Young: NASCAR right to seek help globally

Young: NASCAR right to seek help globally

June 21st, 2009 by Lindsey Young in Sports - Nascar

Sometimes the best opportunities come about in the most trying of times.

For NASCAR, that means the time is ripe for a new way of thinking. When General Motors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the expected fallout with NASCAR was also announced. The American automobile manufacturer, like Ford and Doge before it, will have to scale back in its financial support of the sport.

GM officials took a tour of its most high-profile teams -- Hendrick, Childress, Stewart-Haas and Earnhardt-Ganassi -- this past week and made the cutbacks official. Those officials also said the manufacturer has no plans to vacate NASCAR.

The outlook is very much in line with GM's and Ford's new business model: Spend more wisely.

"We had very productive conversations this week with the folks at General Motors, and it's clear they are committed to racing and committed to our organization," Rick Hendrick said. "They've asked us for some help, and we're going to give it to them. We're proud to be a Chevy team, and we will do our part to support the new GM both on and off the race track."

Rookie owner Tony Stewart, though new to the business side of the sport, may have thrown a good bit of advice NASCAR's way in his analysis of the situation.

"While this cutback will force us to review our budget," he said, "it will not impact our preparation for the track or the return on investment we provide to our partners. We're racers, and racers find a way to make things work."

Find a way. That is exactly the kind of thinking NASCAR head man Brian France needs to have right now. Under ideal circumstances, France and his leaders would prefer to keep the sport as American as possible. Obviously, that ideal became impossible in today's economic climate.

France was criticized on several levels for bringing in Japanese automaker Toyota, but the move appears to be pure genius right now. He may have alienated longtime NASCAR fans who think the sport was degraded by foreign money, but his forward thinking may have saved the sport.

And now, France and NASCAR may have no choice but to court other overseas backing.

"We've been talking to people off and on for a long time," France said. "We'll have our philosophical approach to that in terms of welcoming new companies in as we did with Toyota. It is under a very clear set of circumstances that the manufacturers come to NASCAR to compete. And that will not change.

"I'm not going to name names, but we have companies that are interested in particular in developing the North American market as robust as they can, and you are well aware, as we are, the foreign manufacturers now producing cars in America. Those companies, as Toyota did ... helps them associate more with the market, and we're the preeminent place to consider should a company want to do that."

How about the obvious names, like Honda and BMW? Could Volkswagen use the opportunity to gain another foothold in America? So many Americans make their living working for foreign manufacturers that it only makes sense for those same companies to put some of their advertising dollars into NASCAR.

It's not an overnight process. It would likely take years for a ground-up effort to reach the Sprint Cup level. However, with France's urging, that process should begin now. And though he would be criticized again for bringing more foreign influences into the sport, even the most hardcore fan has to be realistic. When an opportunity like this opens up, it can't be ignored.