The beginning of February should find every organization that competes in the Monster Energy Cup Series finalizing preparations for the season opening Daytona 500 later this month. Those preparations shouldn’t have to include an ongoing search for sponsorship, but unfortunately for some teams they still have some races where the hood of their car needs a sponsor’s logo.
Stewart-Haas Racing is entering the season still looking for some additional sponsorship for its four-team operation with drivers Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Danica Patrick and Clint Bowyer. The lack of sponsorship dollars just adds to the stress level at SHR, as it will be making the switch over to Ford from Chevrolet and will do so without three-time series champion Tony Stewart behind the wheel.
Bowyer will be taking over for Stewart this season and he will enter the year looking for additional sponsorship as he has several races still open. Busch will still rely on owner Carl Haas’ Haas Automation sponsorship at several races but will has sponsorship from his long time sponsor Monster Energy even though the energy drink company takes over as the series sponsor. Harvick has the most sponsorship dollars already locked up from a collection of sponsors that has been with him for several years that includes Busch Beer, Jimmy John’s and Mobil 1.
Patrick’s team was supposed to be all set with its sponsorship after signing a three year deal with Nature’s Bakery last season. The company’s logo was expected to be on Patrick’s hood for more than 20 races this year, but SHR announced that Nature’s Bakery has refused to pay the millions of dollars that it owes the team for the two years remaining on the contract. Nature’s Bakery sent SHR a letter on January 19 saying that it was terminating the agreement on the grounds that Patrick had been endorsing competing products and was not using her social media enough to promote Nature’s Bakery.
The loss of Nature’s Bakery leaves TaxACT, Aspen Dental, Code 3 Associates and Mobil 1 as the only sponsors listed on the team’s official website as sponsors for the upcoming season. Both Aspen Dental and Code 3 Associates sponsorships are expected to be no more than four races with TaxACT and Mobil 1 expected to be two or less.
SHR has filed a lawsuit seeking $31.7 million for the two remain- ing years of the contract but has said that it plans to move ahead with its plans to field all four teams in the series plus add a full-time Xfinity Series team. In season’s past Haas has always stepped up to be a primary sponsor when one of SHR’s teams lacked sponsorship but Haas now has a start-up team in the Formula 1 series and with it comes the highest price tag to go racing in all of motorsports.
SHR has always competed for the series title and some of its teams have become regulars in the Chase but this year the road to Homestead-Miami with the chance to become the series champion may be a little harder. Making the switch from Chevrolet to Ford would be difficult enough for any organization but now add the lack of sponsorship dollars that could make the transition a little easier and suddenly the road to the title becomes a little tougher.
PIT NOTES: 2017 will continue to be the season of change for the Monster Energy Cup Series as NASCAR is going to be looking at ways to shorten the weekend schedule. The June Pocono race is scheduled to host qualifying at 12:10 p.m. with an anticipated green flag less than three hours later at 3 p.m. Qualifying is typically held on Friday at the majority of tracks, which turns the race weekend into a three-day event that now includes very limited practice time on Saturday.