Teams Putting The Cart Before The Horse

How many times in the last couple of days have we heard, “we have sponsorship commitments, but we’re not ready to announce anything yet.” Sure they had flashy presentations and innovative new ideas, but is there any substance behind their deals?

Now, I don’t mean to be a pessimist here because I really do want these start-up teams (and not so start-up teams) to succeed, but the odds of that happening from past history is not too great. I believe the old idiom is don’t put the cart before the horse.

Today John Darby said NASCAR has received applications for 15 new Sprint Cup teams. Among those are TRG Motorsports, R3 Motorsports and Tommy Baldwin Racing. The truth of the matter is that most of these teams are going to be one and done deals and they realize that.

I highly doubt James Hylton is going to be competing every weekend considering it has been 16 years since he has qualified for a Cup Series event, despite his best efforts. Likewise I don’t think TRG plans on continuing their ride through the entire season.

The one and done organizations aren’t the teams I think are putting the cart before the horse. The ones I am talking about are the ones that plan full time Cup, Nationwide and/or Truck teams without any announcements of sponsorship.

Chicago businessman Art Shelton announced this week that he had bought a majority interest of the former Fitz Motorsports (now Trail Motorsports). He plans to run the No. 22 Nationwide team with a yet to be named driver, a Truck Series team with young Chase Austin and a Camping World East Series team with Jarit Johnson, the younger brother of Champion Jimmie Johnson.

Shelton joins Randy Moss and Roush’s Sam Belnavis as the only minority owners in NASCAR.

Armando Fitz and Shelton say they have verbal commitments from sponsors that will be announced very soon. And if those don’t pan out Shelton seems to be committed to running the teams anyway. This along with everything else he has said the team will do sounds well and good. The problem is I have heard this all before from teams that fell flat on their faces.

What happens when the sponsors don’t come through and Shelton is forced to operate the team out of his own pocket? When the team begins hemorrhaging money, as all race teams do, I wonder how long Shelton will be willing to keep it going.

Now I don’t want them to fail. I want them to succeed and do great. I think Chase Austin deserves a chance at a solid organization after being left out in the cold on several other deals. I also think that diversity in the sport is great, especially when it occurs through unforced circumstances. But the fact that they plan to go racing in three weeks and have no solid sponsors makes me skeptical.

As everybody knows operating at any level of the sport without sponsorship is expensive. We saw that this season when Chip Ganassi Racing folded up one of its teams after they were unable to locate full time sponsorship. Ganassi had already lost millions of dollars and stood to lose a good deal more. The decision, however painful, was purely about keeping the rest of the organization viable.

Even at other levels of the sport, it takes a very committed team owner to keep things going when sponsors back out or leave you hanging. Case in point Morgan Dollar Motorsports.

When their substantial backing from Chevrolet dried up a couple of seasons ago, team owner David Dollar worked very hard putting together deals to keep the team going. They weren’t always the best deals, though sometimes they were (Jimmie Johnson this past season), but they kept the team going. This past season Dollar was able to bring on Randy Moss as a partner and they look like they will be just fine going into next season.

It was only through determination, sacrifice and pure love of the sport that the team kept going. This is something I think a lot of new team owners lack. When it comes down to it, the question is, what are you willing to give up to go racing?

Call me a pessimist if you like, but flashy presentations and new ideas don’t impress me. Show me the sponsor and money first and then tell me what you plan to do. Then I’ll have faith that your team is going to last beyond California.

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12 Responses to “Teams Putting The Cart Before The Horse”

  1. Steve C says:

    I agree completly, basically its called,show mw the money. Its next to impossible to survive through Daytona without sponsor money. (unless you win the race) and for most of these start up teams, quailifing will be a big enough task.

  2. Neon says:

    As different as racing is that any other sport (uh business), the more its the same. You have to create an impression that you are viable and marketable before you get the job (sponsorship), in order to get the funds to make the impression you’ve created become reality. It’s a moving target and it never ever stops moving!
    I agree w/ Steve’s observation of “surviving” Daytona. Typically, it’s a loooong few weeks of room and board for a single race. I wonder if this year, w/o testing, how much dough teams will save on R & B? Maybe a “do the minimum and take your chances strategy” is the best strategy for Speedweeks.
    FYI: Watch Rolex Daytona 24 hr this w/e.

  3. windowlicker says:

    I just saw on jayski that Joe Nemechek plans on running a full cup AND Busch series with his own team. No sponsors mentioned. I don’t get it.

