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SBD/February 18, 2011/NASCAR Season Preview
Team Owners Confident '11 Can Be A Rebound Year For NASCAR
Published February 18, 2011
TIMES ARE A CHANGIN': The AP's Chris Jenkins reported Greg Biffle believes that he and other drivers "expecting to sign new deals in the near future are going to experience a market correction," given how the "economy's slow recovery continues to buffet NASCAR." While his primary sponsor, 3M, has "weathered the recession and Biffle expects them to re-sign with him and the No. 16 team for next year and beyond, the driver also knows he'll be taking a significant pay cut in his next contract with Roush Fenway Racing." Biffle: "The sponsor dollars go down, let's say, 40 percent or 35 percent. That's a significant number, so that's got to come from somewhere. It's going to be cut back at the team for engineering, personnel, driver salaries, all the way down. We're going to have to economize what we're doing to continue on." But Jenkins noted despite "wide-ranging cuts to advertising budgets in recent years, NASCAR officials say there hasn't been a mass sponsor exodus from the sport." NASCAR Managing Dir of Corporate Communications Ramsey Poston said that the "number of sponsors has remained relatively stable -- about 400 companies still invest in the sport, including about 100 in the Fortune 500 -- even if they have scaled back spending." Still, "many of the companies that stayed in NASCAR aren't as willing or able to spend as much as they did at the peak of the sport's popularity in the mid-2000s." Driver Jeff Burton believes that the economy "has hit NASCAR harder than other major sports." Burton: "We're still in tough economic times. Things are not that different today than they were six months ago" (AP, 2/17).
A MISSED OPPORTUNITY: YAHOO SPORTS' Jay Hart wrote NASCAR "did show some flexibility" this offseason by implementing the new 43-to-1 points system, because "it's not every day a sport revamps the way it keeps score." But ultimately, NASCAR "blew this opportunity." Instead of "rewarding winning more, the new points system actually devalues wins by a small fraction." Hart wrote because there is "nothing substantive about the points change, we can only assume NASCAR thinks the Chase is good as-is, and that they blame the decline in television ratings -- down more than 20 percent for this year’s playoff -- and the public’s general ambivalence toward the Chase on you, the folks, for not getting it." What NASCAR officials "don’t seem to be considering is that maybe you have something better to do, like, say, watching a football game," or that maybe "it's something else entirely." Hart: "Whatever the case is, NASCAR didn’t do anything to address those concerns" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/15).