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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.




Related Pictures

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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
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS, races to an eighth place finish with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS who finished in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet SS, stops in his pit on his way to a fifth place finish Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. Elliott takes over the #24 car from retired driver Jeff Gordon.  (Photo by Ashley R Dickerson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, races to a fourth place finish Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevy Racing)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brian Vickers, driver of the #14 Janssen Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation Chevrolet SS, finishes in seventh place, Sunday April 3, 2016, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, VA (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Dow Chevrolet SS, finishes in fourth place, Sunday April 3, 2016, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, VA (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #14 Target Chevrolet SS, finishes in third place, Sunday April 3, 2016, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, VA (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Kroger/Butterfinger/Coffeemate Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place, Sunday April 3, 2016, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, VA (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, races to his 77th career victory, Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Garry Eller for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career win with a victory lap and checkered flag, Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Garry Eller for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career victory Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Gregg Ellman for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career victory with a wave of the chequered flag Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Garry Eller for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career victory, Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career victory, Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)

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