Jeff Gordon on how NASCAR sponsorships changed during his career

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In a parallel universe (as explored in this SportsWorld story about Shell’s Team Penske sponsorship), Jeff Gordon might be sporting a uniform look during his final full-time NASCAR season.

Instead the four-time series champion’s No. 24 Chevrolet is emblematic of the trend toward rotating primary sponsorships in Sprint Cup. Through the first 10 races this season, Gordon’s car has featured Axalta, Panasonic, Drive to End Hunger and 3M (which joined the Hendrick Motorsports team this year). Later this season, longtime sponsor Pepsi will be featured.

It’s a far cry in many ways from the first 18 seasons of Gordon’s career, which was synonymous with the DuPont Automotive Finishes brand. The eye-catching, multicolored hues of those paint schemes inspired the nickname for the vaunted No. 24 pit crew whose swift work helped win three titles: “The Rainbow Warriors.”

Gordon said there are advantages to having a single primary sponsor for a full season.

“When it comes to brand recognition, the fans want to see the same color paint scheme and sponsor every weekend,” he said. “We’d like that as well. We’re very fortunate to have the multiple partners we have, and it’s fantastic, and we’ve got great partners, and we feel very fortunate that we have them to fill up those races.

“But if we could take one or two of them and have them on the car the whole year? Absolutely.”

That scenario is becoming increasingly rare in Sprint Cup, though. While the price point for a championship-caliber sponsorship has remained static over the past decade (roughly $20 million per car annually), the number of companies available to stroke a check that large has declined.

That was partially a byproduct of the Great Recession, which wiped out many companies’ marketing budgets and put heavy scrutiny on big-ticket expenditures such as a NASCAR sponsorship.

“Everybody cut back and did a reset,” Gordon said. “We had to find ways to eliminate some costs. They said, ‘This is what we have to spend.’ We had to find a way to manage that and get through it, and we did.”

Yet it’s also a result of companies growing more efficient with their branding strategies (through new avenues such as social media) and landing on ways to generate the same return with fewer races.

“Companies are doing a really good job of getting that paint scheme on the car and saying, ‘OK we need to be on the car for this many races, but we don’t have to be on the car every race and still be able to use the marketing,’ ” Gordon said. “So we recognize that. They recognize that. We’re just trying to constantly give them everything we possibly can from the social media side — at track, away from track, videos, the drivers’ time, whether it’s customer events or media pops — and hope they recognize the value.”

That shift has increased the demands on Gordon’s time, too. Every primary sponsor is guaranteed production days (which typically mean six to eight hours of photo or video shoots), and those have become more coveted than track or store appearances (which might take two to three hours).

Gordon had DuPont as virtually his only primary sponsor from 1993-2010. During his early seasons, the company “probably had 30 appearances and used 15 of them. Then after we won the championship, they started using more of them. Then we started trying to understand their use of time, my time and managing it that way. Somewhere along the way, the production days became almost more important than appearances.”

Gordon said the multiple-sponsor model also has had an impact on the process of negotiating sponsorships during his career.

“What we’ve seen is companies basically have come to us and said, ‘Here’s our budget, what are we getting for that?’ Then we as a business have to try to figure out what our expenses are,” he said. “What it’s costing us, mainly in salaries (for) driver, crew chief, pit crews, engineers. That’s where our biggest expense is where it’s hard to cut back on.

“What we basically do is come up with a per race cost. So if somebody comes to us and says, ‘Here’s our budget,’ then we basically put that into the number of races and tell them here’s how many races you can get. Instead of saying, ‘OK, yeah, we’ll give you the whole season for that.’ We can’t do business that way.”

Jimmie Johnson, Gordon’s Hendrick teammate, is among the only drivers left with a full-season sponsor as Lowe’s has covered the entire year since the six-time series champion entered Cup in 2002.

Other remaining sponsors that are committed for full or nearly full seasons in 2015:

–Aaron’s (Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 55 Toyota).

