LONDON: The Racing Journal
VALLEY STREAM, N.Y. — While the TV mouths continue to be cheerleaders for NASCAR, it is obvious there is trouble in “paradise.”
The latest setback involves Matt Kenseth’s departure from Roush Fenway Racing. Nobody is mad. Kenseth is leading the points. He is now the senior driver for the cat in the hat (Jack Roush). What could be wrong?
It appears Roush cannot afford to fulfill Kenseth’s contract. Sponsorship is going away. Roush is smart enough not to pay him “”out of pocket.”
The fact that Kenseth can’t draw financial support is unnerving. He is one of the truly “blue chip” drivers in NASCAR. He is never flashy or controversial, but when the checkered flag is waving, he will be near the front.
He has missed the Chase but once. This is a sticking point for many sponsors. He also has one of the best pit crews in racing and his people are very loyal to him. While there is a larger than average turnover at Roush, this is not the case with No. 17.
Teams in NASCAR are crumbling. There have been mergers of necessity. Running NASCAR is not affordable to owners who oncewere able to maintain their interest.
Kenseth will be replaced by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. It is a matter of dollars and cents. A rookie doesn’t draw the salary of a Kenseth, a 13-year veteran and former champion.
The sponsorship monies are beginning to be difficult to come by. Roger Penske had to withdraw a Cup and a Nationwide team. Even Roger Penske can’t run unsponsored. Penske had to discharge his prospect, Justin Allgaier, because of no backing.
Kenseth has options. If Joe Gibbs can get sponsorship, which seems difficult, Matt will be his fourth member. However if not, Joey Logano will be expendable. This will leave the young New Englander with no prospects.
The folks at Ford as upset over losing Kenseth. If they pony up and back Penske who is going blue oval next year, Kenseth could end up there and A.J. Allmendinger would be odd man out. There’s talk that the new Michael Andretti team will take up with Dodge where Penske left off. The situation is not great.
Empty seats and so-so TV ratings have eaten up many corporate sponsors’ interest. NASCAR isn’t helping matters by staging long, dull races. Writing here on the net recently, Mike Kerchner hit it on the head about the very dull All-Star race.
Taking a quick look at Thursday’s Camping World Truck race at Kentucky Speedway, I noted that the grandstands were almost empty. How will NASCAR sustain interest in the Truck and Nationwide series with such poor attendance?
By the way, I switched it off as soon as Mikey Waltrip began talking. He has to plug Aaron’s with every sentence. He never mentions their high-interest rates.