No. 976
December 12, 2018

About The UjianNasional

Author, commentator, influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. Editor-in-Chief of .

Peter DeLorenzo has been in and around the sport of racing since the age of ten. After a 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising, where he worked on national campaigns as well as creating many motorsports campaigns for various clients, DeLorenzo established on June 1, 1999. Over the years DeLorenzo's commentaries on racing and the business of motorsports have resonated throughout the industry. Because of the burgeoning influence of those commentaries, DeLorenzo has directly consulted automotive clients on the fundamental direction and content of their motorsports programs. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the sport today.

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FUMES #467

October 15, 2008

Chrysler's imminent demise - how will it affect NASCAR?

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

Though the racing community tends to keep their heads in the sand when it comes to the world around them, reality does tend to intrude now and then - and painfully so at times. And this is one of those times for, in this case, Chrysler. The writing is on the wall for Chrysler's racing programs despite the pronouncements to the contrary from management types at the company. I expect we'll hear the words (or something like them) "we're in it for the long haul," or "we plan on being a force in 2009," or "reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated" - right up until the day it's announced that Chrysler is sold, merged or parted out to one (or more) of its various suitors.

This isn't meant as a criticism of those executives doing the talking, however, because they're doing exactly what's expected of them. But the fact remains that Chrysler - at least the Chrysler we've known since the financial juggernaut Cerberus took it over - is in the final throes of its existence as an independent entity, and its soon-to-be-determined fate will ultimately spell the end for its racing programs, including its biggest motorsports commitment - the Dodge-branded NASCAR involvement.

Why? Because even under the most optimistic of scenarios, which revolves around a merger with GM (see Peter's Rant column this week for more - ed.), Chrysler's overall organizational structure would be decimated, with wholesale elimination of departments, people, product and associated marketing programs. The other scenarios percolating - a takeover by Nissan-Renault, a "parting out" to Fiat or another automaker - would be more grim for the Auburn Hills manufacturer, if that's even possible to contemplate at this juncture.

The net-net in all of this is that no matter what the scenario, the best parts of Chrysler would be "cherry picked" and the rest of the carcass would be left by the side of the road. And needless to say, this does not bode well for existing big ticket promotional programs, especially Chrysler's NASCAR adventure.

But beyond the actual Dodge teams involved - I would assume the best of them would be absorbed by Toyota - how would this affect NASCAR?

For the Sunshine Gang down in Daytona Beach - where glasses are always half full and empty seats, declining TV ratings and teams going belly-up are mere momentary stumbles sure to correct themselves when the economy comes back, I expect the public comment to go something like this: "We appreciate the historical impact of Chrysler's involvement over the years in NASCAR, but we understand that these dramatically challenging economic times we live in bring changes that none of us can anticipate. We will go forward with our current manufacturer partners - Ford, GM and Toyota - and make sure that NASCAR continues to be the most exciting and economically rewarding form of motorsport in the world."

Except it's not that simple. The wave from the financial crisis enveloping our nation has only begun to hit the motorsports world, and we're just at the beginning of how this is going to impact big-time sports attractions - and NASCAR is probably the most vulnerable of all of them. Without sponsorship money, the whole NASCAR model will come unraveled. More teams will go under, and less sponsorship money will be available across the board for teams, drivers, individual races, promotional and advertising programs, etc., etc. And a bunch of fans will just stay home instead of going to the races.

As we like to say around here, Not Good.

Even though NASCAR might survive just fine without a fourth manufacturer, its ability to weather the ramifications of this nation's financial crisis - while keeping their mojo intact - is going to be extremely difficult. In the next few months, I expect to see ominous signs that the NASCAR marketing machine is undergoing considerable duress.

Publisher's Note: As part of our continuing series celebrating the "Glory Days" of racing, we're proud to present another noteworthy image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD

(Ford Racing Archives)
Le Mans, France, 1967. A. J. Foyt and Dan Gurney surrounded by well wishers after winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in their Ford GT MK IV. Pundits expected the duo to DNF given the fact that they were an unlikely pairing, but instead they smoked everyone for the momentous win. Gurney then sprayed the crowd with Champagne afterwards, a tradition that continues in post-race celebrations around the globe to this day.