–Target (Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 Chevrolet driven by Kyle Larson; many of the store’s brands are featured).

–Dollar General (30 of 36 races with Matt Kenseth’s No. 20 Toyota).

–Mars (No. 18 Toyota normally driven by Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing).

–Menards (No. 27 Chevrolet of Paul Menard at Richard Childress Racing).

–FedEx (JGR’s No. 11 Toyota of Denny Hamlin).

–AdvoCare (No. 6 Ford of Trevor Bayne at Roush Fenway Racing).

–Shell-Pennzoil (32 of 36 races on Joey Logano’s No. 22 Ford at Team Penske).

Read more here about how the Shell sponsorship nearly landed with Gordon, how the company selected Team Penske and why it stuck through some turbulent times.

Where are they now? Buddy Parrott enjoying down time

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Buddy Parrott played outsized roles in two of the most dramatic races in NASCAR history.

Now 83 years old and retired from the sport since 2001, Parrott looks back on those two days as highlights of a career that began in the early 1970s.

In the 1990 Daytona 500, champion driver Dale Earnhardt seemed on course to end his frustration in NASCAR’s biggest event. He held the lead roaring down the backstretch on the last lap. Suddenly, Earnhardt slowed with a blown tire.

The lead was inherited by Derrike Cope, who charged to the checkered flag to score one of racing’s biggest upsets.

Parrott was Cope’s crew chief.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: Memorable quotes through the years

In 1984, Richard Petty edged Cale Yarborough to win the summer race at Daytona International Speedway. It was Petty’s 200th – and final – win.

Parrott was Petty’s crew chief.

Those victories were high marks in a long pit-road career that saw Parrott’s drivers win dozens of races. He worked with, among others, Darrell Waltrip, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Burton and Petty and for team owners Jack Roush and Roger Penske.

Parrott remains active at 83, although he admits to having moved to a slower gear.

“I haven’t been living on the edge,” Parrott told NBC Sports. “I’ve been taking it really easy. I told my sons when you get to be 80 you can do anything you want because basically you’ve already done it.”

MORE: NASCAR, ARCA 2023 schedules

His strongest current connection to NASCAR is as a voter in the annual Hall of Fame balloting.

After more than 20 years roaming pit roads as a crew chief, Parrott moved into a general manager role at Roush Racing in 1997. He retired four years later and didn’t look back.

“I finally told Jack one day, ‘I don’t have time to ride my motorcycle,’ ” Parrott said. “He looked at me and said, ‘What do you want to do about it?’ I said, ‘I’m ready to retire.’ He told me I could work whatever schedule I wanted, but I decided that was it. I didn’t have a going-away thing or whatever.”

Parrott spent much of the next 15 years traveling with his wife, Judy, who died in 2016, and playing with his grandchildren.

“I had a great time in retirement because Judy was ready and I was ready,” he said. “We had a lot of fun. We’d go to Florida for two and three months at a time. I’m so happy that I didn’t hang on and go to the shop every day and try to find something to do. I spent that time with Judy, and we had 16 years of good retirement.”

Parrott, a native of Gastonia, N.C., lives in Statesville, N.C. His sons, Todd and Brad, also were NASCAR crew chiefs.

MORE: Jody Ridley’s Dover win an upset for the ages

Parrott is perhaps best remembered as crew chief for Rusty Wallace, Team Penske and the No. 2 black cars sponsored by Miller Lite. From 1992-94, they won 19 races and were consistently competitive at the front.

“I still get a lot of cards sent to me to sign from those years,” Parrott said. “I can say that was some of the happiest times I had. Those years with Rusty – and then with Jack Roush – really stand out. And who in the hell could not have fun having a beer sponsor?”

 

 

NASCAR Awards to air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Joey Logano didn’t need much time to answer the question.

Who would the two-time Cup champion want to introduce him at the NASCAR Awards?

Racing icon Mario Andretti, Logano immediately said. 

