NASCAR: Sponsorship makes or breaks careers

By Joseph Wolkin
NASCAR Media Group

Sponsorship runs NASCAR, short and sweet.

The first major sponsor in NASCAR was STP which sponsored “The King,” Richard Petty. Since that company sponsored a car, sponsorship deals have completely taken the sport by storm.

Before Winston, the Cup Series didn’t have a name. In a matter of fact, it was just called the Grand National Series. Winston’s title sponsorship from 1972 until 2003 started the modern era of NASCAR.

Now, NASCAR has a title sponsor for each of its series. This includes:

  • Sprint Cup Series
  • Nationwide Series
  • Camping World Truck Series
  • K&N Pro Series East Series
  • K&N Pro Series West Series
  • Canadian Tire Series
  • Toyota (Mexico) Series
  • Euro RACECAR Series
  • Whelen Modified Series
  • Whelen Southern Modified Series
  • Whelen All-American Series

It is rather astonishing that all of these series are controlled by the investment of sponsors. If these sponsors didn’t buy the naming rights of these series, it’s likely that drivers wouldn’t be able to be racing at all.

There are even 15-year old teenagers racing in NASCAR. Yeah, money really can spoil a person.

Sponsoring a NASCAR team has come to the point that teams have to “start-and-park” just to gather up funding to run one full race out of the 36 race schedule. In a way, it’s kind of pathetic.

But, racing is a business. Like a business, sacrifices have to be made in order to succeed.

Matt Kenseth is a former champion. He had to sign with another team because he didn’t have sponsorship, not wanting to hold his current team back from doing bigger and better things.

Kenseth was sponsored by Dewalt Tools since his rookie year in 2001. But, they left his team after the 2009 season. In 2010 and 2011, Kenseth was sponsored by Crown Royal. They ended up departing Kenseth’s team as well. This year, he’s had numerous different paint schemes which come with headaches for numerous people at the Roush-Fenway Racing stable.

There are several drivers who are nearing the end of their respective careers. Leading that category is four time champion, Jeff Gordon.

Gordon, 41, has a lifetime contract with his Hendrick Motorsports team as most race fans know.

But, his time left in the sport will ultimately depend on sponsorship. Dupont has cut back the number of races they sponsor and AARP is only signed on until 2014.

If both companies chose not to extend their deals with Gordon, he would probably consider hanging up his helmet which he has thought about in the past.

All in all, sponsorship runs the sport. It’s a brutal reality for a sport that was created by moonshiners but, it’s just faith.

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