Ford is cutting its Nascar budget by 20%. Chrysler by 30%. Chevy is nipping its advertising budget and sponsorship at 12 tracks. In the 2008 racing season, reports The New York Times, companies put up $1.5 billion to sponsor cars and drivers. The Big Three automakers accounted for a third of that. Now the Detroit Debacle is hurting not only Monday through Friday, but Sunday afternoon, too.

Okay, every sport is losing sponsors during this recession. General Motors isn’t going to buy one ad during the Super Bowl. Honda is out of Formula One racing. But Nascar?

The Times tells Nascar’s sizzling success story — a family-run enterprise that pulled in $3 billion last year, 50% more than in 2001, a faster rate of growth than the NFL or the NBA. But TV viewership has slipped of late and so had attendance. Along the way, Nascar has gotten corporate, the Times writes, and it doesn’t help that a sport that started on dirt tracks is now charging $92 a pop for tickets from fans, half of whom earn less than $50,000 a year. There have been 600 layoffs at Nascar and in several teams and teams are merging like Wall Street banks.

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