Race teams court multiple sponsors to cover NASCAR's high costs

Posted: Wednesday, September 15, 2004


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  Photo by Don Coble

Photo by Don Coble

LOUDON, N.H. -- Jeff Silver knows every time he paints a race car for Jeff Burton or Carl Edwards at Roush Racing, there's a chance he'll have to paint it again.

Until the car is loaded and on the way to the track, there's a chance his team will find a sponsor for the No. 99 Ford, and that means peeling away the decals and starting over.

"We have done deals where we've had one paint scheme and we've had to change it for another sponsor the next day," he said. "It keeps you on your toes."

The cost of racing has created problems for many teams to find sponsorships. Most teams said it costs at least $10 million a year to be on the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series circuit -- and at least $15 million to be competitive -- and those numbers are shocking to Corporate America. The sport has learned to adjust by putting together a patchwork of sponsorship deals, mixing and matching companies.


Photo by Don Coble

It's a lot of extra work for the men in the paint shop and the public relations teams that have to keep up all the different sponsors.

"It's a good problem to have," said Jay Frye, CEO and general manager at MB2/MBV Motorsports. "It's a good value for the company and it gets us the funding we need."

Frye runs two full-time teams with drivers Joe Nemechek and Scott Riggs. The team also fields a part-time effort for Boris Said. Frye put together a plan that makes the U.S. Army the primary sponsor for Nemechek and USG Sheet Rock as an associate sponsor. To make the deal better, USG gets to be the primary sponsor four times during the 36-race season.

Roush Racing's No. 99 Ford, which was driven by Burton until a month ago and now by Edwards, has had nine different sponsors this year. It's also been without a sponsor. That's a lot of different paint schemes and decals for Silver.

The sponsors that already have appeared on the No. 99 Ford are: NBA All-Star Game on TNT, Team Caliber, Roundup, SKF, Hot Wheels, Pennzoil, Shop Rat, Justice League and Coca-Cola.

Bobby Labonte's Chevrolet has been sponsored for years by Interstate Batteries. But as it became more costly to compete in the Nextel Cup Series, Interstate Batteries decided it had exhausted its advertising budget.

So Labonte's team found a second primary sponsor in Wellbutrin XL.

"We're not Home Depot or UPS or DuPont, so it became a little more than we can handle," said Norm Miller, president of Interstate Batteries.

Mixing sponsorships not only has become more prevalent, many consider it to be the future of the sport. He once thought the sport had out-priced itself when sponsorship deals reached $3 million. He was concerned when they grew to $5 million, then to $8 million. Now it takes more than $10.

"I don't know where it's going to end," he said. "But whatever it takes, we'll do it."

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