Tough economic times ahead for NASCAR

  • By Mike Harris Associated Press
  • Wednesday, October 29, 2008 4:11pm
  • SportsSports

Jeff Gordon says the current economic meltdown is increasing the pressure on NASCAR teams to win.

And that gives the bigger teams the upper hand.

“It’s a domino effect, when the strong get stronger,” said Gordon, a four-time Cup champion for the elite Hendrick Motorsports team. “I think that, especially in a tough economy like this, we have secured sponsorship and we have the resources; it makes the gap sort of widen at times.”

Track officials and teams in all of NASCAR’s top three professional series are either still looking for sponsorship for 2009 and beyond or spending time worrying that the companies currently in the fold may find themselves having to cut back on spending, or even walking away from their contracts.

Gordon believes the top teams — Hendrick, Roush Fenway Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, and Richard Childress Racing — have an advantage because they give their sponsors a return on their investments.

“It’s a business, and the strong businesses that are providing great product and have something to give back are the ones that are going to thrive,” he said. “That’s us, that’s Roush, that’s Gibbs, that’s Childress and that’s just kind of the way it is right now.”

Most folks who have been around NASCAR awhile remember what happened in 2002 when Kmart filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy and suspended its sponsorship of the Haas-Carter Motorsports team in the Cup series, as well as its involvement with the Daytona 500.

There’s little question that more of that kind of attrition could affect NASCAR.

So, right now, it’s good to be one of the dominant Sprint Cup teams with multiple big sponsors and lots of resources.

Heading into Sunday’s race at Texas, the top four teams have combined to win 29 of the 33 Cup races this season. They also each placed three drivers in the 12-man Chase for the championship.

Gordon, who also owns an equity share in the Hendrick team, understands that sponsorship is a necessity in stock car racing and foresees some tough times ahead.

“If those companies (that are current sponsors) aren’t thriving and they can’t put the dollars in their marketing program and look at NASCAR as one of those marketing programs, and they’re cutting back, then the sport is going to suffer,” he said. “What happens is that those teams that are farther down, it just makes it tougher and tougher to get sponsorship. If they don’t get sponsorship, they fold.

“For us, if we don’t get sponsorship, we could last for a little while. Even as good as we are, we might have to look for a merger.”

Greg Biffle, who drives for Roush Fenway, said he’s very happy to be with an organization with so many resources.

“But I think we’ve seen that anybody can be susceptible to these big issues, like the big banks,” he said. “So, I don’t think anybody is safe, but I feel bad for those people in those positions that are trying to get by.

“The only saving grace that we have, I think, is that the oil prices keep going down.”

Jeff Burton, who also drives for Roush Fenway, said the worst thing anyone in NASCAR can do right now is panic.

“I do believe that in our sport, as probably most sports, we have a tendency to beat this story into the ground,” he said. “But on the same token, it is there. It’s not something that we’ve created by any means.

“The only thing that we can do as a sport, in my opinion, is … make a compelling reason why people need to come watch a race and why they need to tune into it on television. If we do that, then we’re going to have better days when the economy is good.”

And what the sport has to do, he added, is somehow hang onto its share of corporate America through the bad times.

“If we don’t have (sponsorship), we can’t succeed,” Burton said. “So, it impacts us because if the corporations can’t spend the money and the people can’t afford to come watch, then there’s teams (in trouble).”

While everyone agrees that tough times are coming, NASCAR is trying hard to remain upbeat.

Last week, while announcing Camping World as the new series sponsor for the truck series, NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France sounded an optimistic note.

He said NASCAR’s business is off only “single digits” at the moment, adding, “We tend to fare much better than other industries, thankfully. That’s because sports are so culturally ingrained to fans. It’s one of the last things that they want to not participate in.”

France said most of the teams in Cup are well-funded heading into 2009.

“There are obviously some teams that aren’t, but there are always teams that aren’t,” he said. “Some of that is based on performance, not necessarily the economy. So teams that tend to perform consistently well tend to do very well in the sponsorship area as you would think.”

While Gordon expects the rich to get richer in bad times, he is trying to look down the road.

“This economy affects everybody,” he said. “It affects me, it affects you, it affects sponsors, it affects race teams. These are tough times. Everybody has got to bear down and stick with it and make the most of it.

“We’re all kind of waiting to see where it’s going to go.”

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Sports

Everett freshman Anna Luscher hits a two-run single in the first inning of the Seagulls’ 13-7 victory over the Cascade Bruins on Friday at Lincoln Field. (Aaron Coe / The Herald)
Everett breaks out the bats to beat crosstown rival Cascade

The Seagulls pound out 17 hits in a 13-7 softball victory over the Bruins.

X
Prep roundup for Friday, April 19

Prep roundup for Friday, April 19: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

X
Silvertips swept out of playoffs by Portland

Everett’s season comes to an end with a 5-0 loss in Game 4; big changes are ahead in the offseason.

FILE - Seattle Seahawks NFL football offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb speaks to reporters during an introductory press conference, on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Renton. Seattle has seven picks entering this year’s draft, beginning with No. 16 overall in the first round. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear, File)
A new era arrives for Seahawks entering 2024 NFL draft

Even with John Schneider still in charge, the dynamic changes with Pete Carroll gone.

The Seattle Storm's new performance center is seen in Seattle on Thursday, April 18, 2024. (Erika Schultz/The Seattle Times via AP)
Storm become 2nd WNBA team to open own practice facility

Seattle debuted its new facility in the Interbay neighborhood Thursday.

Shorewood’s Netan Ghebreamlak prepares to take a shot as Edmonds-Woodway’s Kincaid Sund defends in the Warriors’ 2-1 victory Wednesday night at Shoreline Stadium. (Aaron Coe / The Herald)
E-W weathers Shorewood’s storm in battle of soccer unbeatens

Alex Plumis’ 72nd-minute goal completed the comeback as the Warriors topped the Stormrays.

Seattle Seahawks new NFL football head coach Mike Macdonald speaks during an introductory press conference, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024, in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
New coach Macdonald wants his Seahawks to forge own legacy

The pictures of iconic moments from the Pete Carroll era have been removed from Seattle’s training facility.

X
Prep roundup for Wednesday, April 17

Prep roundup for Wednesday, April 17: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Glacier Peak’s Karsten Sweum (10) celebrates after a run during a baseball game between Jackson and Glacier Peak at Glacier Peak High School on Tuesday, April 16, 2024 in Snohomish, Washington. Glacier Peak won, 5-3. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Glacier Peak baseball blanks Jackson, 3-0

Karsten Sweum’s home run and 14 strikeouts helps the Grizzlies past the Timberwolves.

The Herald's Athlete of the Week poll.
Vote for The Herald’s Prep Athlete of the Week for April 8-14

The Athlete of the Week nominees for April 8-14. Voting closes at… Continue reading

The Winnipeg Jets’ Nikolaj Ehlers (27) scores on Seattle Kraken goaltender Philipp Grubauer (31) during the second period of their game Tuesday in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Fred Greenslade/The Canadian Press via AP)
Kraken need to consider effort levels when building roster

With a playoff-less season winding down, Seattle’s players are auditioning for next season.

X
Prep roundup for Thursday, April 18

Prep roundup for Thursday, April 18: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.