Thursday, September 10, 2009

NASCAR Fans and Manufacturer Loyalty

The big news of the day is, of course, the announcement that Richard Petty Motorsports has signed a letter of intent to merge with Yates Racing before the 2010 season. This means that RPM will be switching to Ford, which seems to have a few fans upset.

Switching brands is nothing new in NASCAR of course. It's especially not new for Richard Petty.

Though Petty is probably best known for his relationship with Chrysler Corporation, namely his days driving Plymouths and Dodges, Petty Enterprises also drove Chevrolets and yes, even Fords at one time or another.

Many NASCAR teams have, over the years, switched manufacturers when circumstances have proven beneficial to do so. Some have never done so, however.

Jack Roush has always been a Ford man. He worked for Ford for many years, and his loyalties have always been to Dearborn. Jack Roush fielding a brand other than Ford is unimaginable. Richard Childress and Rick Hendrick have always been just as loyal to Chevrolet. The former Dale Earnhardt Inc, which is now known as Earnhardt Ganassi Racing will likely not field anything but Chevrolets, at least as long as Teresa Earnhardt has a stake in the company.

It should be remembered, however, that even the Great One himself, Dale Earnhardt, drove Fords for Bud Moore early in his career. He didn't much like them, but he won some races in them.

In reading through the great multitude of comments on Twitter today, I was not surprised to see much dismay, and even disbelief that RPM would become a Ford team. One Kasey Kahne fan even said she could no longer support her driver if he became a Ford man. On the face of it, that seems a little harsh, but if nothing else, NASCAR fans are loyal. At least loyal to something.

Many fans are loyal to their drivers, and could care less if their driver was driving a Ford, a Dodge, a Toyota, a Chevrolet, or a Kia or even a John Deere lawn mower.

Other fans will change drivers in a heart beat if their guy goes to drive for a hated auto company. As loyal to the point of sickening as some accuse Dale Jr. fans of being, some in the Junior Nation would drop Little E like a hot potato if he ever drove for Ford, or Dodge, or Toyota. Some of them already did when he went to drive for Rick Hendrick.

Many of us have our favorite manufacturers when it comes to NASCAR, and quite a few of us carry over that loyalty to our personal preference in vehicles. Some of us wish we could drive the Ford, Dodge, Chevrolet, or Toyota that our favorite driver climbs into every Sunday, but not all of us can do that. If money were no object, I'd probably have a 2009 Chevrolet Impala, as sporty as I could get it. Because of economics and practicality, I drive a Toyota Tacoma, though I'm not really a fan of any of the current Toyota drivers in Cup.

As far as the RPM-Yates merger, I believe it will be a win-win situation for both. Dodge's uncertainties and lack of support have left the Dodge teams hanging to a certain extent this year. Ford seems to be the healthiest of the Big Three at the moment, and Roush-Yates engines seem to be some of the most durable in the sport right now. Ford will certainly benefit by being able to associate the Petty name with its racing program. Petty will have a stronger support group than he has had in years, and Yates basically gets to live to fight another day.

Downsides to the deal? A few, certainly. Reed Sorenson is out of a job, but apparently he already knew that. It was originally thought that the Roush-Fenway 26 team, with Jamie McMurray as driver, would be handed off to Yates racing, but it now appears that the team will just go away. It appears that Jamie is out of a job as well right now. Hall Of Fame Racing, which fields the 96 Ford has been run out the Yates shop in 2009, though they have already hinted that they would not do so next year. That seems to be a given now, so one wonders what will happen to the 96 as well for 2010. Bobby Labonte will likely again be looking for a ride again for 2010. It will all depend on sponsorship. I'll ask if they'll still sponsor the 96 next year. I'll let you know if they tell me anything useful.

It appears that the 4 RPM-Yates teams will be Kasey Kahne, Elliot Sadler, A.J. Allmendinger, and Paul Menard. Paul Menard, you ask? Why of course. Paul's the man with a built in sponsor, which is gold for any NASCAR owner. Paul's primary sponsor, Menards, will never leave him for poor performance. They can't. Daddy owns the company.

Oh, I'm not saying that Paul Menard is a bad driver. Billionaire daddy or not, Paul has won a Nationwide race, and has 2 top 10's and 1 top 5 in his 100 Cup starts.

What's your biggest loyalty as a NASCAR fan? Is it to your driver, or a particular sponsor, or a particular owner? Could it be to a particular auto manufacturer? There's no right, there's no wrong.

It's all good.

1 comment:

  1. But why did petty actually leave chrysler?The ford money that yates merger would bring or chryslers lack of it that staying would bring.Forget it.I just answered this myself.Its a bitter pill to swallow from the heritage of the Max-wedge and the engine that changed the face of racing forever,You know,the one that even now ressurected they are afraid to say the name of with small children around.


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