During better economic times, NASCAR teams found infusions of capital from seemingly everywhere - from billionaires such as George Gillett and John Henry to private-equity firms and sugar daddies attracted to the sport's growth.
But now that investors are safeguarding their savings and sponsors are not spending, struggling NASCAR teams are looking for help from within their ranks. And for their survival, they're finding comfort in one another's arms.
In the two months since the 2008 season closed, many of the teams in NASCAR's top series have engaged in a flurry of mergers, acquisitions and other assorted alliances that have changed the ownership and team landscape. Most teams now can't be spelled without a hyphen or said without taking a breath.
“This is a new era for NASCAR,” said Ray Evernham, a minority owner in Gillett Evernham Motorsports, which announced last week it was merging with Petty Holdings. “The things that are happening today have the potential to mold what the sport is going to be 25 years from now.”
Some of NASCAR's most storied names and teams have been among the casualties because they couldn't secure sponsorship for 2009. Most teams generate 75 per cent to 80 per cent of their revenue from sponsorship.
Petty Enterprises, a 60-year-old business started by Richard Petty's father, will cease to exist as the iconic #43 car merges into the operation at GEM.
Dale Earnhardt Inc., founded by one of the sport's most legendary figures some 20 years ago, is losing its racing identity to partner with Chip Ganassi Racing in the formation of Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing.
Two other teams, Hall of Fame Racing and Yates Racing, are forging a relationship that is expected to include sponsorship from Ask.com
, one of the few companies with new money to spend in the sport.
Many more teams are working on less formal technical partnerships that will enable them to cut costs by sharing engines, testing equipment and other million-dollar resources.