Race Weekend Central

Friday Faceoff: With NASCAR Sponsors Leaving, Time to Panic?

Could this be the beginning of another dominant season for the No. 78 team?

Mark Howell: After the kind of 2017 Martin Truex Jr. enjoyed, anything is most certainly possible. One win does not mean dominance, but the No. 78 bunch is leaning in that direction. More wins will come as we enter the summer months, although dominance might be up for grabs, as Kevin Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing have demonstrated.

Amy Henderson: It’s hard to say the No. 78 won’t have a strong season, but it’s a long time until the champion is crowned, and he’s crowned for his performance in one race. Sure, a lot of wins would make Truex a favorite, but one thing goes wrong at Homestead-Miami Speedway for any of the final four and it all comes crashing down.

Matt McLaughlin: Harvick won three straight races and some folks were ready to hand him the title. Truex won at Fontana in dominating fashion and now people are at least willing to concede he might offer Harvick a challenge for the title. People! We’re five races into a 36-race schedule. As the old magic 8 ball might say, “Answer cloudy, try again later.”

John Haverlin: Truex will be fast this year, but he won’t be as dominant as he was in 2017. Can’t picture him winning the same amount of stages. This year’s championship battle will be a three-way fight between Truex, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.

Last weekend, inspection issues forced NASCAR to give teams an extra set of tires for the race. What needs to be done, if anything, moving forward with regards to the OSS, the new inspection system?

Christian Koelle: Nothing needs to be done with the OSS. Teams just need to start showing up with legal vehicles instead of trying to push just a little bit. As for those drivers who fail inspection, I like what they told XFINITY Series teams on Saturday: if they failed inspection, they will need to make a pass-through penalty once the green flag is shown. That should teach them a lesson, especially at tracks like Martinsville and Bristol Motor Speedway, where if you go more than two laps down, your race is over.

Howell: As with any inspection process, the key must be consistency. This means not only from team-to-team, but also (and more importantly) from week-to-week. We’ll see more bugs as the season goes on, and we’ll likely see additional concessions to the new system.

Haverlin: NASCAR just needs to stay consistent with its regulations. I wasn’t a fan of allowing teams to have an extra set of tires just because they made a qualifying effort. It was a reward that shouldn’t have been given just for passing inspection.

Vito Pugliese: If teams can’t get through in three tries, start them from pit lane. Seems to work just fine in Formula 1, and it would be obvious to everyone who the offenders are. If you miss a few minutes of practice the following week, nobody is really going to notice or care. Keep botching up the process and delaying things and pay the price on raceday when the cameras are on and when everyone is watching.

With Lowe’s leaving Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team at the end of this season, it marks the end of one of the longest and most recognizable partnerships in NASCAR. Is this cause to panic?

McLaughlin: No, actually it was time to panic four or five years ago. This is just another symptom of the underlying disease.

Haverlin: It was already time to panic, and now that Lowe’s is leaving Jimmie Johnson, it makes things worse. Attendance and ratings have been decreasing for a decade, NASCAR’s star power is currently at the bare minimum and the most successful driver in the field has to find a new marketing partner. Sounds like things are going great.

Henderson: No. Lowe’s has been having financial issues for a while, so it’s no surprise. For the sport as a whole, it leaves FedEx as the last company standing in terms of full-season sponsorship. For the No. 48, a full-time backer is unlikely, but Hendrick Motorsports should be able to sell 36 races on the car of a seven-time champion and the current winningest driver in the game for as long as he wants to drive it.

Howell: No need to panic at all. We’ve seen long-term relationships between teams and sponsors fade before (like Richard Petty and his glory years with STP). If anything, now the door is open for interested companies who’ve avoided the issue because of Lowe’s to toss their financial hats into the ring. Johnson will be just fine.

The Cup and Camping World Truck series head to Martinsville Speedway this weekend, but the XFINITY Series is, and has been, notably absent from the Paperclip for years now. Should the NXS make a trip to Martinsville?

Howell: The XFINITY Series should most definitely return to Martinsville. The facility is a great proving ground for drivers and teams alike, and being successful in NASCAR is often reflected by taking home a grandfather clock from Virginia. An XFINITY date at Martinsville would be a must-see event.

Pugliese: Absolutely. The fact that there are lights now is all the more reason to bring the middle sibling into play in what is always one of the most anticipated stops on the schedule. It would be an early Easter egg for those who want to see more short track racing — and at NASCAR’s oldest venue with the most character and which is about as grass roots as you’re going to get.

Haverlin: I don’t see how an XFINITY race at Martinsville could be a bad thing. Having all three national series at the short track sounds like a kick-ass weekend. But per usual, money will dictate what will happen. If NASCAR believes it will be cost-effective, then I’d hope to see it on the schedule sooner than later.

