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Woody: Is Happy Hour Coming To An End In NASCAR?

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 14 2009
Are we approaching last call for alcohol in NASCAR?   (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Are we approaching last call for alcohol in NASCAR? (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer

Is the bar about to close in NASCAR?

Jack Daniel’s has announced that it will end its sponsorship of one of Richard Childress Racing’s Sprint Cup cars at the end of the season. Earlier, Jim Beam likewise said it will discontinue its sponsorship of Robby Gordon’s cars.

A couple of years ago Busch Beer, long-time sponsor of NASCAR’s second-tier series, decided to drink up and go home.

The loss of such big-time libation sponsors during the current lean economy is, well, sobering.

That’s not to say NASCAR has become a dry county; Crown Royal, Bud, Coors and Miller are still bellying up to the bar in terms of high-dollar sponsorships.

But could the liquor losses be a trend, a sign of the times? Remember the dispute over the introduction of “hard liquor” sponsors into the sport?

At the time it was (accurately) noted that somebody could get just as blitzed on Dale Jr.’s Bud as they could on Robby’s bourbon. But I still detect an “unease factor” involved with the hard stuff.

The same thing happened with tobacco. There was a time when NASCAR ran on the fumes of R.J. Reynolds’ products. Big tobacco – specifically the Winston brand – plumped millions of sponsorships dollars into the sport and boosted it from the backwoods to Broadway.

Would NASCAR have got where it is without tobacco support? Maybe, maybe not. But there’s no denying that NASCAR took a short cut across Tobacco Road.

Back in The Day the sport ran on alcohol and nicotine. When Darrell Waltrip won his first Winston Cup championship in 1981, he stood at the podium in New York’s Waldorf-Astoria and told the audience:

“Thanks a lot – y’all keep drinking and smoking!”

(Darrell, interestingly, did neither.)

The bailout of two hard-liquor sponsors could be coincidental; after all, the two whiskey companies are not the only big-time corporate sponsors to leave NASCAR since the economy blew a tire and bounced off the wall.

On the other hand it seems an odd that, after years of touting the success and benefits of their NASCAR partnerships, Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam abruptly called for their tab.

Maybe it’s just a sign of the economic times or perhaps it’s something else. At any rate and for whatever reason, Jack and Jim decided they no longer need a designated NASCAR driver.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 14 2009


  • RACERX says:

    Its not Robbie or Casey its the sport.Having been involved in racing for more than forty years I have kept a record of the trends and dynamics of the sport. NASCAR is losing steam plain and simple. The first mistake, Brian France. He changed the formula which had worked so well for many years. Too much expansion. California was a big mistake,those folks were used to real racing where passing and crashing were the norm. There are far to many things to do in California on a Sunday other than watch a boring race.Notice the stands at Fontana? Same goes for other areas of the country where there is a wide range of other events and sports. The people who would come like Kentucky can’t get a race,its too late now for that track Kentuckians have moved on! Toyota, for the fans it brought into the sport it lost three times as many. Closing tracks in the southeast the base of which NASCAR was born. Not letting drivers be drivers,that one belongs to Mike Helton. The COT,the largest reason! You can’t massage it,it looks like crap and I can’t go buy one at my local dealer!( You want to see a series that is thriving, the ALMS because the cars in the GT classes look like cars)Go to your local dirt track on a Saturday night if you want thrills and spills,makes a NASCAR race seem like a painful tooth extraction! Attention span, who wants to set in the sun for four hours watching cars go round and round while you cook! NASCAR is or was a social event,fans are so over that. Hypocrisy,Joe Gibbs & Michael Waltrip, purported NO.1 Christians (Darrel included) but yet the run Toyota’s from a country where less than 1% are Christians,? GM and Ford kept NASCAR going for years, especially GM when at one time there were Chevy’s,Oldsmobile’s and Pontiac’s all on the Track. Then they let Toyota come in and combine the best of Ford,Dodge and Chevy in the engine department, NASCAR bent the rules for them as they made no push rod engines! Real or knowledgeable fans saw this for what it was,Brian France wanted Toyota’s money. Thank GOD for drivers like Dale Jr. and Tony Stewart who said NO to Toyota and increased their fan base buy thousands. Now some of you are saying who is this guy and why does he think he knows so much. My wife’s family has been involved with NASCAR since 1949 they are owners of several of NASCAR’s tracks. I have worked in racing since I was seven years old. I know and consider many of the crews and drivers friends. I hate the way NASCAR has treated the guys that made the sport what it is.I agree that the two elder France’s made great contributions to the sport but both going into the Hall of fame at the same time while the real hero’s may take years to get in? They should have separated into categories, Car Owners – Drivers – Crew Members – Track Owners or Promoters – Significant Contribution to NASCAR. I believe the Two Frances should have been inducted separately from the others, we know what a contribution they made to the Sport. They should be in the first class but they aren’t the ones who the people came to see. I never heard any one say I’m going to the races to see Big Bill France,but I have heard people say David Pearson can drive the wheels off that thing.Bobby Alison has given about as much as anyone can to the sport and with a little help from brother Donnie and fellow driver Cale, helped launch NASCAR into the TV era. The Frances were a given, they should have been in outside of the vote and Bobby and David should have been there with Dale,Richard and Junior. All of this leads to sponsors leaving,they just don’t get the bang for buck anymore,the INTERNET is where it is at now and it is so much cheaper to advertise. You can reach so many more people with much less.The economy is one factor for sure but if you were going to advertise your product would your spend millions on a NASCAR sponsorship or a few thousand on the internet and reach many more potential consumers? I predict that over the next few years you will see bankrupt tracks and teams! Some are just barely hanging on now. The new generation are not big NASCAR fans and I don’t see that changing!NASCAR has alienated old fans like myself and they damn sure aren’t coming back so where will the new fans come from, Brazil I don’t think so! Brian France will go down as the man who killed NASCAR !

  • From what I’ve read, Jim Beam is re-directing their marketing dollars to a Kid Rock tour. Whatever. But knowing his popularity, they’re likely to get more of a return than they did with Robby Gordon running in the back. Jack D is more of a surprise for me. I think they’re sales have actually increased in this tough economic period. Would think they might continue. But let’s face it. When your racing spokesmen include Dave Blaney and Casey Mears, that’s probably not going to motivate many folks to drink Ol’ #7. Me thinks they might return one day.

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