Aug 11, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
Additionally, Stewart has a number of vested business interests that could be impacted as well, depending on the outcome of the legal investigation in Ontario County (N.Y.) (see court case here).
In the short-term, Stewart has four more races to make the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup. He’s winless since Dover in June 2013; this year, he stands a winless 21st in points and will have to win at least once to be among the 16 drivers in NASCAR’s new for 2014 Chase grid.
Sponsors live and breathe with teams whether their driver makes the Chase; there can be financial incentives in play for making it. Stewart-Haas Racing will have at least two cars, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, in the field of 16 thanks to their wins earlier this year. But Stewart’s presence would ensure the team hit its preseason target of getting three of the four SHR cars in the Chase (Danica Patrick aside).
Realistically though, that’s the least of Stewart’s concerns. In the longer term, Stewart’s livelihood and those of the hundreds of families he employs could be at stake (more here from NBCSN contributor Nate Ryan for USA Today).
The legal story will continue, as the investigation into what precisely happened Saturday night beyond witness reports and a YouTube video (we’re not going to link to it out of respect) continues in New York.
The sponsors Stewart has managed to put together for his and Gene Haas’ Stewart-Haas Racing empire, and for the dirt track he owns – Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio – all have to take another step back and say, is this someone we want to be affiliated with?
NAPA pulled out of the Cup level after a mere race-fixing scandal last year. Does Bass Pro Shops, Mobil 1 or anyone else want to look at Stewart and say they don’t want to get dragged through the mud throughout this process?
The sponsor impact is where the families come into play. SHR has gone from also-ran to a top-flight NASCAR championship winning team in five seasons since Stewart and Haas joined forces ahead of the 2009 season.
It has a four-car operation and if there are any sponsor withdrawals, or scaling back, that will force the team to find new ones to keep all four cars in operation. This would undoubtedly be a tougher task now than 48 hours ago.
The outcome of this process could also have a financial impact on short tracks around the country, where Stewart’s presence could enhance their business. When a megastar like Stewart opts to moonlight at these one-off dirt race events, it generally provides a boost in ticket sales as one of NASCAR’s biggest stars races against local heroes.
But now there will be hard choices – there have to be. The contact between Stewart and Kevin Ward Jr. will have enduring ripple effects that not only affect the individuals, but the bottom line.
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