The business side of racing

Posted: Friday, April 16, 2004

MARTINSVILLE, Va. The cost of racing and a lack of sponsorship put Brett Bodine out of business. Now his job is to help steer others from the same fate.

After being one of NASCAR's most vocal opponents of uncontrolled spending, the middle of three racing brothers will work with the sanctioning body in its "Car of the Future" program. In particular, he will be looking for ways for teams to save money.

Bodine has a mechanical engineering degree from the State University of New York at Alfred. He will work at NASCAR's research and development center in Concord, N.C., as a special project manager.

In addition to working with safety issues, the research and development center is responsible for creating the car of the future one that incorporates safety, competition and cost.

The car of the future will feature a larger greenhouse the passenger area to mirror the kind of competition currently displayed on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. The new car will be less dependent on aerodynamics and will be easier to police since all manufacturers will basically share the same body shapes.

Bodine will use his experience as a former driver and car owner with the new car. He knows what it takes to make the car competitive, but he also knows how success is too commonly tied to costs.

"We're delighted to have Brett on board," said Mike Helton, NASCAR president. "He's been such a steadfast member of the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series garage over the years, and he's done it all: He's built race cars, he's worked on race cars and he's driven race cars. He brings a new perspective that we're glad to tap into."

Bodine's new job comes at a time of change at NASCAR. Joe Garone, a former crew chief for Bill Elliott, is leaving his job as director of officiating to return to the garage area; vice president Jim Hunter, the company's top spokesman, is being moved to a new position that oversees regional touring and weekly series, and Don Hawk, the former business manager for Dale Earnhardt, is joining NASCAR as the director of regional racing development.

Bodine bought Junior Johnson's race team in 1996 and he was the last of the independent owner/drivers in the sport until a lack of sponsorship forced his doors shut at the end of the 2003 season.

TV TIMEOUT: While ratings for last Saturday's Busch Series race at the Nashville Superspeedway soared, ratings for the Nextel Cup Series continue to fall.

Ratings for the Busch Series on FX race drew 1,007,000 viewers, according the Nielsen Media Research, making it the second most-watched sporting event on cable television last week. Major League Baseball's San Diego-San Francisco game drew the highest cable rating as fans watched Barry Bonds' quest to move to third on the all-time home run list.

At the same time, ratings from the April 4 Nextel Cup race at the Texas Motor Speedway reflected another drop in viewership. Nielsen's numbers show Texas' 6.0 rating was a 4.8 percent drop from the previous year.

Ratings also have dropped for races at Las Vegas and Atlanta this year.

PIT STOPS: Two Florida newspapers the Orlando Sentinel and South Florida Sun-Sentinel have dropped their challenge to state law that restricts the use of autopsy photos. The law was passed after racing legend Dale Earnhardt was killed at the Daytona International Speedway in 2001 to keep some media and Internet outlets from using his autopsy photos. ... Series sponsor Nextel will open several service kiosks at races to help fix problems with cell phones.

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