Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Death Knell for Two NASCAR Series?

For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

On the eve of the spring pilgrimage to Michigan International Speedway, a link is gleaned from the chaff of Twitter Tweets. Reports are surfacing that one of the car manufacturers investing heavily in NASCAR, General Motors, will be cutting back sponsorship, and both the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and Camping World Truck Series will feel the greatest pinch. From the article by Reid Spencer, it appears that it will impact the larger teams, such as Kevin Harvick, Inc., Rusty Wallace, Inc., and JR Motorsports. If true, GM will not be supporting any teams except at the Cup level.

Full details should be revealed on Friday, in an article written by Michael Smith, of Sports Business Journal. From Spencer's article "As Smith points out, support from manufacturers typically comes in the forms of engines, parts and cash. In most cases, factory support goes to larger, more substantial organizations, while smaller teams receive little assistance, if any?"

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

There have been many complaints over the last few years that the NASCAR Cup drivers/teams are taking over the two lower series. While some will say that the upper tier drivers "raise the competition level" and 'bring bigger crowds,' it is true that the cars from Cup mega-teams have dominated both series. Swimming upstream are the teams that are independently owned, unaffiliated with the big teams, who don't have access to the biggest, best and latest gizmo that costs money and yet gives a competitive advantage.

The smaller teams have received very little in the way of resources. Left out of the mainstream of technology, the little guys have watched the purses erode and the competition get overwhelmingly hard. Working at a grass roots level, they are scrabbling to stay in a sport they live, eat, drink, and breath. They dreamed of getting as big as a Hendrick, Roush or Gibbs organization but cannot see their way to climb past the first hurdles, money and support.

The best of sponsorship deals in the lower series will not even cover the C-post on a Cup car. Bobby Hamilton, Jr, today on Sirius "The Morning Drive" lamented that if they get a chance at a sponsor, that sponsor wants a Cup driver in a Nationwide car. No problem? Sure. except the sponsor is not paying enough to compensate that Cup driver!

If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.

Consequently, regular watchers of the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series, over the years, have seen an erosion of the "little guy." The worst example came last weekend. The Truck race had 33 starters (not a full field) with 10 being start-and-park entries. The Nationwide race had 43 entries, with 11 out of the race by Lap 80. (There were some accidents in here, so all were not S&P cars.)

As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.

An immediate thought is that the races may become more competitive without the big teams, and that those grassroots teams may be able to make inroads into the standings. Yet, some of those big teams bring in fans of those big name drivers and with their loss ...who is left to watch?

If the big teams decide to abandon the two lower tier series, where does that leave the teams that run exclusively in the lower series? And where will it leave the Cup teams, especially those that are struggling against the tide of the big team wealth. Hopefully, not washed out to sea.

Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
John Donne

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