Has Roush Gone Too Far?
Photo by Terri Hickox / Flickr.com
Matt Kenseth has seen a number of different sponsors adorn the sides of his car this season. Despite winning the Daytona 500, past performance is no guarantee in securing a sponsor.
Disclaimer: All opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
It was announced this past Tuesday that Matt Kenseth would be leaving Roush Racing for the 2013 season. Now that this news has had time to set in, it has been said that Roush charges too much for sponsorship. What does that mean for the drivers? Lack of sponsors each week. We saw this at the beginning of last season when Trevor Bayne, after winning the Daytona 500, had no sponsorship in the Nationwide Series. The lack of sponsors also affected Ricky Stenhouse for a few races in 2011. And don’t forget, he won the Nationwide series championship with dominating fashion. It brought up the question, why did Stenhouse not have sponsorship for those few races? The NASCAR community solved this problem at the beginning of 2012.
Historically, all of the Roush Racing cars have had sponsorship. Greg Biffle, in recent years, had Subway, National Guard, 3M, and Sherwin-Williams. Needless to say, he hasn’t had too tough of a time finding sponsorship. Carl Edwards had Office Depot, Scotts, and Aflac since he began his professional career. Matt Kenseth has had a carousel of sponsors since 2009. Starting with DeWalt since he began driving for Roush in 1998, the sponsor announced in mid-2009 it would not resign as the primary sponsor. That’s when Roush signed Crown Royal to the No. 17 car. In 2011, Kenseth had Crown Royal, but also had many different sponsors such as Wiley X, Kroger, and Fluidmaster. Needless to say, the 17 wasn’t underfunded in 2011.
This year, how’s Kenseth’s year going from a performance standpoint? The Daytona 500 win and leading the points after seventeen races shows that his team will have a say in the championship battle come November. He’s in his best season since 2003, the year in which he drove Jack Roush to his first NASCAR Cup title. But remember, he’s been doing this in mostly an unsponsored car. Best Buy only signed for nine of the thirty six races in 2012. Now yes, he does have other sponsors. Valvoline has signed on along with Zest and Fifth Third, but for the most part it’s been Ford EcoBoost on the car with the car looking much underfunded.
To some, it comes as no surprise that Kenseth is leaving Roush. To others, it’s a slap in the face. And to the younger generation of NASCAR fans, it’s a lesson in how the sport actually works. It’s sponsorship that keeps these guys running every week, and Jack Roush has made a critical mistake in the sponsorship side of things. Maybe losing a top name in the sport will open his eyes to what truly keeps his cars on the track every week.
So now the big question is what’s in the future for Kenseth? Many say he will go to Penske Racing South. Others say he will go to Joe Gibbs. But the team that he chooses will have to use him as a powerful force that he already is. Many Kenseth fans will have to conform to him being in a different car. And there will be fans that no longer choose to cheer for Kenseth. It’s going to be a big headline for 2012 and 2013 that we won’t know too much about until the off-season. That’s something we all have to wonder about.