Woody: Is Happy Hour Coming To An End In 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 firstname.lastname@example.org