The 2021 NASCAR offseason has had it’s share of ups and downs when it comes to sponsorship. From the current Brandonbilt Motorsports saga to small brands signing with big time teams, it seems each week a new partnership is made between a team and an up and coming sponsor.
As always, NASCAR history tends to repeat itself. We’re going to look back at some questionable sponsorships over the years.
The Tabasco Fiasco
In October of 1997, International Sports Marketing announced plans to make a full season run with driver Todd Bodine. After signing sponsorship from TABASCO brand hot sauce, it appeared that good times were ahead for the team and Bodine. However when Daytona rolled around in February, the team had not secured owners points for the car and they were forced to have to qualify on time. They would miss the race, and the next one, and the race following. Tabasco was patient. They knew it would be a rough ride but they were committed to Todd and the team. The team on the other hand? Well, they dropped Todd after failing to qualify for the June Pocono race. What was once labeled as patience turned to anger. The brand had spent money on advertising with Todd’s face and likeness and were none too pleased about the driver change. This would lead into our next example.
DW’s Sponsor Shuffle
1998 was a weird year for Darrell Waltrip. The three time Cup champion started the season driving for his Darrell Waltrip Motorsports team. The team lost longtime sponsor Western Auto after the brand changed names to Parts America and wanted out of NASCAR. Speedblock/Builder’s Square, an Ohio based company that specialized in construction came aboard for the 1998 season. However by midseason, Speedblock were behind on bills and Darrell was forced to sell the team to Tim Beverly. Beverly would shut down the team for a few weeks to regroup the team, which had been heavily disorganized. Waltrip would leave the team, and it would become a blessing in disguise for him. He would takeover Dale Earnhardt Inc’s 1 car, whose driver Steve Park was injured in an early season race at Atlanta. By July, Park was healthy enough to return and Darrell was out of a ride. The next team to come calling was a familiar face: ISM. By this time, ISM had been sold to Tim Beverly and the team that once belonged to Darrell now had a new sponsor, a new make in Chevrolet and a lease on life. The only problem? ISM never told Tabasco that the team was sold. Darrell would race for the newly named Tyler Jet Motorsports and finish 12th at Indianapolis, the 2nd highest finish for the team after Todd’s 10th at Atlanta earlier in the season. Tabasco, however, was livid. All merchandise in stores or shelves still featured Todd and the numbered 35 Pontiac. A few weeks later after mounting pressure from the sponsor, Tyler Jet would switch back to Pontiacs. The notoriously slow Pontiacs would hinder Darrell’s performance and by seasons end both Darrell and Tabasco were happy to be done with the team. After another rough outing, Beverly sold the team to MB2 Motorsports.
Kim Kardashian’s NASCAR Weekend at Vegas
By 2010, one off sponsors on start and park cars were commonplace. However, it doesn’t make this combination any less weird. Kim Kardashian, a budding celebrity at this point in time, would promote her new perfume brand on Tommy Baldwin Racing’s 36 Chevrolet. Kardashian would appear at the track every day that weekend, and even was named grand marshal of the race. Unfortunately for Kim, the vibrant pink car would finish 40th after slamming the wall. The sponsorship would not appear again that season and has not run since.
DC Solar’s Power Outage
One of the more recent examples of NASCAR sponsorship gone awry is the partnership between DC Solar and the now defunct Chip Ganassi racing. DC Solar began sponsoring CGR in 2017 with Brennan Poole driving. The following season the company would sponsor Kyle Larson in 16 races and Jamie McMurray in several other Cup races, while also sponsoring the Xfinity team. This didn’t come without it’s own share of issues. The most glaring was the sponsorship being removed from Poole due to what were described as “Team Performance issues”. Poole would later file a suit against CGR, Spire Sports and Entertainment and DC Solar. Ross Chastain was scheduled to drive for CGR full time in Xfinity with DC Solar in 2019, but mere weeks after the announcement was made, the FBI conducted a raid on DC Solar and it’s owners. The findings showed the creation of a Ponzi scheme, which is considered one of the highest forms of fraud. They would file for chapter 11 bankruptcy. This would close CGR’s Xfinity team, and leave International Speedway Corp and Suntrust Bank to file suit against DC Solar as well. In 2019, there was an auction for all of the items that had been acquired by the owners, which included the car that Kyle Larson won with at Daytona in the summer of 2018.
Jeffrey Earnhardt’s Xtreme Exit
In 2019, it was announced that fourth generation member of the Earnhardt family Jeffrey would be driving for a newly formed team in XCI Racing with help from Joe Gibbs. The team’s ultimate goal was to be a full time Cup series team, but would make starts in the Xfinity Series to begin. Their first start at Texas in would result in an 8th place finish. Their Cup debut at Talladega would end with a respectable 22nd place finish. The next Xfinity start at Chicagoland would ultimately be their last with Jeffrey. The car would come home in 16th. The following week at Daytona, it appeared that Jeffrey would make the start, but as practice began the car sat idly in the garage. Jeffrey would announce on Twitter that he would not be in the car that weekend but hoped to be back in a few weeks. At the same time it was announced that Xtreme Concepts, who were featured on Joe Gibbs Racing’s site as an associate sponsor, had been scrubbed from the team’s website. The team would make one more start with Erik Jones at Bristol but would end with a 37th place finish after an accident. The team, nor sponsor has been heard from since.
Featured photo from Daniel McFadin // NBC Sports.com