Throughout the last few NASCAR seasons, several big-name sponsors have left the sport completely, leaving questions about the future of sponsorship.
NASCAR has always been associated with sponsorship. The aesthetics of a race car and the companies with which drivers are associated have become one of the most iconic aspects of any driver’s career.
The 1990s saw DuPont unveil the “Rainbow Warriors” paint scheme for Hendrick Motorsports legend Jeff Gordon. His rival on track, who ran the exact opposite paint scheme, was seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt. Earnhardt ran a black GM Goodwrench car.
It is post-race tradition – and largely contract-induced – for drivers to thank the sponsors, especially after winning a race. They also give thanks to the teams for which they drive, including all of the employees that make up said team.
NASCAR also holds a throwback race each year at Darlington Raceway to commemorate legends of the past with honorary paint schemes. These schemes sometime featuring a new sponsor, but they are generally salutes to some of the most iconic old ones.
But with a mass exodus of sponsors in the past, and another big one set to leave after 2022, is sponsorship now a problem in NASCAR?
With the company leaving behind an established partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch, Busch will find himself having to look elsewhere for sponsorship for his # 18 Toyota Camry in 2023.
Of course, newer brands have entered the sport in recent seasons as well, and some have seen their cars in victory lane to land additional television time and brand exposure.
For one, Ally saw Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman drive the iconic # 48 Chevrolet to victory lane last April at Richmond Raceway, giving them their first points race victory after two winless seasons with Jimmie Johnson following the post-2018 departure of Lowe’s. Bowman added three more wins in 2021.
Additionally, 23XI Racing driver Bubba Wallace gave McDonald’s their first win as a primary sponsor since 1994 last October in a rain-shortened race at Talladega Superspeedway.
With newer sponsors entering the sport and seeing results in a timely fashion and a resurgence in an established partnership, it’s hard to say that there really is a problem, despite the recent departure of some of the bigger ones. Rather, it is a turn of the times in motorsport / business relations.