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GM's NASCAR shakeup is shaking up NASCAR, and not just its Chevy teams

Kevin Harvick (L) and car owner Richard Childress: Chevy men feeling the heat (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   (This story is being updated throughout the day)

   BROOKLYN, Mich.
   General Motors' plan to cut back its support of NASCAR's Truck and Nationwide series has shaken some in the Sprint Cup garage, but teams say they still haven't gotten any official word on just what's going on over in Detroit.
   One GM executive, Terry Rhadigan, says the cuts will not just be in Truck and Nationwide but "NASCAR-wide," apparently meaning Cup teams could be cut or cut back.
   GM's Ed Peper, head of Chevrolet, is expected to meet with Chevy team owners next week, individually, and provide more details.
   Ford and Dodge have both already cut back on their support for this season, and it's unclear what might happen on that side in 2010. Toyota says its 2009 NASCAR budget has been cut by nearly 20 percent from 2008.
   While GM executives have been mum on just what's going on, Kevin Harvick, the 2007 Daytona 500 winner, confirmed Friday that GM has already told him it will not renew its sponsorship with his own Nationwide/Truck operation: "Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) has lost its manufacturer support. Although this will require some internal restructuring, our commitment to our sponsors to provide the best possible product on the racetrack will not change."
   Harvick declined to say anything more and said he would not make any more public statements or take any interview requests regarding this subject the remainder of the weekend.
   Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s own Nationwide team, partly owned with Rick Hendrick, could also be at risk.
   Richard Childress, who owns four Sprint Cup teams, including the one that Harvick drives for, says he's waiting to talk with GM executives about what their plans are for his own operation, which also includes a Nationwide team and the Earnhardt-Childress engine-building division, which supplies motors for three Cup teams, including Chip Ganassi's, with Juan Pablo Montoya and Martin Truex Jr.
   "I haven't talked with them, and I really don't know what other people's situations and deals are," Childress says.
   "But I do know that they sell cars and they use this as a platform for advertising, and they've done pretty well with it.
   "They're going through some tough times, but as soon as they get through these tough times they'll be back, because this is such a great way to market their products."
   Childress says he plans to field a Chevrolet on the Nationwide tour next year, regardless of GM's next call.
   NASCAR president Mike Helton said he too was waiting to hear more from GM officials.
   GM itself seemed in somewhat disarray over the matter.
   It's only official statement, to be attributed to an unnamed spokesman:
   "Chevrolet's involvement in racing is a sound business decision that translates directly into the sale of cars and trucks. It is essential; however, that we continue to look at every penny we spend as General Motors takes the necessary steps to become a leaner company with a significantly stronger balance sheet. While Chevy Racing is talking to its business partners about ways to reduce cost and maximize the return on investment, it is our policy to not talk about the details of business relationships with our partners."

   GM's 12 full Chevy-supported Sprint Cup teams, according to the current standings (with team owner in parenthesis):
   1. Tony Stewart (Stewart)
   2. Jeff Gordon (Hendrick)
   3. Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick)
   4. Ryan Newman (Stewart)
   10. Jeff Burton (Childress)
   13. Mark Martin (Hendrick)
   15. Juan Pablo Montoya (Earnhardt-Ganassi)
   16. Clint Bowyer (Childress)
   19. Martin Truex Jr. (Earnhardt-Ganassi)
   20. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Hendrick)
   21. Casey Mears (Childress)
   26. Kevin Harvick (Childress)

