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With President Obama now running GM, what's next for GM's NASCAR marketing arm?


Rick Wagoner, veteran CEO at General Motors, has been kicked out of that job by President Obama, in a stunning development, with a lot of ramifications for NASCAR racing and its teams (Photo: GM


   By Mike Mulhern

   (This specific story will be updated throughout the day.)
   So now that President Barack Obama has effectively taken over the reins of General Motors, which has for so long been the world's largest car maker, what might that mean for NASCAR racing and its many GM-supported stock car teams?
   That's a big question on everyone's minds Monday morning, awaiting Obama's own statements on the situation.
   A "leaner" GM seems to be the catch-phrase.
   Does that mean Obama would tell GM to get out of NASCAR?
   Probably not. Selling cars is the bottom line issue for GM's bottom line, and NASCAR is both effective and, in the grand scheme of things, really quite cheap, with all those supporting sponsors helping pay the bills.
   Still, NASCAR executives and promoters might have dropped the ball – big-time -- last year, during the election campaign, when race-day invites to Obama either went unanswered or never even went out.
   If Obama were to force GM to get out of NASCAR, that would leave  some of this sport's biggest stars – Jimmie Johnson, Jeff  Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. among them – and some of this sport's most legendary and influential car owners – like Richard Childress and Rick Hendrick – scrambling.
   Perhaps GM racing support would simply go deep underground. Perhaps GM racing support would simply be cut.
   Whatever happens, it probably won't happen until late summer.
   It appears that Obama will push for an entirely new board to run GM, with  'outsiders.' Who they might be, and what they might think about NASCAR racing, is not clear.
   Meanwhile, Rick Wagoner, just ousted by Obama as head of GM, has sent a message to his people:
   "On Friday I was in Washington for a meeting with Administration officials.  In the course of that meeting, they requested that I 'step aside' as CEO of GM, and so I have.
   "Fritz Henderson is an excellent choice to be the next CEO of GM. Having worked closely with Fritz for many years, I know that he is the ideal person to lead the company through the completion of our restructuring efforts.  His knowledge of the global industry and the company are exceptional, and he has the intellect, energy, and support among GM'ers worldwide to succeed. I wish him well, and I stand ready to support him, and interim Non-Executive Chairman Kent Kresa, in every way possible.
   "I also want to extend my sincerest thanks to everyone who supported GM and me during my time as CEO. I deeply appreciate the excellent counsel and commitment of the GM Board and the strong support of our many partners including our terrific dealers, suppliers, and community leaders. I am grateful as well to the union leaders with whom I have had the chance to work closely to implement numerous tough but necessary restructuring agreements.
   "Most important of all I want to express my deepest appreciation to the extraordinary team of GM employees around the world. You have been a tremendous source of inspiration and pride to me, and I will be forever grateful for the courage and commitment you have shown as we have confronted the unprecedented challenges of the past few years.  GM is a great company with a storied history.  Ignore the doubters because I know it is also a company with a great future."
  The Obama administration is expected to pump another $17 billion in GM to keep it going, and Obama says he will not let GM fail.
   However, the possibility of a GM bankruptcy, as a financial stabilization move, is still there.
   On the Chrysler side of the situation, it appears that Obama is going to force Chrysler to resolve its own economic problems on its own, and that may mean a merger with Italian car maker Fiat. However reports are that Italian officials are not enthusiastic about doing any quick deal to effectively buy Chrysler without any U.S. government support too.
   And that leaves NASCAR's Dodge teams – principally Roger Penske, Richard Petty and partner George Gillett – up in the air.
   GM issued this statement:
   "Rick Wagoner is stepping down as chairman and CEO, effective immediately. Wagoner, 56, was named president and CEO in 2000, and assumed the role of chairman in 2003.
   "Fritz Henderson, GM president and chief operating officer, will serve as CEO. Henderson, 50, was named to his current position in 2008. He was previously vice chairman and chief financial officer.
   "Kent Kresa, chairman emeritus, Northrop Grumman Corporation, has been named interim non-executive chairman of the board of directors. Kresa became a GM director in 2003.
  GM is awaiting further announcements by the President and the Task Force on Automotive Reconstruction, and we will have additional comments at that time."
   GM's board of directors issued a statement, under Kresa's name:
   "The Board has recognized for some time that the Company's restructuring will likely cause a significant change in the stockholders of the Company and create the need for new directors with additional skills and experience. The Board intends to work to nominate a slate of directors for the next annual meeting that will include a majority of new directors taking into account the addition of new directors, retirement, and decisions by individual directors not to stand for re-election, although the specific individuals who will be nominated or choose not to run or leave the board are not yet known."


Chrysler will be forced into

Chrysler will be forced into Chapter 7 liquidation in 30 days and will become a part of automotive history. GM will undergo Chapter 11 reorganization in 60 days with government debtor-in-possession financing. Why is everyone in denial? Both these companies will very soon be gone from NASCAR. One will definitely cease to exist soon, with the other to follow within months, maybe before the end of this year.

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I live in South Carolina and

I live in South Carolina and the vehicles of "choice" are trucks and suvs. Ironically, they are the two biggest moneymakers that GM has. On Sunday, I heard a mid level Obama shill describing how GM will need to drop those two types of vehicles because they are not fuel efficient enough and that they will be replaced by smaller, fuel-efficient "green" vehicles. He was asked what if people didn't want need or want to buy these vehicles and the answer amazed me. "Those types of vehicles are what will be available." My God, I thought this was the United States of America and I can buy what I want and drive what I want. Guess not. I did something that I have only done once in my life and that was e-mail my congressman and asked him to oppose this program. I hope that anyone reading this post who agrees with it does the same. Our auto industry is messed up and most people will agree that it needs to improve, but if we can give billions if not trillions to the wall street fat cats who contributed handsomely to Obama's campaign chest, we certainly ought to be able to throw a "few" billion to the auto industry. I am not an ultra-conservative republican who sees government takeovers in everything the democrats are doing, but I am a politically independent Dodge Ram driving Yankee granny living in the heart of the South who is thoroughly ******-off at the powers in Wacko Washington who are spending us into bankruptcy for our own good.

If at all feasible, the USA

If at all feasible, the USA must keep a domestic auto industry for national security. For an auto company to be viable, it must sell cars - which requires cars the public wants to buy and marketing. If a new GM is forced to make cars without regard to what the public wants to buy and to drasticly reduce its marketing, it is unlikely that the new GM will survive. My understanding has been that participation in NASCAR is very effective marketing for the car companies. If a new GM is forced to abandon NASCAR, the new GM will be put at a competitive disadvantage since Ford and Toyota will still be in NASCAR and, sooner or later, so will Honda.

Some say the days of "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday" are over and there is no need for the car companies to be in NASCAR - Bull stuff. 3 of the most successful car companies in the world (Mercedes, BMW, and Toyota) have all re-affirmed their participation in F1 - where they spend reduced, but still extreme amounts - and there is nothing at all in F1 that bears any resemblance to street cars.
Richard in N.C.

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