutbacks. Cuts will be made soon and the discussions are NASCAR-wide.”
Infineon Raceway
It’s road course racing at Infineon Raceway and the “Toyota/Save Mart 350” this Sunday from the west coast. Kyle Busch won the 2008 Toyota/Savemart 350 at Infineon, his first win on a road course. The victory gave Busch wins on all four type tracks in the Cup series. Busch led twice for 78 of the 112 laps raced, leading all but two of the final 80.
Gordon’s five wins lead all active drivers at Infineon while his nine total wins (he has four wins at the circuit's other road course, Watkins Glenn) on-road courses tops all active drivers.
Tony Stewart, currently leading the points race, has two wins at Infineon and six total road course wins in the Sprint Cup Series.

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