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Awkward: Sponsor lays off one-third of work force, still races

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It's the dream of every company: get your logo on the hood of a NASCAR car and burn your image into millions of eyeballs. It comes with a price, yes, but many companies are willing to pay that price, as long as things are going well.

But occasionally, things go bad, and they go bad in a hurry. Back in February, Graceway Pharmaceuticals LLC sponsored Aric Almirola and Billy Ballew Motorsports in the truck series, hoping to win greater exposure for its "Aldara" product used to treat skin conditions such as basal cell carcinoma and -- cringe warning here -- genital and perianal warts. (Told you.)

Anyway, the bad news is, a generic product was launched in late February that Graceway claims infringes on Aldara. Even so, Graceway claims its Aldara sales have dropped by 85 percent.

As a result, the company has had to lay off about 40 percent of its employees. And while it's easy to say that the company should be paying employees rather than funding NASCAR sponsorships, that would be a false connection. "To suggest or imply in any way or form that Graceway is maintaining NASCAR or other pre-paid marketing programs in place of, or at the expense of, employees is wholly wrong," Graceway executive vice president John Bellamy told the Bristol Herald Courier. "It is ludicrous to even think so."

The sponsorship was prepaid, and "if there was any way to recoup $1 [of the fees] we could," Bellamy said.

For Graceway's sake, let's hope Almirola wins every race from here on out -- or at least figures a way to get on camera.

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