May 15, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
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.
Apr 18, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT
Despite expecting to struggle in Bahrain, Sainz will start the race from ninth place on Sunday.
Apr 18, 2015, 2:40 PM EDT
Grosjean believes he could have qualified higher up the grid, but is pleased to have maintained his 100% Q3 record in 2015.
Apr 18, 2015, 2:12 PM EDT
Simon Pagenaud led IndyCar’s final practice session in Long Beach.
Apr 18, 2015, 2:07 PM EDT
Daniel Ricciardo fares far better in the sister Red Bull, qualifying seventh in Bahrain.
Apr 18, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Former Red Bull driver believes that the focus should not be on tire management, but instead on driver ability and pace.
Apr 18, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
Rosberg misses out on the front row for the second time in three races, exposing Mercedes to the threat from Ferrari in the race.
Apr 18, 2015, 1:04 PM EDT
Conor Daly gets a last-minute IndyCar shot with Dale Coyne Racing.
Apr 18, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
Four-time world champion qualified second for the Bahrain Grand Prix, splitting the Mercedes drivers at the front of the grid.
Apr 18, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
The defending F1 world champion feels more at ease with this year’s car in Bahrain, allowing him to dominate qualifying on Saturday.
Apr 18, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
John Booth says that the long-term future of the team is being planned and secured thanks to fresh investment.
Apr 18, 2015, 9:02 AM EDT
The defending world champion edges out Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in FP3 ahead of qualifying later today.
Apr 18, 2015, 7:45 AM EDT
Mercedes and Ferrari continue to exchange blows in Bahrain, but who will get the upper hand ahead of qualifying?
Apr 17, 2015, 9:16 PM EDT
Ricky Taylor, Bill Auberlen secure pole positions for Round 3 of TUDOR Championship season in Long Beach.
Apr 17, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT
Some good banter between Simon Pagenaud and Will Power occurs during post-practice press conference, as the two laugh off their contact here last year.
Apr 17, 2015, 7:37 PM EDT
Power leads second practice in Long Beach.
Apr 17, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT
Five in a row for the McLaren junior driver as he starts the 2015 season in style.
Apr 17, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
Ferrari’s long run pace suggests that Mercedes may not have it all its own way on Sunday.
- Simon Pagenaud fastest in IndyCar’s final Long Beach practice 0
- Hamilton eases to fourth straight pole position in Bahrain 0
- Hamilton closes out Bahrain GP practice on top 0
- INDYCAR confirms more aero kit updates coming to Long Beach 1
- Rocky Moran Jr. to replace Huertas in Coyne’s No. 18 for Long Beach 7
- Rosberg heads up Mercedes one-two in Bahrain FP2 1
- Kimi Raikkonen quickest in first practice for Bahrain GP 2