This week has seen both the highs and lows of funding racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with Jeff Gordon‘s #24 car attracting a new – and very different – sponsor whilst Richard Petty Motorsports lurches from day to day in its financial crisis.
Hendrick Motorsports announced a three year twenty-two race per year sponsorship deal with AARP, a non-profit charitable foundation, under the banner, Drive To End Hunger. AARP stands for American Association of Retired Persons but has broadened its outlook over several years to provide help for anyone over the age of fifty. It is estimated that approximately fifty-one million Americans go hungry every night and six million of those are aged over sixty. AARP could have tried to raise awareness by, say, sponsoring a major sporting event such as the annual Super Bowl and would have gathered a massive audience, but as a one-off experience. AARP believe that by sponsoring a Sprint Car, especially a high profile one such as the #24, they will be constantly raising their cause and profile across the full three years.
Rick Hendrick has devoted a lot of time, effort and money to charitable causes so it is not inappropriate that he has brought this diversity to NASCAR sponsorship and believes that both AARP and Hendrick Motorsports can gain more from each other than just the financial sponsorship of one of the team’s cars
DuPont, who have been the primary sponsor of Gordon since he started his Sprint Cup career, and enoyed winning four titles with him, are cutting back their sponsorship this year but will still be primary sponsor for fourteen races. It has yet to be confirmed but is widely believed that another long-term sponsor of the #24, Pespi, will be the primary sponsor for the remaining two races.
Meanwhile, over at Richard Petty Motorsports life is less secure and at the moment somewhat precarious. Principle shareholder in the team is George Gillett who is experiencing serious financial difficulties since being forced to sell his holding in Liverpool FC last week. The price he received for the club was considerably less than his investment and, in a deal set up before the enforced sale of Liverpool, also sold off his Lake Tahoe ski resort for $63 million. Whether any of this money will be fed into RPM remains to be seen but at the moment the team is not in a position to make any long term predictions about its future. And by long term we mean beyond Talladega this weekend.
Earlier this week staff at the race shop were told to turn up on Wednesday and see what the situation was. Either the shop would be open or closed, they would find out on the day. When they turned up the place was opened up and they had cars and engines to ready for this weekend. Reportedly there have been Wednesdays recently when there have been no cars to work on.
Richard Petty, who is just a minor shareholder in RPM and more of a figurehead, has been trying to get together a consortium to take over the team. It is a serious effort but by no means is there anything concrete in place at the time of writing. There have also been talks with Toyota and Michael Waltrip Racing to see if they would be in a position to take the team over but it is felt that Toyota feel they are fully committed with their support of the MWR teams, Red Bull Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing.
Even if the team survive this financial crisis it is expected to slim down from a four car team to just two cars next year, running, it is hoped, the #43 car to be driven by A J Allmendinger and the #9, recently vacated acrimoniously by Kasey Kahne, currently to be driven by Aric Almirola, although it is scheduled to be driven by Australian Marcos Ambrose in 2011.