   Helton says "I don't think it's any great surprise that GM has been figuring out how to restructure…and how to keep some of their relationships with NASCAR intact.
   "I don't know all the details and how that impacts the conversations they are having with individual teams and drivers. But it probably varies on the circumstances.
   "It is something that a lot of folks thought might get to some day. And it's something we're still watching settle out and unfold.
   "We have had a great alliance with the manufacturers, and we do believe that General Motors, Chrysler and Dodge will figure out their model and their place. And we certainly believe we can make an argument that our relationship is valuable to them, that they get good value being involved with us and this sport, because it relates to their consumer base.
   "So hopefully we will maintain some relationship.
   "In the meantime there are discussions going on, and we'll just have to wait and see what that means."
   Might GM be cutting Truck and Nationwide support in order to keep Cup support at pretty much the current level? Might there be negotiations to keep GM in Truck and Nationwide at some level, and perhaps cut some Cup teams?
   "Again, I don't know exactly how this shakes out, and to be fair to that topic we'll have to wait," Helton says.
  "We've stayed in touch with them (GM) and offered whatever efforts we can make on their behalf, because we want to be good partners. We've had dialogue back and forth.
   "It is clear they have some very significant business issues they have to get through, beyond NASCAR's relationship with them. Being respectful of that, and when all that gets figured out and sorted out, we hope we're still part of that."

   "We'll try to do the best we can to cover the void that will create," Earnhardt says. "Chevrolet is going through some very challenging times.
   "I had an understanding this would be coming down the pipe….
   "Every company not only in this sport -- but particularly having a company of my own – I've had to make adjustments, due to how the economy has turned.
   "I've been a loyal supporter of Chevrolet for a very long time and will continue to be. They've been a great partner. There are some really, really good friendships there, and I hope our relationship will remain strong as they try to rebound."
   NASCAR's Truck tour, Earnhardt pointed out, has been iffy anyway: "We've been pretty uncertain about the future of that series for a long, long time.
   "Obviously the support that Chevy was able to provide us was in a lot of ways a privilege only to a few teams. Not everybody has had that support. To me it was always a feather in your cap, and never taken for granted.
   "I in no way feel like it's changing my relationship, or my perception, toward Chevrolet and how I'll work with them in the future."

   The GM cutback could lead to a domino effect in NASCAR, Toyota's Kyle Busch worries.
   Just this week Johnny Benson, the Truck tour champion in 2008, lost his ride.
   However Toyota motorsports boss Lee White says, despite GM's planned cutbacks, he's confident Chevrolet will have Truck teams and Nationwide teams in NASCAR next season.

   Busch, who has dominated the Nationwide series, along with Ford's Carl Edwards, says a GM cutback could definitely affect his own racing plans for next season:
   "For sure, it definitely hurts a little bit of my interest…and probably even more people's interest that there isn't any support," Busch says.
   "It's tough, it's a struggle, for sure. 
    "The Truck series, for one, is a struggle.  At Texas (last weekend) they had 33 trucks there (not a full 36-car field), and there were only about 21 real decent trucks.  Every week when we go to the (Truck) track, we know who we're battling: Ron Hornaday Jr…..And Johnny Benson losing his ride, that really stunk, because I would have like to have seen last year's champion keep his ride. 
    "But unfortunately money woes there took him out of that deal. 
    "If I could, I would have stepped out this week, but we had too much stuff with (sponsor) Miccosukee and I couldn't do it. 
    "I would have liked to given Johnny my Truck ride. I've got enough to do.  That didn't quite work out, but I think we are going to get it worked out where he can drive mine at Milwaukee. 
    "The lack of support from the manufacturers is difficult. Dodge pulled out two, maybe even three years ago out of the Truck series. Ford pulled out this year. And it doesn't surprise me Chevrolet is now pulling out. 
    "The Nationwide series -- support falling out of that series is going to make that series tough too….especially with NASCAR wanting to go to the new car there next year for road courses and restrictor-plate tracks and the following year full-time.  I don't know how that is going to work out."


Well, it certainly didn't

Well, it certainly didn't help when Nascar opened the door for Toyota. Or, should I say , opened their arms with a great big hug. The solid fan base that solidified Nascar has now been fractured as fans continue to stay home and worse yet, not even turn the TV on to watch ! The political greed just went down the line, that's all. The dilution of American motorsports will not produce a winner for America.
F.P.A Motorsports

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