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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ryan Newman's U.S. Army sponsorship questioned

As our country struggles to put its own financial well-being back on track, some legislators question the spending of millions of dollars of public money devoted to the sponsorship of auto racing.

According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Army, spends $7.4 million to sponsor Ryan Newman. Another $8 million is devoted to recruiting efforts. 

In addition, the U.S. Air Force devotes $1.6 million to A. J. Almendinger's race team. The lion's share of funding, in the amount of $20 million goes to the National Guard team with the sport's most popular driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. at the helm.

For now, funding cuts to these race teams have been spared, but this may not be the end of it. In its initial go around recently, the House voted 281-148 to stave off these cuts in military spending. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., who proposed the initial amendment to ban Pentagon spending for NASCAR and other venues, has promised this is not the end of it. 

This proposal coupled with unrest about excessive government spending does not bode well for NASCAR's retention of its military sponsors.

Newman's team has other sponsors, and in time, there will likely be more, though businesses are struggling financially as well. Some of NASCAR's long-time sponsors have already begun cutting back.

Even so, having a name and company logo on a race car, particularly a winning race car, in front of millions of fans in the stands and on television is a pretty good use of advertising dollars.

Representatives from the U.S. Army have said as much. They have no qualms about the investment they make in NASCAR, stating that a third of 150,000 leads for new recruits originated from NASCAR. Their word may not be enough however, especially given this climate of slashing programs. Undoubtedly when NASCAR funding goes up against education and medical care cuts, it appears the handwriting is on the wall.

Rep. McCollum claims this discussion is over. 

Stewart-Haas Racing must continue to seek additional sponsorship for the #39 car, just in case the government insists on cutting funding. As a Ryan Newman fan, I don't want to see the #39 team suffer in any way for any reason. Newman has great potential, as evidenced by his Army strong spirit in this year's Daytona 500. He fought back to finish the race, despite heavy damage to his mangled race car. 

Driver dedication and ability is not all it takes to win races. It also takes good equipment. That costs money, so there has to be good financial commitments. I'm just not sure that will include public money for much longer.