Filed by Lindsey Young
Michael Waltrip recently bought his way into the Coca-Cola 600 at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway strictly to please his sponsor NAPA Auto Parts.
While several people criticized the owner/driver for the move, Waltrip’s existence in racing is dependent on his sponsor, especially with a move to Toyota looming next year.
Sponsors wield more power in NASCAR than most people realize. When Jason Leffler failed to make a race last year for owner Joe Gibbs Racing, Gibbs was moved to do the same thing and purchase the ride of a lesser team who had made the race on qualifying. Soon afterward, Leffer was out of the car and Denny Hamlin was in it.
Keeping sponsors happy is as big a responsibility to owners as getting their cars into Victory Lane. Sponsors love it when their team wins, but it’s the exposure that matters. When a car fails to make a race, the sponsor gets nothing for its money. Buying a way into a race is not the preferred method, but NASCAR allows it because the ruling body knows the sport is nothing without its sponsors.
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