Representative Betty McCollum (D-Mich.) called the Department of Defense’s 10-year sponsorship deal with NASCAR teams a waste of money, saying that it has very little to do with enlistment numbers or troop readiness, according to the Wall Street Journal.
McCollum’s chief of staff Bill Harper said:
This is not only putting a sticker on the car. This is paying for a racing team. That doesn’t contribute to military readiness.
But Col. Derik Crotts, director of the army’s sponsorships, finds the $7 million per year it spends to sponsor its NASCAR team valuable. He said:
Youth surveys show that motorsports is a passion point for young Americans. It is critical that the Army use these passion points to communicate with prospects and their influencers. … In a 2009 among nationwide fans, 37% feel more positive about the Army due to its involvement in motorsports.
Since 2000, each military branch has had a partnership with a NASCAR team. In 2000, the Marines appeared on a Chevy driven by Hank Parker Jr in the what is now known as the Nationwide Series. The following year, the Marines sponsored Team Rensi Motorsports in Nationwide. In 2006, the Marines left the sport, citing financial concerns and the fact that there was no way of knowing how effective the sponsorship was as a recuiting tool.
In 2004, the Coast Guard signed on to sponsor Labonte Racing’s No. 44 Nationwide Series Dodge. In 2006, the Coast Guard moved from Labonte Racing to Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Nationwide Series Chevy. But, by the end of the season, the funding for the NASCAR sponsorship was allocated to other areas of the Coast Guard, and it left the sport.
In 2002, the US Navy teamed up with Roush Racing in what is now known as the Camping World Truck Series before moving to FitzBradshaw Racing in the Nationwide Series in 2003. In 2005, the Navy left FBR to join JR Motorsports. In 2008, when the Navy was having its best season in the sport, it ended its sponsorship.
In 2003, the Army National Guard sponsored the No. 54 of BelCar Racing in what is now known as the Sprint Cup Series. In 2004, the National Guard signed on to sponsor Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 16 Ford in . In 2007, National Guard moved to Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 25, and currently runs in the series as co-sponsor of the No. 88 and driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.
In 2000, the US Air Force appeared on Yates Racing’s No. 88 Ford in the Cup series. In 2001, the Air Force sponsored Wood Brothers Racing’s No. 21 before moving to Richard Petty Motorsports’ No. 43 Ford in 2009. The Air Force will appear as primary sponsor on the No. 43 this season.
In 2003, the US Army teamed up with Ginn Racing. When the team merged with Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 2007, the Army sponsorship moved to DEI. In 2009, when Stewart Haas Racing was formed, the Army signed on as sponsor for the team’s No. 39 Chevy where it remains.
The Air National Guard also appeared as a primary sponsor of Latitude 43 Motorsports’ No. 26 Ford, which ran a limited schedule in 2010. It is unclear whether that team will run in 2011, but its former crew chief, Frank Stoddard, has left the team to form FAS Lane Racing.