Huge layoffs expected in NASCAR

UPDATE #4 Petty Enterprises, The Wood Brothers, Bill Davis Racing and Ernie Elliott's engine shop all reduced their staffs in the two days since Sunday's season finale. Although exact numbers are hard to pin down, Petty chief marketing officer Mike Bartelli said the company released 30 employees.

The Wood Brothers are believed to have let go more than 20 employees.

BDR, which has no sponsorship lined up for its Sprint Cup program, has cut its staff to all but a handful of employees. Elliott, who built engines for Chip Ganassi Racing, did the same since it's unlikely Ganassi will use his motors once he completes a merger with Dale Earnhardt Inc. Just last week, 100-plus employees were released from DEI so the team can move forward with its merger with Ganassi.

Ganassi let go of 71 people in July, starting a wave that has hit all teams regardless of their level of funding. Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Roush Fenway Racing all had small staff reductions over the past month, and Roush let additional employees go this week as the organization adjusts to running fewer entries in the Truck Series next season. Associated Press

11/18/08 Stewart-Hass Racing [formerly Haas CNC Racing] laid off 16 people Monday, and Hall of Fame Racing laid off a lot of people and put their building up for sale. As many as 1,500 employees are expected to get their pink slips this week. Some teams are laying off because of the testing ban, but most are because the teams lack sponsorship. Most certainly the NASCAR bubble has burst.

11/16/08 The number of employees who started the 2008 season working for a NASCAR team but will be without one by the time Thanksgiving comes is expected to rise following the season-ending race weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It already started in the weeks before, with Dale Earnhardt Inc. laying off reportedly 100-135 people following the announcement of its merger with Chip Ganassi Racing, a team that laid off 70 people during the middle of the season.

Bill Davis Racing announced it had layoffs in the week leading into Homestead, and Furniture Row Racing announced plans that it will need fewer people as it scales back to a limited schedule in 2009. JR Motorsports and Hendrick Motorsports combined to let about 30 people go a few weeks earlier. JTG Daugherty Racing was planning to cut a dozen people after Homestead – and those layoffs were just the ones that reporters heard about.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said the prediction of 750 people being laid off by the end of the year was possible.

“There was a lot of teams that made a lot of layoffs earlier in this season, three or four months ago that were really, really substantial," Earnhardt Jr. said Nov. 7. “A lot more [is going] to come, especially right after Homestead. … I don’t think it’s entirely restricted to the race teams either. I think it’s going to echo in every facet of the race weekend of the series itself over the entire year. It’s going to affect how the networks do business, how many people they bring in. It’s really going to affect everything."

Only 30 Cup teams have announced full sponsorship for next season.

“No doubt these are tough economic times and we’ve had to make adjustments to our work force like every other team out there," said Tommy Baldwin, competition director of Bill Davis Racing, before adding with optimism, “But it’s still full steam ahead."

The Charlotte Observer cited a 2005 academic study that estimated there are 20,000 people employed with NASCAR-related companies in its region.

There typically are layoffs at the end of any NASCAR season. And the addition of NASCAR’s new race car over the last couple of years – not to mention the Labor Department keeping a close watch on hours worked by those in the shop – have resulted in the expansion of team personnel.

“The last few years we’ve been at … an all-time high in the number of fully funded, fully staffed race teams," driver Jeff Burton said Nov. 14. “I’m sure I’m correct when I say I would imagine more people have been employed within the teams in the last three years than any other point in our history. With the economy the way it was with the exposure that NASCAR was able to give sponsors, there was a tremendous amount of willingness to get involved, which created a lot of jobs.

“Obviously, Toyota coming in [to Cup in 2007] put at a minimum two new multicar teams into play so we had a time where we had a lot of people needing to be employed to serve all the needs that needed to be done and then now, at a time when the economy isn’t as good, we’re going to see the negative side of that."

Team owner Rick Hendrick said some of his terminations were performance based and others were just made to keep the team fiscally healthy.

“We’ve got to look at where we are down the road because, again, if you’re lucky enough to have sponsors today and you’re not out having to look, you hope when it’s time to re-up you’re going to be able to at least maintain and not have to cut back," Hendrick said. “I think it’s going to be hard for any of us to do any new business in probably the first half of ’09."

The only business to be done is that with other teams.

“I personally don’t know what the exact number [of layoffs] was, but it was significant," DEI President Max Siegel said Nov. 14. “It was unfortunate. Anytime you eliminate a job, it’s incredibly gut-wrenching. The fact of the matter of it is we’re trying to save as many jobs as we possibly can and work together with everybody in the sport to make sure that this whole industry is as healthy as it can be in this tough time."

11/14/08 With the cars all prepared and in Homestead for this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup finale there is no more work to do back at the race shops so the massive layoffs that are expected have begun. Word is that all the No. 22 Bill Davis Racing Cup team shop and engine personnel were laid off. More to follow as we hear……

10/30/08 The dismal economic picture has already started to take its toll in the world of NASCAR. Several sources have reported as many as 750 to 1,000 employees from various Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Truck series teams will be released the Monday after the Homestead weekend season finales. DEI, faced with the prospect of shrinking from four to one full-time team in 2009, is poised to lay off as many 100 people if necessary. And according to Felix Sabates, part owner of Chip Ganassi's NASCAR operation, seven or eight teams from this year's Cup roster won't be in business in 2009.

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