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Hendrick doing well to prepare for possibility of National Guard leaving the 88

May 15, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

DaleJrGuard AP

Rick Hendrick didn’t get to be one of NASCAR’s most successful owners by not seeing the trends and directions the business is going.

Hendrick, and his entire Hendrick Motorsports organization, have done an excellent job of putting together partnerships to keep his empire at the top of the NASCAR heap.

He’s done it for more than 25 years, despite partners that have come and gone.

He’s doing it again, now, in preparing for the possible departure of the National Guard from Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 car.

The increase in sponsor announcements with new partners Nationwide Insurance and DC Entertainment being announced within the last few weeks, and also with Mtn Dew stepping up its activation with a series of videos, are clear signs that Hendrick’s team is working ‘round the clock to get more companies on board the 88 in case the Guard departs.

It’s not inconceivable that they will – witness two reports of note from the past couple weeks.

A USA Today report indicated that despite the more than $26+ million spent on activation and sponsorships in 2012, there was not a single recruit signup at a NASCAR event.

While that doesn’t factor into account local branches where the Guard could attract –and sign – new recruits, it’s still a worrying report.

Then there’s this from Sporting News’ Bob Pockrass, veteran NASCAR reporter who is among the best at deciphering the business side of the sport:

The Army National Guard has a new leader in Judd Lyons, who took over in January. At a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing last week, Lyons vowed to re-examine the effectiveness of the National Guard sponsorship. He said the Guard is conducting more in-depth surveys of those enlisting to determine what led them to enlist, which in turn should help them understand the value.

Political pressure of military sponsorships in NASCAR is nothing new. It’s been going on for several years. And that’s the way it should be — those in charge of spending taxpayer dollars have an interest in how those dollars are spent.

When a change at the top happens to any company – especially one whose motorsports’ spending have been as closely scrutinized as the Guard’s has been – you have to begin preparing for the eventuality that the deal is closer to the end of its life span than the beginning.

The Guard has backed Dale Jr. and the 88 since his move to Hendrick Motorsports in 2008.

If you’re the Guard, you’ve supported NASCAR’s most popular driver through thick-and-thin, and through what have been more trying years than actual delivery on track.

Junior’s made the Chase each of the last three years, but prior to his much appreciated Daytona 500 victory this year, he’s won only two other races in his stint at Hendrick. He’s still never won a championship, even though he has a good shot to this year in his last season with crew chief Steve Letarte (another area Hendrick will need to address for 2015).

Sponsors demand ROI, even if they happen to have one of the sport’s most marketable drivers, and even if they have the most popular driver.

But they don’t stay on forever. And at only seven years together, the Guard-Dale Jr. relationship isn’t at the length of a Jeff Gordon-DuPont or John Force-Castrol type relationship of 20 or more years.

Hendrick prepared for the eventuality of DuPont’s departure as Gordon’s primary backer by having other associates ready to step up, and ultimately putting together a deal with the AARP’s Drive to End Hunger that has now been the primary backer on the 24 car for several seasons.

You can tell he’s doing the same now on the 88 to keep Dale Jr., in the face of what appears to be a slowly phased down withdrawal by the Guard.

  1. manik56 - May 15, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    Who is literraly going to make a life altering decision at a nascar race? It may be wise to sleep on it and discuss it with family. What the sponsorship does is open people’s eyes to the opportunity. I have never shopped at Lowes or got a meal from McDonalds at a race either.

  2. lynnda37 - May 15, 2014 at 2:50 PM

    I love NASCAR but why don’t the driver’s (and all other sport teams) have all their t-shirts, hats, whatever else they sell made in the USA gee that would help out here at home

  3. gbart22 - May 15, 2014 at 2:56 PM

    They don’t make it here at home because then you’d have to pay more to purchase and the wide majority of Americans hate when something goes up 10 cents or even worse more than that. It’s why companies like walmart don’t pay their employees a livable wage despite all their profits.

  4. aug99 - May 15, 2014 at 3:15 PM


    • sep1956 - May 15, 2014 at 3:39 PM

      I would rather spend my tax dollars on a Race Car, than sending millions and even billions of my tax dollars overseas, fighting all the 3rd world countries and sending aid and relief for all the catastrophes outside the USA. Do all these other countries ever help the USA in the wake of a tornado, hurrican,
      earthquake, wildfire??? No!

    • fave88 - May 15, 2014 at 4:30 PM

      aug99…..You obviously voted for Obama, that’s why our country IS in the shape it is, not because the National Guard chose to sponsor a race car!

      • adamlucas9999 - May 15, 2014 at 9:56 PM

        fave88, that’s one of the most ignorant comments I have ever read, if you think our country is so bad off why don’t you go live in some other country, I have and I always come back to the USA when my time is up, whether I’ve been to Europe, Asia or South America the USA has the freedom, the economy and the lifestyle they all want. You’re just an ignorant redneck who needs to educate himself and travel a little. Then come back here and tell us what you found out.

  5. jets12 - May 15, 2014 at 5:24 PM

    fave88 your comment is not only stupid it is flat out wrong. The reason our country is in whatever shape it is in is because we have a political system that awards politicians for doing nothing. Both parties are guilty of pandering to the money bags that run and own the political factory of this country. To blame the president or one particular party is short sighted and uninformed.

    • juststoppedby - May 15, 2014 at 5:29 PM

      Well said Jets!

  6. techmeister1 - May 15, 2014 at 10:11 PM

    Our government pisses away billions of dollars a year on many inappropriate areas. Marketing to get people to join our military however is NOT one of them. As I have posted before few companies can directly state how much actual sales or in this case confirm how many people joined based on the National Guard’s marketing with CRASHCAR. Seeing as though CRASHCAR is a very popular sport for the common man in the U.S. it is a highly prized marketing venue. Without proper research and execution of any marketing program, it’s impossible to determine it’s true effectiveness or value.

    Now as far as this shape this country is in – MANY people in and outside this country believe it’s in the worst shape it’s been in 50 years. While Obama is certainly responsible for a lot of the damage to the U.S. and the reduction of our military forces – which is completely ignorant as the world becomes more destabilized weekly, Congress has played it’s part in destroying America also. The President and Congress would all get a failing grade by any objective outside analysis. They should all be ashamed of the damage they have done to America. The very least they could do is refund all of the compensation they have received and resign so people who care about this country can take control back from the criminals in DC.

  7. teamlango - May 16, 2014 at 4:40 AM

    Oh boy politics on a motor sports board, woo hoo!

  8. odesey7 - May 16, 2014 at 8:55 AM

    I don’t understand why the American military needs to advertise. It’s not as if Al quada, Russia or China are sponsoring cars to get us to join their armies.

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