NASCAR Boss Says Sport Needs to End Focus on Negative

By Gelston, Dan | Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque), July 30, 2018 | Go to article overview

NASCAR Boss Says Sport Needs to End Focus on Negative


Gelston, Dan, Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque)


LONG POND, Pa. - NASCAR COO Steve Phelps said the impending departures of corporate giants Lowe's and 5-hour Energy have shaped a skewed perception that the sport is suffering from sponsorship woes.

Phelps offered bullish assurances on the health of sponsors in NASCAR that fund everything from naming rights, to the three national touring series, to the majority of a driver's race schedule.

"People tend to focus on, 'Oh my gosh, Sponsor A has left and Sponsor B left,'" Phelps said Sunday at Pocono Raceway. "For us, it's OK, C, D, E and F also came on board as brand new sponsors."

The losses of Lowe's and 5-hour both surprised the industry because of their longtime connections to NASCAR. Lowe's has sponsored seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson since his rookie race in 2001 and 5-hour sponsored 2017 champion Martin Truex Jr.

Truex's success wasn't enough for 5-hour to keep pumping the millions of dollars needed to help fund the 78 car and Lowe's said it made the decision to invest elsewhere in the marketplace.

But the exodus of top-flight corporate sponsors - paired with sagging TV ratings, dwindling attendance and complaints about a tired schedule - have buried the sport in bad news.

"I think this industry tends to focus on the negative," Phelps said at a sponsorship announcement. "I'm not really sure why."

Phelps spoke at an event celebrating the name change of the national series known as the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series to the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series in 2019. The deal ends in 2022.

Camping World chairman Marcus Lemonis said his company was a third of the size when it entered its relationship with NASCAR in 2009 and attributed a chunk of its growth to the title sponsorship.

"There's this notion that sports sponsorship has sort of lost its way," Lemonis said.

NASCAR said 28 percent of Fortune 500 companies have invested in the sport in 2018.

"It's a lot sexier to talk about a Lowe's or a 5-hour Energy leaving," Phelps said. "Somehow, the dozen companies that come into this sport are not talked about as much. It's kind of how this industry works. I would like to see the industry be positive because there are so many positive things going on."

Phelps said dozens of new companies signed up in some form in 2018 and the sponsor pipeline for '19 is "bigger and wider and better than it's ever been before."

He said NASCAR champions losing primary sponsors without immediate replacements are not indicative of the overall health of the sport. …

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