Red Bull “plans to leave NASCAR at the end of this season,” according to Jenna Fryer of the AP. Sources said that a team official traveled to Michigan Int'l Speedway for last weekend’s Sprint Cup race and “told industry leaders Sunday of the impending move.” Red Bull Racing in a statement said, “Red Bull Racing Team is currently seeking outside investors as we evaluate next steps in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series." Fryer noted Red Bull is both the owner and sponsor of a two-car Sprint Cup Series team that “has struggled since its 2007 entry into NASCAR and consistently has been plagued by rumors and speculation that the Austrian ownership group will leave the auto racing series.” There has been no reason given for Red Bull’s departure, but the energy drink "markets to the 18-to-34 age group -- the demographic NASCAR has consistently lost in its current ratings slide.” It is possible team VP & GM Jay Frye "could line up investors to buy the race team from Red Bull" (AP, 6/20). ESPN's Ken Schrader said, "You hate to see an owner potentially leave the sport and a good, good sponsor like Red Bull’s been” (“NASCAR Now,” ESPN2, 6/20).
IMPACT ON DRIVERS: ESPN’s Marty Smith cited sources as saying that Red Bull Racing has “no plans at this time to take its brand elsewhere to sponsor another driver.” Smith noted it is “an intriguing development because there are a number of drivers, including Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer and Juan Pablo Montoya, who will be free agents after this Sprint Cup Series season” (ESPN.com, 6/20). YAHOO SPORTS’ Jay Busbee noted Red Bull “had long been rumored as the 2012-and-beyond destination for Mark Martin.” But with the company’s possible exit from the sport, Martin's "potential seats just narrowed by two” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/20). FOXSPORTS.com’s Lee Spencer noted the “hot rumor of late has been the return of Ray Evernham in an ownership role similar to Tony Stewart’s at SHR, with Red Bull as the sponsor.” But Evernham yesterday said he “had zero desire to be an owner again.” Red Bull reportedly was “fairly far down the line in negotiations with Clint Bowyer for the No. 4 ride next season,” as it was “one of the few companies that could afford Bowyer” (FOXSPORTS.com, 6/20).
WHERE TO NOW? USA TODAY’s Nate Ryan writes a “lack of success … surely influenced Red Bull’s move to leave NASCAR after the 2011 season,” but the company’s “immense success in Formula One might have influenced the decision just as heavily.” Red Bull “gradually has built its F1 program into a juggernaut,” with driver Sebastian Vettel winning the ’10 championship and five of seven races this season. Just Marketing Int’l Founder & CEO Zak Brown said that he “expected Red Bull to reposition its NASCAR funding elsewhere.” One possibility is “through a title sponsorship of the 2012 U.S. Grand Prix scheduled for Austin, a race marking F1’s U.S. return” (USA TODAY, 6/21).
SOMETHING’S GOT TO GIVE: In Toronto, Norris McDonald wrote he has “often wondered about the apparent millions and millions of dollars Red Bull spends on motorsport.” The F1 "A" team’s budget “is undoubtedly over the moon and the ‘B’ team Toro Rosso can’t be far behind.” McDonald: “Two F1 teams? One is crazy; two is -- well, you can use your own word. Throw in a NASCAR team with two cars and sponsorship of hot air balloon races, aerobatic airplane races and so-on and the amount of money being spent on motorsport and the like is simply unimaginable. Something had to give, and the NASCAR team would appear to be it” (THESTAR.com, 6/20).