With the Wall Street Journal reporting last weekend on the fall of Chrysler, and its effect on NASCAR, and the Orlando Sentinel’s recent report that the automotive task force is giving Chrysler half of the money it requested for marketing, many are predicting cutbacks of both Dodge and Chevy in NASCAR.
This is no surprise to anyone, as most thought it was only a matter of time, given how long the automakers have been struggling. With Chrysler filing for backruptcy and GM expected to follow suit, can they realistically sustain putting money in motorsports? Most say no. Add in the fact that they’re taking tax payer money, and the “no” becomes more definitive.
The WSJ calls Chrysler’s troubles “another humbling blow to the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.”
As I’ve said before, I’m not sure this is a humbling blow. Sure ticket sales and attendance are down, viewership is declining, and sponsors are having a hard time staying in the sport during these tough economic times. But, that’s not because Chrysler and GM are struggling. It’s because we’re in an economic downturn that resulted in job losses for a large portion of NASCAR’s working class fanbase.
I’m sure many auto-plant workers are or were NASCAR fans. And, with the automakers laying off a large number of workers, those NASCAR fans can’t afford to go see races live. Add in other NASCAR fans in different professions that have been layed off, and it’s no surprise that there is a decline in attendance.
But again, that’s due mainly to economic conditions, and tangentally to the fall of the automakers.
If GM and Chrysler were to pull out of the sport, NASCAR would still survive. The COT almost guarantees that. The cars don’t resemble anything that is sitting on a showroom floor in any auto dealer.
The cars are nearly identical, with the only distinguishing factor being the decals. If automakers pull out, those decals would most likely go away. But, the teams would still exist.
The cars are built in-house by teams. They have their own shops, and engineers, so even if factory support were to cease, the teams with major sponsors would find a way to function.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that NASCAR isn’t struggling or that things wouldn’t get worse, if automakers started pulling out.
I am, however, saying that NASCAR would still survive, because in the end, the logos emblazoned on the hood and quarter panels mean more than the fake head and tail lights on the cars.