We all know that sponsor dollars have become king (emperor?) in NASCAR, but sometimes it takes a minor team switch to reinforce that notion.
Unless you watch most Nationwide races, you probably don't know who Eric McClure is. The son of Larry McClure of Morgan-McClure Motorsports — the team that won two Daytona 500s with Sterling Marlin — has never finished in the top 10 in any of his 137 Nationwide Series starts, including the 29 races he qualified for in 2010 with Team Rensi.
But McClure will most likely have a ride next season, telling Dave Moody on Sirius Speedway that he'll move over to Tri-Star Motorsports for 2011.
Tri-Star fielded cars in 2010 for Tony Raines and Jason Keller, but ran the majority of the season without a sponsor. Now they have a driver much less accomplished than Raines and Keller, but most importantly, one that has a sponsor.
McClure has been sponsored by Hefty since 2007, and let's be honest, that's the reason that he's still got a Nationwide Series ride. How else would you explain how a driver with a season-best average finish of 26.2 would be sought-after in NASCAR's No. 2 series?
Trevor Bayne parted ways with Diamond-Waltrip Racing during 2010 because he didn't have sponsorship. In less than a season with DWR, he had 12 top 10s. Bayne was lucky enough to catch on with Roush-Fenway Racing, who ran his car without a sponsor for the rest of the season.
But Bayne's move to Roush pushed Colin Braun out the door because of, you guessed it, lack of sponsorship. Braun struggled in his first season in the Nationwide Series, but at 22, still has five more top 10s to his credit than McClure.
Plus, drivers like David Stremme and Scott Wimmer — guys who have won races in the Nationwide Series — don't have rides because they can't bring funding. Heck, former IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan is out of a ride at the moment because he doesn't have any sponsorship and has even talked to Kyle Busch about the Camping World Truck Series.
Given the increasing costs of major league racing, it's hard to fault teams for worrying about financial success before on-track success. With the current purse structure and expenses, it's almost impossible to race without financial backing. And that's before you can even talk about being competitive.
So go out there and convince your nearby Fortune 500 company to sponsor you, NASCAR fans. That'd probably give you a better chance at a NASCAR ride than a bunch of wins in a lesser series would.
- Larry McClure