Sunday, May 8, 2022

Wacky Racing—Cartoon Network in Nascar

Click here for my look at another Turner property’s Nascar adventure—WCW

The mid-90’s saw Nascar go mainstream in the US, bringing a number of strange crossovers with pop culture.  Perhaps none was as strange as Cartoon Network coming on board as a sponsor for several different teams over the years.  Using the brand name “Wacky Racing” (after the “Wacky Races” cartoon), the Turner-owned network sponsored several drivers through the years with…little success.  Let’s take a look back:

Click on each year to see the primary Cartoon Network paint scheme for that season

1996: Team Wacky Racing debuted on board the Diamond Ridge Motorsports 29 car, with Fred Flintstone emblazoned on the hood.  Even driving his foot-powered car Fred might’ve outrun the 29, which struggled with a slew of different drivers throughout the season—Steve Grisson, Greg Sacks, Butch Leitzinger, Chad Little, Robert Pressley, and Jeff Green.  The car might’ve been Flintstones-themed, but the cast of drivers seemed more like The Simpsons.

1997 also saw the first Cartoon
Network "Special Paint Scheme", with
Tom & Jerry on the hood and Dexter
 on the quarter panels at Phoenix.
Researching this has me reevaluating
 how I spend my free time
1997: Cartoon Network returned to the 29 machine, but while they only used two drivers (Pressley and Green), the team continued to struggle.  Having Scooby Doo as the main theme for the paint scheme was pretty cool, but Cartoon Network would pull its sponsorship due to lack of performance.  Sadly, the Diamond Ridge folks couldn’t blame Old Man Withers for meddling with their cars.

1998: Turner wound up moving its sponsorship to Melling Racing, and while the 9 car had won the 1989 Winston Cup Championship, it had struggled mightily since Bill Elliott’s departure.  Any hope of stability with journeyman Lake “Michael Waltrip punched me” Speed ended when Speed was injured twice, forcing his retirement.  Speed was replaced at first by Butch Gilliland, then on a permanent basis by Jerry Nadeau.  Wacky Racing also began running a rotating series of paint schemes, so while the primary red car had Huckleberry Hound on the hood, you could’ve wound up seeing longtime mental health sufferer Droopy Dog on the track.

A Sprint/RadioShack/Cartoon Network
cross-promotional special paint scheme.
Back when cell phones seemed futuristic 
1999: Foretelling the current age of multiple sponsors (and multiple paint schemes), Turner chose to spread their sponsorship across multiple properties.  So while Cartoon Network used their space to promote their own original cartoon Dexter’s Laboratory, other paint schemes were used to advertise the Atlanta Braves, Dinner & a Movie, and even Nascar stalwart WCW.  On the driving front, Wacky Racing appeared to be heading in the right direction with the improving Jerry Nadeau posting a top ten and a top five.  Unfortunately for Melling Racing, Nadeau left to replace Ernie Irvan at MB2, prompting a return by Steve Grissom, then a stint by Rich Bickle, before Stacy Compton took over the ride full-time.  At the end of the year Compton would stay, but the Turner properties would depart, replace by Kodiak chewing tobacco, of all things—although I guess a baseball-chaw mashup would’ve made sense.

2000: Wacky Racing continued its odd tradition of partnering with one great teams in transition, moving to Galaxy Motorsports.  The successor to RahMoc, the team now had its iconic #75…and not much else.  Strangely, this struggling team would be the lone Cartoon Network-supported entry to use a single driver all year, with journeyman Wally Dallenbach Jr. behind the wheel.  Various sponsors were used—both Turner-owned and non-Turner-owned, with the primary Cartoon Network scheme promoting another original show in the Powerpuff Girls.  After this season the disastrous merger of AOL and Cartoon Network corporate parent Time Warner would see Wacky Racing come to an end, although the new AOL TimeWarner would sponsor Jeff Green in 2002, thus proving that even with different owners and different brands, they still didn’t know how to pick a driver. updated four times weekly

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