Sometimes NASCAR math just doesn’t add up.
JOLIET, Ill. -- Over the last two weeks, there was talk of Richard Childress Racing fielding a truck with support from Rheem.
Initially, the chatter suggested that RCR would help displaced champion Ron Hornaday finish the season in his quest for a fifth title. Hornaday started the season with Turner Scott Motorsport but in a bizarre chain of events, was released just days before the race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on Aug. 31. Entering that week, Hornaday was fourth in the point standings.
When Motorsport.com reached Richard Childress for comment (during a round of golf in Montana), he was unaware of any plans with Hornaday but offered that his grandson Austin Dillon, the 2011 truck champ, would be running a couple of truck races before the end of this year.
Rheem, which had been Hornaday’s sponsor this season, announced on Thursday that it was supporting Dillon’s efforts this weekend in the truck race and at Phoenix International Raceway in November, two tracks where the company “had reserved hospitality, catering and large ticket blocks for Rheem customer groups.”
The release went on to speak of its “longtime” partnership with RCR, the team’s “competitive equipment sourced from NTS Motorsports, an experienced crew chief, Chris Rice,” Dillon, a Sprint Cup Series driver and the livery for the No. 20 truck.
The final graph acknowledged that Rheem’s “quick actions”, which come two weeks after Hornaday was broadsided by the news, “were in response to the sudden shuttering” of the No. 30 truck. It adds that “Rheem was left scrambling for a solution and four-time champion driver, Ron Hornaday was left without a ride.”
The release concludes with “Hornaday remains in limbo” and Rheem’s ongoing effort “to look for avenues to allow Hornaday to return to truck competition before the 2014 season concludes."
As for Rheem’s financial commitment to TSM, Motorsports Managing Director Ed Raniszeski said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio last week that he was “dumbfounded” by the decision to shut down the No. 30 truck, “Since I had told Turner Scott Motorsports that we would sponsor any of Ron's races that they were unable to find backing for.”
If it was just a matter of writing a check, wouldn’t Hornaday still be racing for TSM, particularly if he was being compensated by Bob Newberry? Having Hornaday on the sidelines benefits no one. As for RCR, Childress isn’t going to offer a sponsor a ride for free – even if the trucks are coming from NTS. Could RCR be entertaining Rheem for future consideration of sponsorship down the road? Who knows. For now, the short term benefit is additional track time for Dillon.
Throughout this turn of events, there seems to be a tricky triangle involving the owners of Turner Scott Motorsports and Rheem – of course complicated by the disintegrating relationship of Steve Turner and Harry Scott. After employees were told that the truck side of TSM’s operation was shutting down, many were called back the next morning.
On August 27, Scott released the statement, “My investment company, a co-owner of TSM, will continue to do all that it can to keep the team moving forward with or without our business partner Steve Turner. To all TSM employees, sponsors, partners and fans I pledge we will continue to do what we can to keep the teams racing hard each and every week of the season."
Six days later, after the unfortunate release of 18 employees, Scott added, “The decisions made by TSM today are necessary and the responsible steps for all of TSM to ensure our commitment to our employees, partners and fans to be as competitive as possible."
As Scott attempts to continue along the high road, no one in the media has heard Steve Turner’s side of the story. With the exception of Hornaday, who called Turner to find out about his job status two weeks ago, the former champion truck owner is M.I.A.
So what’s the real reason TSM was forced to cease operation of the No. 30 truck? The truth might not come out until the partners anticipated divorce at season’s end.
As for now, the numbers simply don’t add up.