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Money's tight as contract renewals loom

In all, Roush Fenway Racing has four major sponsors whose deals were up for renewal at the end of this season: re-signing 3M takes care of one of those, but there are still three to go. Matt Kenseth is backed by whisky maker Crown Royal (who are also one of the title sponsors of this weekend's Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Roadway) while David Ragan has sponsorship from international logistics giant UPS.

"Let's be honest: the world has changed a lot since the economy crashed," said UPS's director of sponsorship Ron Rogowski. "NASCAR has had a few setbacks. The numbers haven't been where they used to be. You have this economic impact and the state of the sport. You sit down with teams, and there's a very active discussion to make an investment work harder."

Amazingly, Roush Fenway's other driver, Carl Edwards - who currently leads this year's Sprint Cup championship, after finishing in fourth place in 2010 - is one of the drivers whose contracts expires at the end of the year and who has not yet agreed an extension with the team or so far signed an alternative deal elsewhere. His #99 has been sponsored by medical insurer Aflac, and by Scotts Miracle-Gro (the world's largest seller of lawn and garden products) for the past eight years, which has previously praised Edwards as "a great representative [for Scotts] with integrity, passion and a winning attitude."

But as much as companies like Aflac and Scotts may like Edwards, can they justify and afford to keep him on the books? It's reminiscent of the moment when Ford Motor Company's global board suddenly asked, "Who is this Eddie Irvine?" when they found out that the Jaguar F1 driver was one of their most highly paid employees. From that moment, Ford's involvement in the sport was doomed and they pulled out shortly after.

"We're seeing a lot of discussions around measurement and showing how [sponsoring teams] in NASCAR generates greater sales, greater exposure and greater brand awareness," said Steve Newmark, Roush Fenway's senior vice president of business operations.

"The type of money the marketplace was commanding a few years ago isn't there anymore," pointed out Dave Grant, head of sports and events specialist marketing agency Team Epic. "The pricing has maxed out. Teams are recognising the new reality, and that's part of it."

"Three years ago you saw deals in the $18 to $22 million range and today we're probably in that $13 to $17 million range," agreed Tamera Green, a vice-president at GMR Marketing.

Where previously NASCAR and the teams held the whip hand in negotiations, now the boot is firmly on the other foot and teams are having to add more value, accept "performance related" deals dependent on triggers such as qualifying for the Chase, or simply be more flexible in negotiations if they want to keep their sponsors on board. Even the formidable US Army is trimming its marketing budgets: it has reduced its sponsorship of Stewart-Haas Racing down to 15 races from 23 last year and negotiated a lower price per race, "to take into account audience, TV ratings and where the market is moving." The Stewart-Haas team is having to make more promotional appearances for the Army, and even sweetened the deal by making Tony Stewart's suite at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway available for their corporate sponsors' use during the Indy 500 and Brickyard races.

Similarly, Roush Fenway Racing's renewed deal with 3M is also reported to be for fewer races from 2012, reducing the company's overall expenditure - but at least the flexibility is keeping the sponsor on board for the majority of events and securing Biffle's position in NASCAR.

Among the drivers with no deal in place beyond the end of the season is Earnhardt Ganassi's Juan Pablo Montoya, who despite not having anything like the level of race-winning success of Edwards, Harvick, Biffle or Busch is still one of NASCAR's top stars and most recognisable and bankable names, thanks to his time in Formula 1, IndyCar and ChampCar. Montoya is yet to win on an oval track in NASCAR, but has won twice on the series' road courses at Sonoma and Watkins Glen. Montoya's #42 is sponsored by US retailing giant Target, which also sponsors the Ganassi cars of Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon in IndyCar.




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3M is the primary sponsor of the #16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford driven by Greg Biffle. 3M, Biffle and RCR just signed a three-year extension to their ongoing collaboration. Photo credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet SS qualified for 33rd position after hitting the wall Friday, October 24, 2014 for Sunday`s  Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Harvick, who is in the Chase, is 2nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.  (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS qualified for 9th position Friday, October 24, 2014 for Sunday`s  Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Newman, who is in the Chase, is 3rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS qualified for 13th position Friday, October 24, 2014 for Sunday`s  Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Gordon, who is in the Chase, is 7th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.  (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS won the pole position and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS qualified for 16th position Friday, October 24, 2014 for Sunday`s  Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. McMurray, who is not in the Chase, is 19th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. This was McMurray`s 2nd Pole win this season. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Mcdonald’s Chevrolet SS won the pole position Friday, October 24, 2014 for Sunday`s Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. McMurray, who is not in the Chase, is 19th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. This was McMurray`s 2nd Pole win this season. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, climbs into his car prior to qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, left, talks with crew chief Alan Gustafson in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Danica Patrick alongside the #10 GoDaddy Breast Cancer Awareness Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing on pit road at Talladega Superspeedway. (Photo Credit: NASCAR via Getty Images)
Danica Patrick driving the #10 GoDaddy Breast Cancer Awareness Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finished in 5th position and Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS finished in 12th position Sunday, October 19, 2014 in the final Contender 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. Newman, who was in the Chase, advances to the Eliminator 8 phase of the Chase which begins next week at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Kahne, who was also in the Chase, did not advance. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS finished in 26th position and Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Dow Chevrolet SS finished in 13th position Sunday, October 19, 2014 in the final Contender 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. Gordon, who was in the Chase, advances to the Eliminator 8 phase of the Chase which begins next week at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS finished in 9th position Sunday, October 19, 2014 in the final Contender 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. Harvick, who was in the Chase, advances to the Eliminator 8 phase of the Chase which begins next week at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, races Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS qualified for 39th position Saturday, October 18, 2014 for Sunday`s Contender 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. Harvick, who is in the Chase, is 3rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Sunday is the final round of the Contender 12 phase of the race. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS qualified for eleventh position Saturday, October 18, 2014 for Sunday`s Contender 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. Newman, who is in the Chase, is 4th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Sunday is the final round of the Contender 12 phase of the race. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer’s Insurance Chevrolet SS qualified for eighth position Saturday, October 18, 2014 for Sunday`s Contender 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. Khane, who is in the Chase, is 8th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Sunday is the final round of the Contender 12 phase of the race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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