Talk about a sensitive subject.
General Motors' decision to cut its support for Chevrolet teams competing in NASCAR's Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series rippled through the garage at Michigan International Speedway, but only Dale Earnhardt Jr., who shares ownership in his JR Motorsports team with Rick Hendrick, seemed willing to talk about the funding cuts in depth.
Kevin Harvick, who faces a double whammy as the owner of both Nationwide and truck teams under the Kevin Harvick Inc. banner, released a terse statement and refused further comment.
"Kevin Harvick Inc. has lost its manufacturer support," Harvick said. "Although this will require some internal restructuring, our commitment to our sponsors to provide the best possible product on the racetrack will not change."
Most Chevrolet teams will not be affected by the loss of support, because the smaller teams didn't receive factory assistance in the first place. Only substantial organisations such as KHI, JR Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing and Rusty Wallace Inc. are among the fortunate few who, up until this week, have benefitted from GM's largesse.
Earnhardt says JR Motorsports will have to compensate for the loss of Chevy's contribution, which is a small part of the operating budget. (Chrysler and Ford cut their support to teams competing in the two series before the 2009 season began.)
"The sponsorships obviously are the biggest part of our budget," Earnhardt said Friday after Sprint Cup practice. "Our relationship with Chevrolet was more about brand loyalty. I've been with them for so long (that) I don't really think we even negotiated with them on the manufacturing support.
"It was a good assistance to our programme, albeit it was not a very large portion of our entire funding for the season. Obviously, I would assume for some programmes it would be a lot more. For example, maybe (Kevin) Harvick was really dependent on the manufacturer support. We were dependent upon it, but we will find other ways to make that up, and I think it will be pretty feasible to be able to do that."
Childress said Friday that he hasn't been notified of the loss of support, but he is likely to get the bad news at a meeting with Chevrolet representatives next week.
"The technical support is huge, but the key thing I think everybody has to remember is they're not in this sport just to have a hobby," Childress said. "They sell cars, and this is a great tool for General Motors to sell cars. I think, once they get through this bump in the road, you're going to see 'em back here, because it's a great platform to sell American cars."