Survey: Waltrip's Reputation Hurt By NASCAR Scandal, While Drivers Relatively Unscathed
Michael Waltrip "seems to have borne the most negative brunt of the fallout" from the cheating scandal around his NASCAR team, according to Nate Ryan of USA TODAY. Davie-Brown Index data shows that Waltrip "suffered significant drops in aspiration (falling 24% from a top-20 ranking), endorsement (a 17% decline) and trust (22%) in a Sept. 29 survey." Repucom Exec VP/Americas Peter Laatz, whose company produces the index, said that the impact was "negligible for drivers involved in the scandal." There was "no precipitous decline in the index" for Michael Waltrip Racing drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer, and both "surpassed their car owner in the most recent ranking." Laatz added that there "wasn't as much widespread PR damage for NASCAR." Polling showed "an increased awareness that might be reflected in TV ratings" during the Chase for the Sprint Cup. But there were "negatives in the Repucom data." When asked how the scandal had "changed their perceptions of NASCAR, its teams and its drivers, 28% of fans said their views of teams had worsened (vs 18% for NASCAR and 21% for drivers)." Repucom "calculated more than 100,000 Twitter posts and 271 million impressions" from the night of the race in Richmond that led to the scandal "through the addition of [Jeff] Gordon to the Chase six days later." The day after NASCAR penalized MWR, "73% of the tweets were positive, and it spiked to 93% on the day Gordon was added." Laatz: "If social media didn't exist, Jeff Gordon wouldn't be in the Chase. I'd take it a step further that if social media didn't exist, NAPA would still be in the sport" (USA TODAY, 10/17).
IMAGE IS EVERYTHING: SI.com's Lars Anderson asks, "Where does Michael Waltrip Racing go from here?" The "perception of cheating ... will haunt this team for the foreseeable future." Once the "scent of a scandal has enveloped a team, it's a hard thing to fumigate." Anderson: "Will Michael Waltrip Racing ever be the same? No. Will it ever seriously contend for a Sprint Cup championship? It's possible" (SI.com, 10/16).
TAKING THE FALL? Ryan said of Truex Jr. leaving MWR after the scandal, “The guy who was the least complicit, the least culpable, Martin Truex Jr., who admittedly was just racing as hard as he could, racing his guts out that night in Richmond to get in the Chase, how does he become the person who bears the brunt and the worst of the fallout here? I think the simplest way to explain it is just bad luck in sponsorship and contracts. He had the sponsor that decided that they didn’t want to stay with Michael Waltrip Racing” (“NASCAR Race Hub,” FS1, 10/16).