NASCAR’s Kenseth still searching for sponsor

The endless sponsor plugs in NASCAR can be almost comical

sometimes, and a skilled driver can always figure out a way to

name-drop a company into any conversation.

So it was no surprise when Matt Kenseth began rattling off

sponsor names as soon as he climbed from his car following his

Saturday night win at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

”It’s not too late to come back,” he gently reminded them.

”We don’t have any sponsors coming back for next year.”

Kenseth said it with a smile and the quip drew a hearty laugh,

but there isn’t anything funny about his situation.

The 2003 NASCAR champion is losing primary sponsor Crown Royal

at the end of the season. Despite three wins and a solid shot to

win the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, team owner Jack

Roush has been unsuccessful in his bid to find significant funding

for the No. 17 Ford.

Fortunately for Kenseth, Roush Fenway Racing is one of the most

lucrative teams in NASCAR and Kenseth is not in danger of losing

his job.

”The 17 car is secure in Roush Fenway’s livery,” the team

owner said. ”We will run it with or without a sponsor next year,

but it will be a shame if we are not able to attract

sponsorship.”

It’s a tough time financially in NASCAR, where teams are in

competition away from the track as they race each other for the

same sponsorship dollars.

Joe Gibbs Racing opened the weekend at Charlotte by announcing

it had inked Dollar General to a sponsorship deal on several of its

cars, including 12 Sprint Cup races for Joey Logano and a full

Nationwide schedule for Brian Scott. JGR beat out several other

teams for the business, including mighty Hendrick Motorsports, and

Dollar General ended its longtime relationships with Turner

Motorsports in the Nationwide Series and Sarah Fisher Racing in the

IndyCar Series to put all its marketing money into the Gibbs

deal.

So JGR goes into 2012 flush with funding – the team even

returned cash to Home Depot to free up the 12 races on Logano’s car

for Dollar General.

But that organization is an anomaly right now, and Roush,

despite its success and position in the sport, finds itself in

sponsorship trouble.

Only Greg Biffle is so far fully funded for next year for Roush.

The organization has yet to fill points leader Carl Edwards’

schedule and has announced nothing at all for Kenseth or David

Ragan.

In the Nationwide Series, Roush has been running points leader

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne with limited funding and

neither driver knows what the organization has planned for them

next season.

Although Roush has promised to keep Kenseth’s team going, he’s

not said anything definitive about what he’ll do with Ragan,

Stenhouse and Bayne.

”We are talking to people with some interest, but this is my

24th year of being in the business and this is the most difficult

time I’ve had,” Roush said. ”We have gone through a transition

with our sponsors from a time where they wanted to compete for a

top car to where now the best sponsors want just enough of a car to

be able to do their promotions and want to share the bulk of the

expenses if they can’t.

”It’s a really strange time. I’ve never seen anything like

this. I’m not sure what we’ll have coming out of it and it will be

different than it has been in the past.”

Kenseth has kept a sense of humor about the sponsorship plight

this season. The team has used several different companies to plug

sponsorship holes ranging from Affliction – a clothing line that

boasts wild designs that don’t exactly fit Kenseth’s dry

personality – to Saturday night’s sponsor Fluidmaster, a

manufacturer of toilet parts.

Although Kenseth went all-in on the toilet jokes, he’s keenly

aware of how difficult the sponsorship climate is right now.

”I’m not going to get stressed out about it, especially right

now in the Chase and with all the things we’ve got going on,” he

said. ”I don’t know really what else we can be doing, except for

trying to be competitive and run good. Those guys in the marketing

and sales department need to figure that out and need to figure out

how to get that done.”