  4. Zieke says:

    Seems that alot of people just don’t get it when it comes to going racing in NASCAR’S top series. It takes lots of money just to field a car, and that does’nt mean a competitive one. I guess these folks are just trying to get their name out there so someone will notice them. They obviously have more money than brains, and even that won’t last long. Just ask Bobby Ginn. Even racers like Morgan Shepard can’t do it, so why would “out of racing” people think they can? And how about James Hylton’s plans for Daytona? I know he’s a racer, but get real! I would consider him a real hazard on the track with anyone else.

  5. JT says:

    I guess there are dreamers out there that wish they would be the next Alan Kulwicki.

    Back in 1991 (also a year of recession), Kulwicki and his team started the season with no sponsorship. R.J. Renyolds did help Kulwicki and three other unsponsored teams by hooking them up with one-race deals for the Daytona 500 with one of the 4 branches of the military. Kulwicki ran decent in the 500 and made enough to go to the next two races (Richmond and Atlanta). Then fate intervened at Atlanta.

    Hooter’s had sponsored a car that missed the show at Atlanta. Kulwicki qualified decently for the race and approached Hooter’s about moving the one-race deal to his team. A good run by Kulwicki at Atlanta led to Hooter’s and his team to establish a race-to-race sponsorships. By Charlotte, Hooter’s agreed to sponsor Kulwicki for the rest of 1991. After Kulwicki won at the Night Race in Bristol, Hooter’s agreed to extend the sponsorship to 1992, which was Kulwicki’s championship season.

  6. Ross says:

    Does anyone know what the going cost is to run the Daytona 500?

  7. [...] Steve has been talking – or is it squawking – a lot about the potential for a resurgence of the start-and-parkers of some years back. The NASCAR Insiders have a great article on that too… [...]

  8. K says:

    For everyones information………it pays like $200,000 to start the Daytona 500. They don’t have a full field of regulars so guys are coming out of the woodwork to make some $$$ and then go home.

    They may spend 20k-30k or so to come down, ride around in practice, qualify and make the race due to not enough cars, run a lap or two, pull it in and be up a pretty penny.

    NASCAR has before given “teams” like this incentive to come and fill the fields.

  9. T.C. says:

    K: While you are right about there probably not being a full field of regulars, a lot of these teams intend to compete. At this point, we are well beyond NASCAR “needing” teams to show up to fill the field. There will probably be 55 or 60 teams show up to qualify for the 500. California may be a different story, but not Daytona…

  10. Tommy says:

    It’s another ridiculous comment from Nascar PR that will only be believed by the naive or delusional.

    15 new teams….come on now.

    Most of these so called 15 teams will make their obligatory Daytona appearance and load up the truck on Thursday afternoon and head back home. The ones that return to the track will only do so if the car counts stay low and they can collect money as a start and park.

    In the past, Finch showed up at a track with a handful of people and didn’t even set up on pit road. I wonder how many times we’ll see that happen. Nascar would be wise to discourage that behavior as the media will jump all over that. I equate start and parking with voluntarily forfeiting a game in order to collect the loser’s share.

  11. Steve C says:

    You may have 1 or 2 teams that start and park, but with the race being Daytona and the amount of money posted for the purse I think you will see racing all the way back to the 41st posistion. It costs roughly 200k to build a car so start and park really does not work anymore. From what I have been reading most of these new teams plan on racing most of the season, either full time or part time. I am figuring that the western races, (Texas, Las Vegas, Phoneix and California) may be short feilds, anyhing east of Texas should have a full field. The final factor is sponsorship, the only other reason for short fields would be sponsorship, I have been hearing that these new start up teams have cut the amount to sponsor a car for the full year as low as 3 million dollars, most of these teams are claiming low overhead will allow them to do this. It’s going to be an intersting year in NASCAR.

  12. Tommy says:

    Unless the owner is independently wealthy, preferably worth over $100 million, there is no way they can even consider running even half the season on 3 million. It’s just impossible.
    Low overhead is one thing, but there are fixed costs that are just impossible to avoid. Simply credentialling a medium sized team is 50 grand a year. Do the math, almost $1300 for a crew member licenses, not counting annuals for how many people.

    I have no doubt that some of these teams, like Tommy’s, will give it their best shot. However, if they don’t come up with real sponsorship, they will not last the season.

    You won’t see start and parkers in the 500. Most of these teams will not even come close to sniffing a starting position. Starting at California, when the underfunded former full time teams don’t show up, it will be another story. You will see some West coast guys show up, run a few laps and pocket enough money to pay for one West Series race. It’s going to look bad at the end of pit road at California Speedway. I’m sure TV will try to avoid those pit road shots.

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