The Driver Suit Blog-Requiems for Long Time Sponsors..

By David G. Firestone

As you may have noticed, there was no Paint Scheme Grade article on Saturday. My computer was down for a few days and much of my weekend was spent either fixing it, or watching racing. I’ve got a decent amount of work ahead of me in terms of re-installing things and photographing things, so I will run the Paint Scheme Grades and Paint Scheme Tracker articles next week.

But my thoughts turned to three sponsors who are leaving old posts after many years of service. They are Nationwide Insurance, Home Depot, and Castrol. Each one had a huge impact on the post that they held, and all will be missed.

Nationwide Insurance took over sponsorship of what was the Busch Grand National Series in 2008. This was met with skepticism from fans, who were more loyal to beer than insurance. Also at the time, there was a lot of discord from the fans, as most of the races and all of the championships since 2005 were being won by Sprint Cup drivers. As a direct result, the Busch Series drivers were upset, and fans were not happy. Since they took over the series, it has become a much better series, that has its own brand identity, car design, and championships that Sprint Cup Regulars can win. In addition, Nationwide was very aggressive when it came to marketing, and there was a lot more exposure as such. I can only hope Xfinity, who takes over the series on January 1st can keep this style going.

The second requiem goes to the Home Depot. Two of the smartest moves Joe Gibbs ever did in the Sprint Cup Series was to sign Bobby Labonte in 1995, and Tony Stewart in 1999. When Stewart got to Joe Gibbs he picked up Home Depot as a sponsor. After Stewart left, Joey Logano took over, and after he left, Matt Kenseth took over. 15 years, 35 race wins and two championships later, the ride came to an end after it was announced that Home Depot would be leaving NASCAR as a sponsor after 2014. It will be missed.

The biggest sponsor shockers of 2014 was when Castrol Oil and Ford announced this season that they would stop sponsoring John Force after the end of the 2014 season. This was a sponsorship that started in 1986, when I was 4 years old. Castrol was one season away from tying the record for longest sponsorship in racing for one team. The record is held by Budweiser, who sponsored Kenny and Brandon Bernstein from 1979-2009. Force signed a deal with Castrol in 1986 to sponsor his Oldsmobile Cutlass. He switched to a Chevy Lumina for 1994, and then to a Pontiac Grand Prix from 1995-1996. He then switched to a Ford Mustang from 1997, which he ran until the end of this season.

Losing long time sponsors and partners hurt John Force, and the fact that the announcements came so close to each other made the situation for Force a lot worse, because many within the team began to think that the team would not be able to continue long term. Force was able to get more sponsors, but the manufacturer they will be running next season still remains a mystery. Peak Anti-freeze, Blue-Def, and Lucas Oil will be coming in next season. John Force did lose a few asserts, the most noteworthy was Jimmy Prock, his long time crew chief. I think that he was very shaken up by the announcements, and I think the distraction did cost him the Championship this season.

Before I go, I wanted to share this. I was contacted by JJR Marketing about a Kickstarter project I think sounds really interesting. They are working with long time Kalitta Motorsports crew chief Jim Oberhofer on his new book titled “TOP FUEL: Lessons from a Crew Chief.” They asked for help raising $47,000 by December 3, and I think this sounds like a great read, so you can see the link here.

While there were more things to discuss about the end of the NASCAR and NHRA seasons, I’m going to save them for my end of the year article. I’ve got a lot of things to work on in terms of my computer, so I will fix those, and I will run the Paint Scheme Tracker on Wednesday. See you soon!

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