Decision day nearing for Monster Energy sponsorship deals:
I’ve been discussing this in other circles this week and now the news is being reported- in watered down fashion. If NASCAR lost its title sponsor, things could go up or down, but it would hurt either way. In an effort to shore up losses, they (Frances, ISC, etc.) could consolidate and effectively kill the sport. OR, they could ease their grip and let things settle naturally.
NASCAR faces a real identity crisis over the next two years with the retirement of Earnhardt. I predicted and predict to see more of a latching to Chase Elliott as the next generation of NASCAR’s legacy hero. Alex Bowman, William Byron, Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, and Ryan Blaney will have something to say about that.
So too will the title sponsor. Monster came in hoping to cross market their other, more extreme endeavors, and while their sales are reportedly up 10%, they’re not seeing the return they hoped for. They could pump more “activation” into the sport and try to change it more to their liking (reportedly the reason for their frustration with NASCAR brass), and this would hasten NASCAR’s transition into being more relevant to the youth market (I hear y’all Baby Boomer fans out there clanging sabers), but this could really backfire. Without a money man to push NASCAR around, all progress might be dead in the water. I’m talking optional tire compounds and composite bodies. Perhaps, if there’s less money in the sport, teams will stop burning down their cars after a victory.
I am excited about younger, unproven drivers finally being an asset for teams and sponsors, since they are willing to work for much smaller contracts than the current flock of veterans. I feel like the NASCAR bubble is bursting at a slowly increasing pace. Corporate team sponsorships, attendance, TV packages, and now, driver contracts are feeling the pains of ebb and flow.
Jimmie Johnson is signed for three more years; Lowe’s for two. Harvick is around for the foreseeable future and I figure he’ll go on to become the league’s old curmudgeon who races well into his fifties. Our own A.J. Foyt. Truex, Bowyer, Keselowski, Logano, Hamlin and Kyle Busch will soon be the league’s veterans. Their winning ways are slowing, as many drivers do after proving their mettle in their first decade of Cup racing (See: Kurt Busch, Jeff Burton, Bobby Labonte, Kasey Kahne). MacMurray, Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Kahne, Johnson, and Newman are in the twilight of their careers. All these drivers came along during the boom and I doubt they’ll see newer, smaller driver contracts worth their time as they age and want to do other things with their lives.
I wonder what will come of the also-ran careers of Austin & Ty Dillon, Paul Menard, Trevor Bayne, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, David Ragan, Aric Almirola, A.J. Allmendinger, and Michael McDowell. For the Dillons, it is too soon to tell. Perhaps Stenhouse will continue to improve or maybe 2017 was a flash in the pan.
What do I think 2018-2020 could bring?
More follow the leader races. More controversial official calls. Elimination of the jackman position. Composite bodies in Cup. Lack of title sponsor, or a reversion to “Coca-Cola Cup,” to appease the base. Truex dominance. The rise of Bubba Wallace. Childress & RPM consolidating, becoming the Dodge factory team. I pray Wood Brothers survives Paul Menard. If title sponsor is an issue, a consolidation of race dates and tracks. Perhaps one race apiece at most tracks, a reduction to 400 mile events, save for Coke 600, Southern 500, Daytona 500. With a reduction in race distance, more same-day events: Quals, Grand National and Cup races on same day to eliminate drivers cross-pollinating.