Ten years ago, when I entered the racing industry at the grassroots level, I was a happy flag-waving NASCAR fan with a desire to bring the sport to the masses.
As I got involved with the NASCAR industry and got to know how the wheels turn, so to speak, my once-full sails of enthusiasm deflated. I found that NASCAR is a business, and a business of the type I didn’t expect.
In the NFL, NBA and other professional sports, you can rest assured that you are watching the very best of the best the sport has to offer. A great player is heavily recruited by teams and the league as they come out of college, and rewarded with a handsome contract that usually makes them multi-millionaires.
Once that player loses his edge after a few years, he is wadded up and discarded unceremoniously. Such is the life of an athlete in professional sports … or so I thought.
NASCAR is different. I soon found out that I wasn’t necessarily watching and rubbing elbows with the best stock car racers the world had to offer. The world of racing is different. You and I, no matter our age or talent level, can participate in the lower two series in NASCAR’s national ranks … if our pockets are deep enough, that is.
If the family has enough money, then you can count in NASCAR’s Cup Series too. Welcome to stardom.
This doesn’t stand true for all drivers though. Christopher Bell is a good example. Daddy’s dollar hasn’t gotten him to the point he is at. You can thank manufacturer money for backing some of the newest stars.
Others with talent flounder just outside of the grip of greatness, such as Ryan Ellis, Bobby Dale Earnhardt and several others that don’t have a huge pocketbook financing their careers.
To drive this point home was a tweet from Dale Earnhardt Jr. this week.
In case you missed it, Earnhardt was asked by a fan if he would put Darrell Wallace Jr. in one of his NASCAR XFINITY Series cars, after Wallace won last week’s Camping World Truck race at Michigan Int’l Speedway in spectacular fashion.
He said in response: “My ass ain’t Santa Claus handin’ out rides.”
Earnhardt has touched on this subject before when pressed about giving his brother Kerry, or even his nephew Jeffrey, a ride. He’s made it clear. If you want to race, show me the money.
Business is business. It’s not because there aren’t drivers that Earnhardt wants to put in his cars (see Josh Berry for another example), but it’s because racing has a cost and at the end of the day, that cost has to be met in order for a team to function to the best of its ability.
For example, I was negotiating for a driver a few years ago and was told outright by Kyle Busch Motorsports that $2 million would get my client eight races in their equipment, including a Martinsville race to get NASCAR’s seal of approval for the larger tracks.
This pay-to-play philosophy isn’t the way in the NFL, I can tell you that.
But, then again, NASCAR isn’t like other professional sports. There’s costs involved that go beyond human manpower putting on a show on a turf field.
And as the old saying goes: “Money makes the world go ’round.”
The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, the Performance Motorsports Network, Scorpion Radio Group, their sponsors or other contributors.
About the Writer
Andy DeLay is a career law enforcement officer for Clearwater, Florida who carries a passion for motorsports at both the local and national levels. He is an avid iRacer who also spends time away from the virtual circuit at local tracks.
In addition, DeLay is a host of the long-time Burning Rubber Radio Show on the Performance Motorsports Network, the wireless mobile radio affiliate of Race Chaser Online, as well as an onsite reporter for PMN in various capacities.
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