For the past week, Michael Waltrip’s facebook page has been blown up with “fans” excoriating him for his decision to change drivers from David Reutimann to Mark Martin for 2012. They have blasted him for everything from simply making the change, to the way he made the change and everything in between. So how much does loyalty matter in sports and NASCAR in particular?
NASCAR is a sport where a team not only has to “please” the fans, but also take care of their sponsors(companies that are paying the bills). Sponsors have a lot of control over how their marketing money is spent, and what driver a team hires. The amount of times a driver is shown on TV equates to how much “bang for their buck” a sponsor is getting. less time on TV means fewer times a sponsor is mentioned. Sponsors want to be on TV as much as possible, that means the team had better be running near the front of the field, or making moves on the track so the team gets mentioned by the announcers.
Teams and Sponsors want drivers that are “marketable”, meaning they can be used in commercials. They want drivers that even when they don’t win, finish high enough to be interviewed on camera at the end of the race. Finishing back in the pack means you do not get mentioned or very rarely if at all.
By Jon Tessler
Jabberhead, SJ Moderator & Contributing Author