Race Weekend Central

Voices From the Heartland: Silly Sponsors & Another Nail in the “Manufacturers'” Coffin

As usual following an “off” NASCAR week, finding things to write about can be pretty slow. There were, however, a few things that did pique my interest enough for me to share my opinion on them with you my lucky readers.

Of course there has been the whole Jack Roush vs. The World Toyota saga, but since I am running a day late this week, you’ve probably read all you want on that subject anyway. Not that there is much of an actual story there. The way I see it, if Jack Roush has the lugnuts enough to make accusations of theft, he should at least “put up or shut up.” Don’t throw little barbs out there and then not tell the whole story. If they stole something, tell us what it is! Until Jack comes clean, to me he appears to be just a sniveling little crybaby.

(And now, to use a phrase that I detest, but seems to be one of our editor’s favorites, and would have probably been thrown in here anyway.) But I digress.

What I really sat down here to write about is an international company called Vanguard Integrity Professionals, based in Las Vegas, Nev. Vanguard is a security software company whose CEO and owner, Ronn Bailey, has a penchant for off-road racing. So much so that Vanguard had a three-year sponsorship agreement with Robby Gordon‘s Team Gordon for the 2008, 2009 and 2010 Dakar Rally.

For those of you who don’t already know, the Dakar Rally is an annual off-road race that starts in Spain and ends on the west coast of Africa. It is about 7,000 miles long and makes the Baja 1000 seem like a leisurely trip down the road to the chemists.

This year however, the Dakar Rally was called off due to threats of terrorism by militants supposedly linked to al-Qaeda. Gordon, after spending about $3 million from his race team’s “slush fund” in preparation for the race, was not too pleased and in typical Robby frankness, voiced his opinion about the cancellation.

“Let’s put it in perspective. 11 people got killed over there,” said Gordon shortly after the announced cancellation. “I’m pretty sure in L.A., we kill 11 a night on the streets of L.A. It was a couple of kids in the back of a pickup truck with a couple of AK-47s shot a couple of people. I’m sorry to say that. But the reality of it is it’s not like it’s the big setup bombing.”

Vanguard, whose software products protect its clients from cyber-terrorism, supposedly verified independently that the threat of violence was real and agreed with the ASO (Amaury Sports Organization) that the cancellation was warranted. What Vanguard didn’t agree with was Robby’s statements. A Vanguard press release sums it up.

Vanguard continues to believe Robby Gordon is one of the most talented off-road race drivers in the world, and has the highest respect for his driving abilities. However, with the cancellation of the 2008 Dakar Rally due to terrorist threats, along with Team Gordon’s public statements in response to that cancellation, continued sponsorship of Team Gordon no longer provides Vanguard with the appropriate promotional opportunities.

Long story short, with the cancellation of the Dakar Rally, Gordon, having already received about a million bucks from Vanguard, has been using their logos in his NASCAR ventures on his uniform and equipment, giving the company at least some exposure that they would not otherwise be getting. Vanguard, for reasons that I cannot fathom, is none to happy about this exposure and is attempting to sue Robby to stop. The question that I ask is, Why?

Now for reasons the editorial staff has strictly forbidden me to divulge, I can tell you that I do know a thing or two about large corporation security, the likes of which are Vanguard’s customers, but I have never heard of Vanguard Integrity Professionals until they tried (unsuccessfully) to get Robby to stop using their logos. That’s not to say that they are not a top-notch company, for I’m sure that they are. I’m just saying that until this all has surfaced in the NASCAR world, I have never heard of them, along with probably 99% of the rest of folks that follow NASCAR worldwide.

I realize they are not getting the overseas exposure that they intended by sponsoring Team Gordon in the Dakar, but you would think that they would be happy to have what exposure Robby IS able to give them.

My advice to Vanguard CEO Ronn Bailey is take what exposure you can get and be proud of it. You’ve already paid Robby, let him do what he can. Me on the other hand, my contribution to your exposure by writing this article is free! Run with it!

The other short little item that caught my attention this week was the low-key announcement that BAM Racing (No. 49 – Ken Schrader) will be using a Toyota power plant this Sunday in Martinsville.

Recently in our Frontstretch forums, the question of “Does the manufacturer matter anymore when it comes to NASCAR” is being debated for the umpteenth time. I say it doesn’t.

Many, including the manufacturers, still insist that the old adage “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” is still valid. But I ask you; When a team can overnight, go from the No. 49 “Dodge Charger” to the No. 49 “Toyota Camry,” with no extensive tests or retooling or anything like that, what does that tell you about the state of today’s “spec” car?

Stay off the wall,

Jeff Meyer

About the author

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The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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