Lead Draft Friday: Fan Fears of Big Three Meltdown

I don’t know about you but I’ve noticed a lot more worry out there about the state of NASCAR if one or two of the big 3 north american car makers shuts down.

Here is my original take before editing.  If you want the edited version then go here.

Given the current concern over the fate of GM and Chrysler I decided to do something a little different this week instead of my usual pre-race column.  I hope you enjoy it.

 

The possible economic collapse of one or even two of the big three automakers has sent ripples into the stock market, the Federal and Provincial Governments, and even into our own communities.

 

The demise of even just one automaker would have serious effects everywhere – NASCAR included.

 

The impact of the weak economy has already been felt by those who work within NASCAR and by NASCAR itself.

 

Teams have folded and merged with other teams because of a lack of sponsorship dollars with the latest victim being the newly merged Earnhardt Ganassi Racing who had to park one of its cars and lay off employees because they couldn’t find a long term sponsor.

 

NASCAR itself has not been immune to the poor economic climate either.  There has been a sharp drop in its TV ratings as well as in race attendance (forcing tracks to lower ticket prices), and the Camping World Truck Series is loosing teams at an alarming rate because of lack of sponsors willing to invest in the series.

 

While this has been happening NASCAR has seemed to take a ‘business as usual’ approach to all of this, and seemingly has appeared to be ostrich-like in the way it has publicly avoided dealing with the possible loss of one or two of the sports car manufacturers, but you know they are concerned – they have to be.

 

Back in January things looked bad, but there was hope in both the traditional media and the not-so-traditional media that things would improve and the Government bailout of the automakers would work.

 

Now that optimism has been replaced by a growing fear that in as little as another month that GM and/or Chrysler may not exist as we now know them.

 

Although NASCAR hasn’t really shown its concern over the possible bankruptcy of GM and/or Chrysler openly that fear has been steadily growing over the Internet this last month.

 

This fear was greatly realized by most fans on April 1st when Car and Driver magazine posted on their web-site an article called “Obama Orders Chevrolet and Dodge Out of NASCAR” with the sub-heading of “With their racing budgets deemed ‘unnecessary expenditures,’ GM and Chrysler are ordered to cease racing operations at the end of the season.”

 

Car and Driver later added the tag line ‘April Fools’ but a door was opened that most folks didn’t want to be opened and once it was opened they couldn’t close it.  They had to face the possibility of a NASCAR without GM and/or Chrysler and they didn’t like the thought.

 

NASCAR fans went on a tirade in NASCAR forums and NASCAR bloggers wrote about how insensitive Car and Driver was posting such an article given the state of the economy and so on.

 

But why such a backlash?

 

Fear.

 

Fear of losing NASCAR as we know it and because the article seemed perfectly plausible and believable at the time.

 

Now here we are a month later and the Car and Driver article seems even more believable than before.

 

This fear is now being seen at more mainstream sites like www.scenedaily.com where long time NASCAR journalist Bob Pockrass raises his concerns about the future of NASCAR when he writes, “And let’s not forget what NASCAR will do if – when? – one or two of its manufacturers have to drop out of the sport. What impact is that going to have? Can NASCAR do anything to help teams left hanging?”

 

Certainly the face of NASCAR would change even if one of the big three North American automakers withdrew from the sport, but let’s remember that for most of the 1990’s NASCAR only had two automakers backing it in GM and Ford – Chrysler was long gone and the very thought of having Toyota in the Cup Series was scoffed at.

 

NASCAR is a business and businesses are in existence for one purpose and that is to make a profit and don’t you think for a minute that NASCAR will lie down and die if GM and/or Chrysler pull out.

 

With the exception of Stewart/Haas Racing the majority of newer teams getting into the sport this year at the Cup level already started to adapt to this new economy by building Toyota cars instead of Chevys and Dodges.

 

Given what was happening in December and January you can’t blame them for going with Toyota because just like NASCAR is a business so is running a NASCAR team and they made a smart business decision by going with Toyota at that time just as other teams will make smart business decisions if there is a pullout of one or more of the automakers.

 

Sure NASCAR would have to restructure their business model as would some of those teams now backed by GM and Chrysler but NASCAR would survive.

 

History has shown that NASCAR will survive.

 

NASCAR survived when the big automakers pulled all factory support in 1957. 

 

NASCAR survived when Chrysler and Ford both pulled their support in 1971.

 

And NASCAR will survive this.

 

Some may not like the look of NASCAR if the inevitable collapse of GM and/or Chrysler happens, but NASCAR will continue on.  Guaranteed.

 

Remember to head on over to www.4ever3blog.com during the race this weekend and participate in the Race Day Open Thread Discussion.