Part II: As preparations continue for next week's Daytona 500, there are three Ford teams currently looking for sponsorship to run the full 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup schedule. Haas-Carter Motorsports, along with single car owners Brett Bodine and...
As preparations continue for next week's Daytona 500, there are three Ford teams currently looking for sponsorship to run the full 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup schedule. Haas-Carter Motorsports, along with single car owners Brett Bodine and Junie Donlavey, have limited funds under their current agreements and are faced with trying to find additional dollars. Car owner Travis Carter, along with drivers Todd Bodine, Joe Nemechek, Brett Bodine and Rick Mast all spoke about their situations.
BRETT BODINE --11-- Wells Fargo Financial/Timberland PRO Taurus
WHERE ARE YOU AT SPONSOR-WISE? "We're still looking for that major sponsor. We've got a couple great associates and they've provided enough funding for us to get here to Daytona and a couple of races early on in the season, but unless we get a major sponsorship signed, we're really uncertain about our future. We operate on much less than some of the other race teams and I consider ourselves a real bargain when you consider that last year we raced on probably half of what some of even the 10th or 15th-place teams raced on, but we made all the races. At one point, we even had the honor of finishing the most consecutive races in a row at one time until we had a water pump problem at Richmond and didn't finish that race. But this is a good race team and a very competitive race team. I know that everybody else is selling themselves the same way, but we're one that we try to give a very good value. We feel like we can offer somebody a major sponsorship for about half of what other people are looking for."
WHAT DO YOU FIND WHEN YOU TALK TO CORPORATE AMERICA? "There's really not a lot there. When Travis and his two teams needed to come up with sponsorship, it's really diluting the water. Companies today have needed to cut budgets, that's quite obvious, and the first thing to go are the marketing and advertising budgets. It doesn't matter who you work for, that's what happens. This sport is driven by marketing and advertising money and when the economy takes a downswing and the budgets are cut that effect this sport, this sport suffers. It's a ripple effect. It's gonna take a little while for us to truly feel it. The grandstands might not feel it. They might not see a decrease in ticket sales right away and, hopefully, the economy can make a turnaround to where they don't, but for the racers and the teams that didn't have sponsorship contracts in place for 2002, the teams that are having to look for it are suffering. I've talked to some of the multi-car team owners that have won a lot of races last year and they are gonna be faced with racing on less money in 2002 than they did in 2001 because some of their associate sponsorship deals have not renewed, so they're gonna feel it. There are some very prominent car owners that are faced with running in the red for 2002 on their budgets and not everybody can do that for very long. I did it for one year a couple of years ago to try to keep my business going and I certainly can't do it again."
HOW FAR CAN YOU GO THIS YEAR? "We know we're going to Daytona and Rockingham for sure. After that, we just pray that someone is gonna come along. Whether it's a one-race deal or a 10-race deal, we'll do whatever we have to do within our power to keep this thing going."
SOME GUYS HAVE TRIED TO FINANCE TEAMS ON THEIR OWN? YOU CAN'T DO THAT CAN YOU? "I've already done that with a past bad experience we had when we had a sponsor that didn't pay us. My wife and I have already re-mortgaged everything there was to re-mortgage to keep it going at that time. There's no more re-mortgaging. We can't do anything to keep it going, other than get funding. We've been here for six years now and I'm real proud of what we've done and been able to withstand. I just hope this isn't going to be the end of it."
ALL OF THE BODINES SEEM TO BE LOOKING FOR SPONSOR HELP. "It's just a bad time to be trying to raise money for race cars. As I said, marketing and advertising budgets are just wiped out when companies have to figure out a way to make their bottom lines shorter. Those are the first things to go. They have to continue to produce goods and services to sell, but they don't have to advertise and they don't have to market for short periods of time."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT FRANCHISING. WOULD THAT BE AN ANSWER? "If I had a franchise, personally, I would be in the catbird seat because you would know you're gonna be in the shows. You could take that to a sponsor and guarantee them something. Right now, you can't guarantee anybody anything. You can't guarantee performance, you can't guarantee finishes, you can't guarantee you're going to make the race and that's what makes this a very difficult sell.
