Hip move doesn’t always work

Published 10:47 pm Thursday, July 10, 2008

I guess the grass is not always greener. The money, fame and unbelievable fan interest have drawn many racers from other series to NASCAR through the years. Some have found great success and made stock car racing their home, but others have found that driving a “taxi cab” is not as easy as one might think.

Some of today’s biggest stars have come from the ranks of open wheel racing. Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart are the biggest. Even Jimmie Johnson began his career as a motocross racer. Over the past couple of years, it seemed that moving over to NASCAR is the hip thing to do in the Indy Racing League and Formula One world.

Those guys haven’t found this “redneck” series to be kind. This week, that point was punctuated when Chip Ganassi made the decision to shut down the No. 40 team of Dario Franchitti, a move that resulted in more than 70 layoffs at the team headquarters. The reason for the shutdown given by Ganassi is lack of sponsorship. That car has been a rotating billboard all season long, surviving this long on one-race sponsorships.

But to me, it all goes back to the performance of the team. Franchitti has been terrible all year long, and Ganassi is quickly gaining the reputation of not providing the best equipment. Is Franchitti a bad driver? Absolutely not. This guy is the 2007 Indy 500 champion, the 2007 IRL points champion and has 18 career wins in open-wheel competition, but he is dealing with a whole different animal when he jumps into a car with fenders.

Yes, lack of sponsorship shut this team down and put one of the best drivers in the world out of a job. But if the team had posted better results, then the sponsorship dollars would have come. Do you think a recent Daytona 500 winner, a recent Sprint Cup champion, and a driver with 18 career Sprint Cup wins would be without sponsorship? Nope, wouldn’t happen. But, then again, a driver with those credentials would not be driving for Chip Ganassi.

The series makes a return trip to Daytona International Speedway this weekend for the annual Fourth of July race. After Pepsi being the title sponsor of this race for years, Coke is the new sponsor of the 500-mile race tonight. Look for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to pick up his second win of the season.

Happy Fourth of July, and please be careful as you are having a good time.