And there was Andretti on the stage at the Music City Center introducing Logano, the 2022 Cup champion. Watch that and the rest of the night’s festivities at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock. You can order Peacock here.

MORE: See the red carpet scene

MORE: Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

NBC Sports’ Marty Snider and Kim Coon co-hosted the show along with Fox Sports’ Kaitlyn Vincie. The Cup, Xfinity and Truck champions were honored. Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, whose father died hours after Gibbs won the Xfinity title last month, received a standing ovation and thanked the industry for its support.

The highlight of the night for Logano was having Andretti on stage to introduce him.

“He’s just been a great role model for me, not only as a racer, but as a person for so long,” Logano said afterward. “I had his picture on my wall. I looked at Mario Andretti before I went to sleep every night as a kid. I thought it was the coolest thing that he signed it to me.”

NASCAR Awards and Champion Celebration
Cup champion Joey Logano on stage with racing icon Mario Andretti during the NASCAR Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Logano and Andretti have gotten to know each other through the years. Logano ran a throwback car that honored Andretti at Darlington Raceway in 2015 and 2021.

But none of that compared to being on stage with Andretti.

“That’s still like a pinch-me moment,” Logano said. “It’s Mario Andretti. He’s the man. The fact that he knows my name I think is really, really cool.”

Catch the NASCAR Awards at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community showed its support Thursday at the NASCAR Awards for the Gibbs family, grieving the death of Coy Gibbs on Nov. 6. 

During his interview on stage, car owner Joe Gibbs thanked the NASCAR industry for its support. (The NASCAR Awards show airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock).

Coy Gibbs, son of Joe Gibbs and father of Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, died hours after seeing Ty Gibbs win the series title last month at Phoenix Raceway. Coy Gibbs, 49, was the vice chairman and chief operating officer at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR chief operating officer, introduced Ty Gibbs at the NASCAR Awards and noted that “everyone gathered tonight is all a part of the NASCAR family, and I know I speak for everyone that the entire NASCAR family is 100% percent behind this young man.”

Ty Gibbs received a standing ovation.

“Thank you,” he told the crowd, “that means a lot.”

Ty Gibbs spoke for less than a minute, thanking his team, sponsors, fans and the NASCAR community.

He closed his speech by saying “And thanks to my family. I love you. I hope everybody has a great offseason. Enjoy it. Thank you for all the support. Thank you for all the claps. I really appreciate it.”

Ty Gibbs spoke to the media earlier Thursday. Asked how he was doing, he said: “I’ve been doing good. Thank you for asking and definitely appreciate you guys. We’ve been doing good, doing a lot of stuff this week. … It’s been fun to experience this stuff.”

Asked about Joe Gibbs addressing the organization after Coy’s death, Ty Gibbs politely said: “For right now, I’m not going to touch on any of that subject at all. I’m just going to stick with all the racing questions and go from there.”

Cup champion Joey Logano said he spent time with 20-year-old Ty Gibbs on Wednesday at the champion’s dinner.

Logano said he told Ty Gibbs that “we’re here for you. You need something reach out.”

Brennan Poole joins Bayley Currey at JD Motorsports for 2023

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Brennan Poole will join Bayley Currey at JD Motorsports for the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity season, the team announced Friday.

Poole will drive the No. 6 car for the full season. Currey returns to the team’s No. 4 car for the season. Currey scored five top-15 finishes last season for the organization.

JD Motorsports is planning to run the No. 0 car next season. No driver or sponsor has been announced for that ride.

“We’re full throttle here and getting ready to go,” Davis said in a statement from the team. “Bayley and Brennan are signed on and looking forward to chasing races and points next year. We’re actively moving along looking for sponsor commitments and for drivers and sponsors for the No. 0 car.”

“We’ve always taken the approach here that we want to go after the series with multiple cars, and that’s how we’re looking toward 2023. The new schedule is very interesting and provides new challenges to our drivers and team members.”

The 2023 Xfinity season begins Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.