"The other thing is that as a car owner and team owner I'm competing against a lot of different people for these advertising and marketing dollars within our sport -- not only all the other car owners that need these sponsors, but I compete against race tracks, I compete against NASCAR and I compete against television for advertising dollars that are spent in our sport. It's coming to the point where I can't compete against those people. Something has to change a little bit. We need a little relief on the car owner side to get some help. I'm not the kind of race team that has a big marketing department and that has hurt me. I wasn't able to grow fast enough to incorporate that into my business. I lack a strong marketing department and, unfortunately, it looks like that's what's gonna cost me in the end."
WHAT DOES YOUR GUT TELL YOU ABOUT THIS SITUATION? "My gut tells me it's gonna be really hard. It doesn't look good, but I've been down and out before and we've been able to pull through. As I said, we're gonna do everything we can and if it takes a one-race deal or multi-race deals, hopefully, we'll still be in business when the economy turns around and marketing money starts appearing back in our sport."
RICK MAST --90-- Duke's Mayonnaise Taurus
WHAT IS THE SPONSORSHIP STATUS WITH DUKE'S? "Right now, officially, the contract is signed for the first half of the season and that's where it's at. They're working right now as we speak to fill out the last 18 races, but that's where it's at right now."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT ALL OF THESE SPONSORSHIP PROBLEMS? "The one thing is that if these teams and sponsors were protected by whatever means, like franchising, I know in our case this 90 race team would have a 36-race sponsor signed right now. I know that for a fact. You can't deny facts and that's one of the reasons I'm this kick right now. If a sponsor was guaranteed to be in all 36 races, the 90 team would be signed up for the whole year. Now, the situation with Travis (Carter) doesn't really come into play with what I'm talking about because Kmart went out without having anything to do with what was going on in racing. I mean, I feel bad for those guys. Last fall there was some talk about Kmart having some trouble and then when they went bankrupt and filed Chapter 11, they still put out a press release saying they were still gonna be here, but my guys said, 'No, that's not gonna happen. They're not gonna be here.' And, sure enough, they're not."
BUT WHAT ABOUT GUYS LIKE ANDY PETREE? "See, that's even more insane than any of it. I mean, he won a race three months ago and was one of the top teams and he can't get a sponsor. I don't know why or what it is, if it's the state of the economy or what. I know they keep talking about the state of the economy, but you look around at a lot of places and the economy looks pretty good. The thing of it is, a year ago everybody was saying 12 or 13 million dollars is what you had to have. You didn't even talk to companies if you didn't have 12 or 13 million dollars. Well, right now, there were three teams that would have given anything for half of that back in the winter. I know a particular sponsor went on a car for a top-flight team and the money was half of that 12 million dollars, so things have changed. The problem is that right now it looks like we're gonna be short some cars once in a while. Well, the way I understand it they went through this a few years ago one time, but they were able to rebound pretty easily. One of the reasons was that it didn't cost 10 million dollars to do this. At that time it cost like three million or two million, so it might make it a little harder to come back this time. But I'm sure it will because it always does."
BUT IN YOUR MIND BY FRANCHISING IT WOULD GIVE SPONSORS MORE SECURITY. "All I know is if you've got a company that's based at a race track and they buy 28,000 tickets for their customers and they have thirty hospitality tents going on with literally thousands of folks and that car doesn't make the race and goes home, that's a pretty big hit on them. These people that run these companies, all these executives, these people have pride and egos just like all of us do and they don't like that. And then, if their competition sits on the pole for that same race and they've spent all the money for the race, that's not good for our sport. That's just not good. Right now, all of the owners that are in this sport and have signed up for the whole year, every one of them are just as reputable as they can be. I mean, it's a perfect time to have these guys signed up as franchisees or however you want to do it and then you have a couple spots open or something like that. I don't know how you'd work all that, but all of the other professional sports do that and I think it's time this sport takes a hard, hard look at that. In my case, our team would be signed up for all of the races if it was guaranteed or protected. Again, I can come up with eight companies that I know of that aren't in this sport right now and pretty much directly relate it to getting sent home. It's caused a lot of trouble and I just think the time is here to get this sport changed in that regard."