Henderson: The decision not to host an NXS race has nothing to do with NASCAR or the race teams not wanting one and everything to do with the fact that Martinsville Speedway loses money on the series overtime it tries because the sanctioning fee is significantly higher than the trucks, but they don’t get more butts in the seats. If fans want to see an NXS race at Martinsville, they need to go to it, and they haven’t done so in a sustainable fashion in years. The nature of truck racing is perfect for the track in any case, so the fans who do go aren’t missing anything in terms of the quality of racing.

About the author

Davey is in his fifth season with Frontstretch and currently serves as a multimedia editor and reporter. He authors the "NASCAR Mailbox" column, spearheads the site's video content and hosts the Frontstretch Podcast weekly. He's covered the K&N Pro Series and ARCA extensively for NASCAR.com and currently serves as an associate producer for SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and production assistant for NBC Sports Washington. Follow him on Twitter @DaveyCenter.

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More important than whether there should be an Xfinity race at Martinsville is placing this race weekend at a later date in the schedule. Snow is forecast this weekend and there have been snow flurries and generally raw conditions at other times since this race was moved from an April date.
This is screaming for that weekend before Memorial Day weekend presently occupied by the waste of time known as the All-Star Race.


My take. The death of Dale, Sr. in the first Fox national telecast sent NASCAR down the path of never allowing such a thing to happen again. (For the record, no Cup fatalities since). Their perception was that to retain the support, and therefore contracts, of the Fortune 500 sponsors and advertisers, people dying on telecasts in the 21st century would be unacceptable. The knee jerk reaction is slow them down and eliminate every conceivable danger. Since they could no longer promote speed and danger, they would go for parity, diversity, and safe competition. THE PROBLEM. The basic appeal of auto racing is the courage to do this and the potential consequences of failure. Race fans do not see motorsports as a skills competition, we see it at base as a courageous competitive struggle with potential life and death consequences. The drivers were and still are admired for their skill, but our emotion and passion was rooted in our acknowledgement of their special courage to do what they do. Unintended consequence, no risk equals no courage equals passive interest. Now it’s a multi-millionaire driver competition all the while trying to create manufactured drama. Diversity has never made anything great and this will be especially true for auto racing. America and auto racing were built on meritocracy. No matter who or what you are, if you can face the danger and prevail, you win and we care. Like so much in the 2018 society: NASCAR is overregulated, shallow, phony, and contrived. The new franchise setup is NASCAR’s version of a participation trophy. Irony is the big money is leaving anyway, mainly because no one much cares anymore.

Anthony P.



John gets it. The problem is Brian doesn’t


Matt is 100% right. The time to panic was years ago. Can the rest of you take off your rose-colored glasses and say “niche sport?”

The future of NASCAR is 25-car fields with fewer and shorter races, smaller purses, less TV time (thank God) and sponsors you never heard of who pay less, sponsor fewer races, and leave as soon as they see greener pastures elsewhere. Add to this the continuing trend of drivers retiring early and you have a picture of a stripped-down NASCAR, which may actually be a good thing.

Al Torney

I wouldn’t use the word panic but highly concerned would be apropos. The downward spiral of the tv ratings continues and the attendence is far from up to snuff. If these trends continue the next tv contract is not going to be near the current deal. Just like Monster is not paying near what Sprint paid.

An Xfinity race won’t work at Martibsville. Because of the tv money it would be great for the track but the fans will not support it. No one writes anything about the attendence for Xfinity and the CWTS. It’s beyond pathetic. In fact I would venture to say that if it wasn’t for the tv money both would be gone. They don’t draw enough folks to cover the purse.

Another problem facing the sport is cost containment. Even with the charter system some teams are struggling. Cutting the cost to compete is paramount. This is a tough one one. So far they have applied bandaids to the problem. The loss of sponsorship dollars may take care of the problem.


They are doing what many businesses would do. First is getting rid of some big ticket items. Most visibly the higher paid employees that are nearing the end of their careers. Thus some veteran drivers don’t have their contracts renewed, others taking significant cuts in pay and perks.
And of course they will nibble around the edges with pit crew size, etc. But ultimately they will get serious with things like composite bodies, mandated number of engines, etc.
The BK Racing filing was illustrative about cost vs revenue. Sure they are a back marker but it still pulled back the veil a bit.


Wow no one talked about the pass through penalty. Think that is a great idea. Nascar penalties are a laugh. End longest line is nuts. Make penalties real penalities. Make them cost something. All penalties should be served on green flag lap. No slap on wrist.


How about don’t pass inspection, don’t race! Watch how fast everyone gets legal. As for Henderson and Howell saying no need to panic, try being self supporting through your own contributions. Everything you guys do is on the company dime. If the folks that buy
the tickets and the folks that pay the bills don’t show up. Its a problem.

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