Forget talent … do you have a sponsor?
But he has something that other, more talented drivers, do not have … a sponsor. That is courtesy of his family’s business, who will be with him no matter how average he is. Now, as the Richard Petty and Yates Racing teams plan to merge, it all hinges on one thing … Menard coming along with his sponsor.
That’s what it’s come to in NASCAR. Regardless of whether he will produce good results for the merged team, the RPM-Yates deal won’t go down unless Menard is part of it.
This pay-to-play situation has existed in Formula for a while (Back in 2001, the Malaysian government basically bought a seat for a clearly unqualified Alex Yoong, for example). Over the past few years in NASCAR, it’s become more and more obvious that in this down economy (and probably even when it recovers), talent isn’t what gets you a ride … it’s money.
I have accept that, because there’s no other option. But as a fan of good racing, it annoys me to no end. In a just world, Menard would be racing in Nationwide, a series where he can actually be competitive, and a more talented driver would have the seat he occupies in Cup. But having a personal sponsor trumps all that.
For example, a champion like Bobby Labonte has much more talent, but he can’t get a full-time sponsor because he’s too old and doesn’t have marketing potential. So he has to hunt for rides and maybe even start-and-park some weeks just to stay on track.
I have nothing against Menard personally, and I’m sure he tries his best every week. But deep down in his mind, even he has to recognize that without his family’s sponsorship money, he probably wouldn’t be in the Cup series.
And there’s something just wrong about that.