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Friday, June 12, 2009

NASCAR's visit to Motor City comes at tough time for auto industry

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Out at Michigan International Speedway, there has been a tradition of the track announcer asking the fans what kind of car make they want to win the race, and the fans screaming their responses.

But lately, who wins a NASCAR race has seemed insignificant in the wake of the tremendous struggles of GM and Chrysler, who both had to resort to bankruptcy just to stay alive as a company. Ford has been the most stable, but that’s only because they borrowed enough money when that money was still available. Otherwise, they would have been in the same boat.

Chrysler has a glimmer of hope for the future now that its deal with Fiat has been approved (which you could argue makes it something other than a U.S. automaker, but that’s a whole different topic). But there’s no guarantee the demand for automobiles is going to pick up in the immediate future.

Meanwhile, Richard Petty Motorsports laid off several employees this week, and GM is pulling its support from the Nationwide and Truck Series teams.

Kyle Busch said today that he is noticing the effect of this lack of support by the U.S. automakers in the lower series, especially Trucks.

“The truck series is a struggle. At Texas, they had 33 trucks there and only about 21 real decent trucks … The Nationwide Series though, support falling out of that series is going to make that series tough, too. Especially with NASCAR wanting to go to the new car there,” Busch said. “I don’t know how that is going to work out.”

Beyond the lower series, it’s pretty likely there will less ability to financially support Cup teams for all of the Detroit Three.

NASCAR will always be around in some form, and there are plenty of cars to fill the fields. But how good will they be without support? I have a suspicion the Truck race Saturday will be a repeat of Texas, and the rest of the season will be very similar.

Teams are going to have to be more cost-effective and find ways to improve their cars without as much support.

While the overall level of competition may be suffering, NASCAR is still around and providing racing fans their fix. But this weekend, as they race near the Motor City, it’s clear things are a whole lot different than they were a year ago.

Busy Kyle Busch wanted to help Benson
Kyle Busch, who is running both the Truck and Cup race at MIS, plus the Nationwide race at Kentucky, AND will be spotter for Brian Ickler in the ARCA race tonight, said today that he wanted to give up his seat in the Truck race to Michigan native Johnny Benson, the defending series champion who lost his ride due to lack of sponsorship. Unfortunately, Busch said, it “didn’t quite work out,” but Benson may take over the #51 truck for the Milwaukee race.

As much as Kyle annoys people, he can be nice when he wants to be, and that’s often forgotten.

Of course, there’s always the old Kyle. When asked about reaction to his guitar smashing, he said, “A lot of people hated it and I guess those are the ones with 88 tattooed on their arm. … I’ve got no issues with Junior -- it’s his fans that are crazy, but that’s all right.”

While tongue-in-cheek, I’m guessing that won’t go over well with Jr. Nation, who love to hate their current Enemy #1.


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