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.