Sponsors carrying more leverage than ever before in NASCAR

The No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Penske Dodge comes to pit road at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Photo credit: Sandi Goodall/Racingal.com

When one mentions NASCAR, you think of speed and sponsorship before anything. After all, it is the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Race cars and haulers are wrapped with team sponsors and associate sponsors; driver suits are plastered with logos and names from sponsors; drivers hold drinks for sponsors… are you following where I’m going with this? The point I’m trying to get at is the money a sponsor will put into a team and what sponsor expects in return from a driver and team is huge. Sponsors have become the savior of NASCAR and what the sponsor says, goes…they are the bread and butter that keeps a team running. It’s very safe to say if a sponsor isn’t happy – NO ONE  IS HAPPY.

So how important is a sponsor?


NASCAR Sprint Cup races are by far the most popular in the United States, right as we come out of the best season we’ve seen in a while. For a company to be a Primary Sponsor on a Sprint Cup car, they shell out a lot of money – being a primary sponsor of a team could cost between $350,000 to $500,000 per race / or even up to millions of dollars for a season. The “Primary Sponsor” has the main spot for their logo/company name – on the hood – as well as being able to pick the color scheme and team colors (as well as additional items may be negotiated in).


Photo shows the "B-pillar" on the Tony Stewart No. 14 Office Depot / Mobil1 Chevy. Photo by Sandi Goodall/Racingal.com

Associate Sponsors are what are known as “smaller contributors.” Locations of logos are across the fenders and the rear windows. Size and placement influence the cost, with the quarter panels being the most expensive place to add a logo. The rear window on both sides of the car, called the C-pillar, is the next most expensive spot. A logo in that area costs about $500,000 a season. The B-pillar, which is the area right next to the driver’s shoulder, is the smallest associate sponsorship possible. Those little stickers cost $200,000 for a full season’s placement. These sponsors will more than like not have as much “say” as a primary sponsor when things go awry with a driver or team, but they will be heard.


Many companies that have entered into sports marketing remained with NASCAR because of fan loyalty to their product and have used this sport as a viable way to get their messages across. It seems like sponsors have become the “owners.” Drivers will perform to their expectations for their branding of their name, or else…


This season, we saw the leverage a sponsor actually has. After the Kyle Busch vs  Ron Hornaday incident at Texas Motor Speedway, sponsor Z-Line Designs made their unhappiness with Kyle Busch very well known by announcing they did not want Kyle Busch to pilot the No. 18 Nationwide car at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and rather requested Denny Hamlin to be in the driver seat.

Done deal.

M&M’s showed their displeasure by pulling sponsorship from the JGR’s No. 18 Sprint Cup car for the last two races of the 2011 season. They claim they will be back for the 2012 season. But imagine the money lost to the team.

More Leverage Than Ever

Upon the news that Kurt Busch had lost his ride, David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 UPS Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, had requested to be released from Roush Fenway Racing Monday morning to make himself a valuable player for the open seat of the No. 22 Penske Dodge. David Ragan got his wish.

Ragan said he then talked to Penske Racing president Tim Cindric to express an interest in the vacant #22 ride.

“I want to be in consideration for that car,” Ragan said.

So who are the other drivers available and currently looking for a ride? Well, here’s the list:

Justin Allgaier – Ex-Penske driver

David Ragan – One victory in 2011

David Reutimann – Mr. Non-personality; Nothing gained during stint with MWR – Sponsor unpleased

Elliott Sadler – Ready for Cup? (once again)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Nationwide Champion/Sponsor issues with Roush-Fenway Racing in Nationwide

Brian Vickers – Loses ride with Red Bull; Has own “on-track pay back” issues (at times)


So what about Sam Hornish Jr. – an ex-Penske driver from 2008-2010 with two- top 5 finishes and never finished better than 28th in points? Penske Racing executive Bud Denker said that Sam Hornish Jr. will not be under consideration, as Penske wants the former IndyCar Series champion to focus on a full Nationwide Series run in 2012 before returning to Cup.

Penske Racing executive Bud Denker acknowledged that Ragan “and others” would be considered to replace Busch, whose behavior on and off the track led to the split. He did not give a timetable, but indicated it could be several weeks, as the process has just begun.

And guess what? Penske’s PRIMARY SPONSOR, Shell Pennzoil, will have to approve the winning candidate. Money talks.

Now that’s leverage!

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