Published on April 15th, 2009 | by Michael J Smith1
Driver Was DEI's Biggest Loss
I recently read David Caraviello’s Inside Line column on NASCAR.com titled “As it turns out, driver wasn’t DEI’s biggest loss,” in which he examined the journey of the No. 8 since Dale Earnhardt Jr left Dale Earnhardt Inc.
I blogged about this yesterday.
[T]he one entity that DEI ultimately couldn’t afford to part with, the one missing ingredient that eventually sidelined the No. 8 car, wasn’t a driver at all. DEI could survive without Dale Jr. But losing a big-money sponsor like Budweiser turned out to be a punch to the solar plexus that left the organization gasping for air.
With all due respect, the loss of Dale Jr is the reason Budweiser left. Budweiser was happy to stick with Dale Earnhardt Jr even as he moved to Hendrick Motorsports. But, Hendrick had a contract that prevented Budweiser from sticking with NASCAR’s most popular driver. Had Jr stayed, Budweiser would have stayed, as well.
Drivers, even immensely popular ones, are all replaceable; there’s always someone else ready and willing to fill in behind the wheel. Not so with sponsors, whose marketing dollars are the very lifeblood of the sport. When they go away, teams suffer and fall.
While that’s true, sponsors seek out drivers that they can market and that can offer a good return. Budweiser did not leave the sport. They’re sponsoring Kasey Kahne, and would most likely have still been sponsoring Jr and DEI.
Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson could both leave Hendrick Motorsports tomorrow, and the eight-time championship organization will still be as rock-solid — although maybe not quite as successful — as ever. Yet if DuPont and Lowe’s pick up stakes, the situation becomes much more tenuous.
The problem is that with Johnson and Gordon gone, Lowes and DuPont would most likely leave the team.
Looking at things the way Caraviello does makes little sense to me. If an event (A) occurs causing B, which then causes C, then one could argue that had A not happened, C would not have happened because B (which caused C) would not have had a chance to happen.
So, if Dale Jr doesn’t leave DEI, then Budweiser doesn’t, which means that the No. 8 would not have been shuttered.
DEI may have had to contract to a two-car team, but DEI would still exist under that banner. Instead, the team has merged and lost its staple, the No. 8, and now goes by Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.
I’m not saying that Jr would have saved DEI, and I do agree with Caraviello on that point. But, DEI would have been in much better financial shape if Jr stayed, thus keeping Budweiser and their money there, as well.