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NASCAR about to feel Detroit's Chill? UPDATE NASCAR sees no indication manufacturers plan any significant cutbacks in their respective NASCAR programs despite some recent reports out of Detroit to the contrary.

"Obviously, we are going through an economic cycle we've seen before and naturally that breeds a lot of these stories, but as a sport we are very confident with where we are," NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said.

"The fan support has been good. TV ratings continue to be very strong. There is a lot of value there for a lot of our partners, our sponsors and manufacturers in the sport. We hope they continue to look at NASCAR as a place where there is a lot of value for them."

A column this week by Peter De Lorenzo of autoextremist.com said manufacturers' NASCAR budgets were on the "chopping block" and that Detroit car companies were set to pull back on their spending in the sport.

"There have been a lot of rhetoric and false assumptions about the sport in that article," Poston said. "The writer chose to write about a lot of doom and gloom, which doesn't reflect reality at all."  ThatsRacin.com

06/25/08 It's no secret that the worst automobile market in 20 years has the Detroit auto companies reeling. It's in the national news and in newspapers across the country, and it's often the lead story on network newscasts and prime time business programming. And, of course, it's prominent on the Internet too. This isn't just a mild "adjustment" to Detroit's fortunes, either; rather, it's a dramatic, fundamental shift in how the business will be played out from here on in. And Detroit finds itself under the gun like never before.

At this very moment key players of the "Detroit Three" are evaluating every facet of their businesses, right down to the last dollar. That means every product program and every promotional/marketing/advertising program - and everything and anything between - is being placed under the microscope and being scrutinized for ways to shrink expenditures. And for the first time in a long time, Detroit's substantial NASCAR budgets are being included in the process.

In the past, Detroit's NASCAR programs usually escaped scrutiny at cost-cutting time, simply because the sport was on an upward trajectory and participation was not only a given, it was never even questioned. Well, the climate has changed dramatically, and all of NASCAR's negatives - declining attendance, declining TV ratings, the dreaded "Car of Tomorrow," which has destroyed brand recognition and differentiation, the never-ending schedule, and the spike in costs due to the influx of Toyota spending - have the powers that be at the Detroit automakers seriously questioning their NASCAR programs.

How will it shake out? The peripheral programs that NASCAR fans never think about - the track sponsorships, the promotional support programs and other components that go into the Detroit car companies' NASCAR programs - will be the first to go. Programs that are coming up for renewal now - mid- to late summer being prime sponsorship program renewal/extension/evaluation season - will be the first to be cut. 

Then, the national advertising and high-visibility NASCAR-based promotions that have become so ubiquitous on networks such as SPEED will be cut back.

And finally, the actual contacts with the teams will be closely analyzed for value, and this is where it will get very interesting, because these manufacturers could easily just "cherry pick" one of the three NASCAR series (Sprint Cup, Nationwide & Craftsman) to compete in, rather than continue blanket participation, or, there is a very real possibility that at least one of the Detroit manufacturers will pull out altogether - which I've been predicting for two years now - even if it means NASCAR becoming a one-make series (Toyota).

At the very least, I can assure you that some of NASCAR's sacred cow teams - the ones that heretofore would never be considered to be on the block - will be left by the side of the road by the Detroit manufacturers in the interest of saving money.

Suffice to say that the marketing mavens in Daytona Beach will be in for a shock when these Detroit car companies begin to pull back on their NASCAR spending, because they will be ill-prepared for the depth and breadth of the reductions that are coming.

The days of Detroit's "automatic" involvement in NASCAR are coming swiftly to a close.

And NASCAR is about to feel Detroit's chill. Autoextremist.com

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