NASCAR & Auto Racing

But then again, Roush Fenway exec says, Cup sponsors happy

Everyone knows the U.S. economy is struggling, but Roush Fenway Racing president Geoff Smith says things don't look so bad in Sprint Cup.

An informal survey the Roush Fenway team recently did to see which primary sponsors from 2008 would remain for 2009 was surprisingly positive.

"There were 58 Cup sponsors that had primary paint schemes this year," Smith said on Friday. "And there's only a loss of two of the 58 for next year that we're aware of. One of them is AAA, that's still looking at participating in a number of races as primary, and the other one was Havoline (which will leave Chip Ganassi Racing).

"But, out of the 58, there were a number of them, about 12 or so, that had the opportunity to leave but elected to renew and stay. There's been no mass exodus whatsoever. To me, that's a really big testament to the Cup series."

The Roush team finalized its five-car lineup for next season with the announcement that UPS will move from David Reutimann's No. 44 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota to the No. 6 Ford of David Ragan in 2009. Earlier this year, Roush Fenway announced that Office Depot will stay with Carl Edwards on the No. 99 and Greg Biffle will have sponsorship from 3M on the No. 16. DeWalt has another year with Matt Kenseth on the No. 17, as does Crown Royal on the No. 26 with Jamie McMurray.

No Cup team will be allowed to have more than four cars after 2009, so Roush will have to shed one of its entries, which Smith had complained about only a day earlier at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

"Our Cup program costs have escalated quite a bit. And just because the costs escalate doesn't mean the sponsorships pay for that. Sponsorships don't pay more than the market value that justifies their program.

"Driver salaries are significantly up and we're facing the loss of 20 percent of our operating revenue from our Cup program as we go from five to four (cars in 2010)," he added.

One problem with that, according to Smith, is that Roush has always underwritten its strong Truck series program from its profits in other areas, particularly Cup.

Smith said he has a better idea than simply restricting the teams to four cars.

"If they're worrying about restriction, tell the four manufacturers that they can't support more than 10 teams, as an example, and then let the teams fight out who gets up to 10," Smith said.

"That keeps the parity because it means Toyota can't have 20 (teams) and General Motors can't have 25. If you're a small organization, you need multiples (of cars) because you can't compete without the money. It's always been about the money, not about the number of teams."