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Random Lugnuts: Money Makes the Wheels Go Round

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing What is Random Lugnuts?  It's random bits of stock car racing commentary written on an irregular basis by an irregular racing fan.  The name is a reference to the lugnuts that go flying off a car during a pit stop:  you never know where they are going to go, what they're going to do when they get there, they can be annoying, they're often useless after a race, and every once in a while someone gets hit and they don't know exactly where it came from.
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Random Lugnuts: Money Makes the Wheels Go Round

Bill Crittenden
September 1, 2007

Opening Lap

Unlike other major American sports, NASCAR teams are defined by their sponsors.  Sponsor a hockey team, and get a billboard on the boards, sponsor an Arena League football team and get a shoulder patch.  Sponsor a stock car racing team, and you get your logo and colors splashed all over the car, driver, crew and hauler.  The team logo?  That's the little emblem on the left front headlight, if you can see it.  Jeff Gordon's rarely heard driving the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, you most often hear DuPont Chevrolet.

There's a reason for this.  Equipment for a NASCAR team usually costs more than what a baseball team uses.  Just think of how many bats you could buy for the cost of just one engine for one race in the NASCAR Nextel Cup.  NASCAR and its teams have to attract and retain top-dollar sponsorship to keep the show on the road.  Track.  Whatever.

In honor of those who pay the bills so we can watch quality racing, here's a few things about the financial/sponsorship side of NASCAR:

Car Registration

There's been a lot of talk lately about who owns what in terms of car numbers.  Apparently, Teresa Earnhardt owns trademark on the number 8, and all sorts of conspiracy theories are making the rounds as to why she has it trademarked and what she plans to do with it.  Even the date the trademark took effect is playing into one theory.  I'll try to clarify this a bit, from what I understand of the situation.  It's just a little verbal misunderstanding.

NASCAR lets teams do deals for each others' numbers, but since it's really their show, they make the final call on any and all number issues.  There's a system in place that basically allows a team to reserve numbers, but teams do not "own" them.

Owners or drivers can trademark the number as it appears on the side of the car, meaning she has trademark on the number 8 design that appears on the side of the Budweiser Chevrolet.  You can't trademark a number itself.  Legally, it's basically a logo.  This prevents anyone from making merchandise depicting the number on anything from die cast cars to t-shirts without their approval (and most likely paying a licensing fee).  So if NASCAR allows another team to take over the 8, they can, and there's nothing Teresa Earnhardt or her little trademark can say or do that will stop it, so long as the new number 8 doesn't look like it did on Junior's current car.

Driver Introductions

Daytona 500 Winner that he is, Derrike Cope just gets no respect.  Aside from occasionally hearing someone call him Derrike Dope, I've noticed something rather interesting about how his merchandise moves at the swap meets.

A guy I know is having a bad day at the DuPage toy show.  NASCAR die cast just isn't the business it used to be, at least in our area (northern Illinois).  I'm trying to cheer him up, so I think of a funny story.  I tell him about the time at a previous DuPage show when my father-in-law had sold a Derrike Cope car that we'd been carrying around for a while.  He gets a good price out of it, not because he found one of the last few remaining Derrike Cope fans, but because the buyer's brother-in-law worked for Jimmy Dean.  "Derrike who...?" was her response when we asked her if she was a fan.

My friend then goes on and calls his day a living nightmare or something like that, and I'm feeling both sympathy and my last five dollars burning a hole in my pocket.  I look down, and he's got a box of Racing Champions 1:24th for $5 each.  Sure enough, I find one I like right on top.  The old Skittles car, a car that my wife likes and so I've been looking for it.  I pay the guy, and he asks me if that's Ernie Irvan.  I look, and no...it's Derrike Cope.

It's a good thing he had good sponsors or his cars would have never sold.

And now a word from our sponsors...

Sometimes rivalries aren't just between drivers and teams, but between the sponsors that pay the bills.  I haven't worked for a NASCAR sponsoring company in a decade, but I remember what it was like.  What's usually required is a connection to a car's primary sponsoring company, and to make it really interesting a rival on the circuit.  For me it was a fast food job at the age of 16, and in the summer of 1997 learning about McDonald's driver Bill Elliott, which has led me to be a fan of his to this day.  And even though he stopped driving the Burger King car after 1996, before I worked under the golden arches, I still don't like Joe Nemechek.

So, here's a look at sponsor rivalries in the Nextel Cup, winners being the sponsor getting the best exposure based on as-I-see-it unscientific ratings, grouped by industry:

Car, Sponsor & DriverCar, Sponsor & DriverCar, Sponsor & DriverRating
15 Menards
Paul Menard
20 Home Depot
Tony Stewart
48 Lowe's
Jimmie Johnson
With two hardware store-sponsored Nextel Cup champions the last 2 years, second place in this category is better than first in a lot of others, while it's a tie on the track, Home Depot owns the commercial breaks
29 Shell/Pennzoil
Kevin Harvick
42 Texaco/Havoline
Juan Pablo Montoya
45 Marathon
Kyle Petty
Even if you didn't see Watkins Glen, you'd know Harvick and Montoya don't get along.  I'd never realized until putting this chart together that their sponsors probably also don't get along. Shell, for now.
07 Jack Daniels
Clint Bowyer
7 Jim Beam
Robby Gordon
26 Crown Royal
Jamie McMurray
I'll bet the folks that make Jack Daniels are still kinda sore about seeing the #7 go to a car sponsored by their competitor, but beating Jim Beam on the track should help make up for it.  Clint Bowyer should be in the Chase, but Jamie McMurray won a race, so there's a 2-way tie.
2 Miller Lite
Kurt Busch
8 Budwesier
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
40 David Stremme
Coors Light
It's amazing how some drivers inspire people to actually pay to wear a corporate logo.  Or to have a number tattooed in their skin.  Budweiser, no question.
44 UPS
Dale Jarrett
11 FedEx
Denny Hamlin
Dale's a no-show at some races, a non-factor when he does make the show, and while the "We Want To Race The Truck" campaign is a definite winner over Denny Hamlin's weak commercials, it's still FedEx.
12 Alltel
Ryan Newman
31 Cingular/AT&T
Jeff Burton
AT&T has likely been run out of Cup for good, but in the process garnered some fan sympathy, which combined with Jeff Burton's likeability, makes them a clear winner over the Newman/Alltel combo, even if this season goes down as a DNF.

The Record Book

This week in NASCAR history:

  • September 5, 1998  A guy named Dick Trickle wins the Dura Lube 200 Presented by Bi-Lo, his second of two Busch Grand National wins.
  • September 6, 1962  Jeff Green was born.
  • September 7, 1939  Donnie Allison was born.
  • September 8, 2001  Ricky Rudd wins the Chevrolet Monte Carlo 400, his last oval track win.  He would win just one more Winston Cup event, at Infineon Raceway in 2002.



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