Chain of reaction: Driver swapping

The sudden departure of Jeff Green from Richard Childress Racing set off a chain of events that has dominated the news in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. On the surface, Greens abrupt firing seemed to be a knee jerk reaction to post crash ...

The sudden departure of Jeff Green from Richard Childress Racing set off a chain of events that has dominated the news in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

On the surface, Greens abrupt firing seemed to be a knee jerk reaction to post crash confrontation with teammate Kevin Harvick's crew chief (Todd Berrier), and team owner Richard Childress.

Green's actions underscored his on track accomplishments. Green, who started the event in fortieth place, had worked his way up to the fifth position. At the time of the lap 267 incident, when he was crashed out from a bump he received from teammate Kevin Harvick, he was the fastest car on the track. Needless to say, he had good reason to be upset. More than likely the thought of pulling Green from the car was not decided with the confrontations, but was a done deal long before he ever strapped in at Richmond. The Richmond incident just created the right timing.

The departure of Green prompted similar timing that influenced Dale Earnhardt Incorporated to follow through on the long rumored release Steve Park from the Pennzoil ride.

Setting the stage for two powerhouse teams with very close ties to address two open seats, with the only two veteran drivers available. The end result was a driver swap that may have more to do with sponsorship exposure than driver/team chemistry.

Green, a former Busch Series Champion, was not the driver sponsor AOL signed on for back in early 2001. Prior to the start of the 2001 season, with all the fanfare and expectation, RCR, and AOL Time Warner announced that a third RCR team led by Todd Berrier and Kevin Harvick would compete in seven events before running full time in 2002. With the un-timely death of Dale Earnhardt, the deal with Harvick disappeared as he was placed in RCR's Goodwrench ride.

Green was named a provisional driver for the seven races, and that eventually led to his full time seat.

Green, who is a talented driver, never gave AOL the performance that they had hoped for with Harvick. In fact, his position in the annual points standing has been about as stellar as AOL's performance on the stock exchange. Well below it's potential, and not meeting expectations.

Park, a Northeast Modified star was one of the first drivers hired by Dale Earnhardt. Although extremely talented, his career has been plagued by injuries, and overshadowed by his former teammates Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

In a sport where winning is everything, and results are one of the few concrete measurements of the corporate investment, DEI and RCR never gave AOL Time Warner or Pennzoil what they had paid for, a winning team.

But is that what they paid for? Does a corporate sponsor invest ten to fifteen million dollars a year to win races? Or is it to gain increased exposure in highly competitive markets?

The answer is simple when one understands that shareholders may or may not be race fans.

Is it possible that RCR and DEI have found a way to promote its team backers without ever having to take a checkered flag?

The changes at DEI, and RCR have virtually guaranteed AOL and Pennzoil feature coverage of the teams for the next two weeks.

If timing is everything, then the timing was perfect. The driver changes took place during an off week when most of the media that covers the sport were just looking for stories.

Richard Childress, and DEI gave everyone something to talk about.

The driver changes that occurred were not part of "silly season", they were good business. Steve Park, and Jeff Green are currently thirty second and thirty third in the Winston cup Championship standings. As the series heads into it's all star race weekend, the two drivers have garnered more media attention that any of the top five drivers.

There was nothing silly about the driver swap. The off track publicity gave both AOL and Pennzoil the exposure that the teams have been unable to provide on the track, and that is just good business.

-thomas chemris-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Michael Waltrip , Steve Park , Kevin Harvick , Jeff Green
Teams Richard Childress Racing