Saturday, February 4, 2017

Nascar Sponsorship Scandals


The recent announcement that Stewart-Haas Racing was suing former sponsor Nature’s Bakery for non-payment of sponsorship bills sent shockwaves throughout the sport.  While its been a while since a top-flight team was stiffed by a sponsor, sponsorship scandals of the monetary-kind are nothing new in Nascar.  Here’s some of the more-memorable ones in the modern age:

Big Daddy’s BBQ Sauce—The granddaddy (pun intended) of Nascar sponsorship scandals, the company came in big to the racing world in the 90’s, with agreements to sponsor teams in Cup (Junie Donlavey and Larry Hedrick’s teams), IndyCar (Galles), NHRA, and entire lower-level series itself.  However, be it through a stock-offering deal gone wrong or just plain lack of money from the get-go, virtually none of the deals came to fruition, a notable exception being the title sponsorship of South Boston Speedway for two years.

360 OTC—Owned by Rockford-Montgomery Labs, 360 OTC was an over-the-counter pain relief medicine that seemed to come from out of nowhere.  Suddenly they were sponsoring both a Cup and Truck Series entry for Bill Davis Racing in 2007 as well as serving as title sponsor of WWE’s Wrestlemania Pay Per View and the World of Outlaws Late Model Series.  Neither Davis, the World of Outlaws, nor the WWE received what they were owed in their dealings with Rockford-Montgomery, with all three taking 360 OTC’s owners to court for non-payment.

ExtenZe—the “male enhancement” supplement was all over TV until a flood of lawsuits accusing the company of deceptive marketing and making people ill.  Turning to Nascar, the company backed the Cup efforts of Kevin Conway via Conway’s marketing firm, Exclaim, with contracts that specified that Conway must maintain a certain level of performance (on the track) to keep the sponsorship monies coming.  Both Front Row Motorsports and Robby Gordon wound up suing Conway and his company for nonpayment, with Gordon and Conway eventually having a physical confrontation at the Las Vegas track over the situation.

Lycos—When Tyler Jet Motorsports hired Johnny Benson before the 2000 season, nothing was guaranteed.  The team had a brief but checkered past of sponsorship issues (most notably with Tabasco) and terrible on-track performance.  So when the team inked internet search engine Lycos to sponsor the car days before the Daytona 500, it was a good sign.  When Benson wound up contending for the win thanks to pit strategy, it looked like a fairy tale come true.  Alas, when the team pulled Lycos signage off their car later that year, reality came crashing down.  It was revealed that the “sponsorship” was actually a complicated deal to sell the team advertising space on Lycos at a greatly reduced rate—however, apparently Lycos didn’t follow through, and a lawsuit soon resulted.  The team was sold to MB2 Motorsports shortly thereafter.

SpeedBlock—Darrell Waltrip’s self-owned, self-driven racing team had lost its only primary sponsor ever, Western Auto Parts America, after the 1997 season.  The team appeared to be on the way out until an eleventh-hour deal with home builder Speedblock came together in partnership with home improvement retailer Builders Square—or so it seemed.  Within a few races sponsorship money stopped coming in, with Speedblock blaming Builders Square and Builders Square blaming Speedblock, forcing Waltrip to shut down his team, then sell it to Tim Beverley of Tyler Jet Motorsports (see above).