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Friday, May 18, 2012

Congress may kill NASCAR's military sponsorships

NASCAR may fall victim to the government's effort to whittle its spending. 

The House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to the defense authorization bill Thursday that would prohibit military sponsorships in NASCAR and other sporting venues. If the bill is signed into law with the amendment in-tact, it would directly impact NASCAR's most popular driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who relies on the National Guard to partially sponsor his car; Ryan Newman's #39 U.S. Army Car; and Aric Amirola's Air Force sponsorship. All of the armed forces over the years have participated in NASCAR sponsorship.

House Republicans are in budget-slashing mode. 

U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Georgia, followed his party line when he offered the amendment to ban the pentagon's spending for NASCAR sponsorships. It is ironic that such a proposal would come from a congressman from the south, where NASCAR originated and still holds a high ranking. There is an tendency for NASCAR fans to be the God  and guns crowd, evidenced by the opening prayer before each race, and a preponderance of right-wing politicians who often times make an appearance in front of the camera on race day.

Kingston seems to think NASCAR fans will understand the cost-cutting measure, though he may underestimate their loyalty to the sport. Already Earnhardt, Jr. has invited Kingston to the track to learn more about how sponsorship benefits the military.

Kingston's bill is bi-partisan, and is co-sponsored by Betty McCollum, D-Minnesota, who attempted to ban the NASCAR funding last year, but failed. See my previous postRyan Newman's U.S. Army sponsorship questioned.

In 2010, not only were race teams sponsored by the military, but congressional earmarks provided perks to NASCAR track owners. 

Irreparable harm to Ryan Newman.

If the defense cuts remain in-tact, it could complicate what appears to be Ryan Newman's already tenuous sponsorship position at Stewart-Haas Racing. Just last week, the public learned that co-owner Tony Stewart told Newman he was free to pursue other options at the end of this, the final year of his contract, if sponsorship for his race car for 2013 was not settled. Stewart did say he wanted Newman back next year.

I can only hope that Stewart's remarks were based on prior knowledge of the potential loss of the U.S. Army's sponsorship status. I'd hate to think Stewart learned about this funding situation on top of an existing problem. Stewart said at the time that Newman's team had not been fully funded during the three years he has raced for Stewart-Haas Racing. Co-owner Gene Haas of Haas Automation picked up the unfunded races. Stewart-Haas is a fledgeling company co-owned by Stewart, who also performs as a driver, for which he has earned his third championship. Stewart and Newman are personal friends, which has to complicate this situation.

As a Ryan Newman fan, I'm torn

As a Newman fan, it is hard to imagine Newman not driving for Stewart-Haas, should the worst case scenario actually occur. I admit that I had some reservations when Stewart announced the U.S. Army would sponsor Newman's race team. I am a big Newman fan, but I am also a taxpayer whose personal budget is much more precarious than that of the country. This presents a real dilemma for me. I'm sure others feel the same way. I am torn between wanting to see Newman on the track, with the best equipment, winning races. But there is also that ill feeling I get when I think about my tax dollars helping to support  multi-million dollar race teams. As much as I adore Ryan Newman, affording to live must take precedence over my enjoyment of watching Newman race. 

Money is reality

Newman is a racer; motivated by his life-long love of racing. I do not believe money is what drives him, so it is ironic and very sad that money and ultimately the sponsorship of his race team must now take a high profile in his career. It is also sad that money has to play a part of my enjoyment in watching him race. I would hate to see Newman have to settle for a less than superior race team or equipment. He's one of the best and works for one of the best. I cannot imagine what his options are, because he is in such a good place right where he is. Yet, I understand Stewart's position as well. I am just hopeful that one of the gazillion products we see and use every day will pony up to get their name plastered all over the #39 car. Perhaps I will start writing a few letters. 

By the way, it was great to see Bass Pro Shops on Newman's car at Darlington. Could there be a better fit for Ryan Newman than Bass Pro Shops?

In addition, there is always Cabelas or Lowrance, Ranger Boats, Triton Boats, Evinrude, Mercury Marine or a myriad other companies that have to do with fishing and hunting, which Newman enjoys so much. Then there are his other interests, like Iams, Purina, Eukanuba, and other companies that might want to support not just his racing venture, but his other interests as well.

Newman has done plenty to promote his favorite products Perhaps it is time for them all to return the favor.