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The future at DEI: One race fan's opinion

T

TN-Ward-Fan

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DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a DEI fan, but I will refrain from bashing. If you perceive something as negative, deal with it. If you perceive it as inflammatory, that was not my intent.

I have given a great deal of thought to the subject of DEI's future. I have read several news articles, and have even delved into the nefarious world of fan posts on message boards on the topic. As a race fan of more than 30 years, here is my humble opinion of what will happen there.

Dale Earnhardt was many things. Besides a talented racer, though, he was a shrewd businessman with a keen insight as to the future of NASCAR. He realized that the real money was in owning a race team. Getting that team on the Winner Circle program meant huge financial rewards. That is why he chose to block and have the car he owned up front at Daytona rather than the one he drove. Sadly, it cost him his life.

Dale had been with Childress for many years with Goodwrench as the sponsor. Over that time he had surpassed driver status and had become an icon. Dale kept his sponsor happy. Even early on, he made sure that if he wasn't winning a race then he was on the TV for something else, like spinning someone out. He made sure he was newsworthy. Sponsors like the car on TV. Over time, this evolved into The Intimidator, and mass merchandising and marketing ensued. Simply put, the man put butts in seats and was instrumental in the phenomenal growth of the sport. You loved him or you hated him, and he made damn sure that stayed the case. Brilliant.

Now, stop for one second and imagine the fan outrage if Goodwrench decided to pull sponsorship for whatever reason. There would have been a riot. Dale had his sponsor by the short hairs, instead of having to bend to their notions. And don't think for a second he didn't know it.

Fast forward to the current season. No more Dale. He built DEI and was certainly instrumental in obtaining the sponsors those cars have. Pennzoil - good sponsor. NAPA - appears to be getting more than their feet wet in the sport. And Budweiser - arguably the most coveted sponsor in the sport. Now Dale is not there. More importantly to this discussion, his DRAWING POWER is not there. Theresa Earnhardt doesn't have a snowball's chance in a skillet of retaining sponsors of that calibur. Bud will stay because they are making a mint off of Junior, whether he wins a race or not. But NAPA and Pennzoil are not as solid. And Theresa can't keep them. The on track performance can't keep them. NAPA has a couple of wins, Pennzoil has a body shop bill.

Where does this leave DEI? Potentially holding a multi-million dollar bag. For the sake of discussion, let us assume their fortunes hold the status quo for two more seasons. IF Pennzoil departs for, let us say, a Greg Biffle, and NAPA decides to go with, say, the 27th Roush team (lol), who foots the bills? Theresa won't be able to get the dollars that Dale did.

Now, let us make one more leap of faith. Junior, over that same hypothetical two year span, has performed as he has been...a threat to win a handful of races, a 10-15 finisher half the time, and 35 or worse the rest. (I know that may not be 100% accurate, but I do not care to look up the actual stats. It's close enough.) NASCAR needs its golden boy to sell seats, commercials, tshirts, key rings, condoms, whatever. What better scenario than Junior folding a financially struggling DEI and signing with RCR to drive a black 3 with Goodwrench on the side? The beer sotted masses are orgasmic in their overwhelming joy, NASCAR has the best marketing tool in the history of organized sports, Theresa gets to quit fooling with it and go shopping again, and Ty Norris becomes a trivia answer. Plus a couple of sponsorships are suddenly floating around for a second echelon team to latch onto.

Maybe I am wrong about some of this, but I think I'm pretty close. I would love to hear some of your opinions on this. The situation I described is certainly feasible. Again, if a comment offended your fan-biased feelings, hate it for ya. Didn't mean to...had I intended to bash Junior, you woulda known it. Let's keep any replies topical and nonpersonal please, but I wanna know what the fans think.
 
H

HappyHour

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Hmm, interesting thoughts Ward Fan, but hasn't Childress re-signed Harvick and Goodwrench for the 29 car for a few years? And I don't see Bud giving up Junior without a fight.

Maybe Junior and Bud to RCR in a 3 car?
 

paul

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Very well thought out theory WardFan.

Dale Sr. was a marketing genius first, and a good driver second. Just as George Lucas knew the money was in the Star Wars merchandise, Dale Sr knew the money was in merchandising his image, as opposed to on track performance. That's a fact. Whether or not he was a good driver is a matter of opinion. I'm of the opinion that he was a good driver. A lot aren't.

Anyway, DEI's future is bleak. And you hinted as to why, those other sponsors aren't going to stay...that's plain as day. Waltrip is a great spokesman, because he doesn't have the driving record to mask it, so he comes off as whoring for his sponsors, it's the only thing he's got going for him. Park/Pennzoil, well...let's just not go there. Dale Jr. and Bud - Bud could care less what he does or where he finishes. His car will always be on the TV. I'd say the most important lesson that Sr left to the DEI crew was to market yourself, everything else will slide into place if marketing is done correctly. There's proof of that with Dale Jr. He's everywhere, making buckets of cash and winning the high profile races with emotional victories makes for great news, makes for great MTV specials, makes for great soap opera plots to get the newer fans he drew in with his amazing marketing ploys to tune in next week...Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Dales of our lives.

Does this make for great racing? Who knows. Does it make money for the driver and NASCAR? You bet your ass. Does it bring new fans into the sport? You bet your ass.

But I digress...Jr isn't dumb as I've stated above. So a ploy to move to Childress and run that black #3 would be a great move, marketing-wise. I can't say that it would do anything for his racing performance but it would most certainly do tons in the way of making more money for himself and for NASCAR. Those would be some great headlines, that would ensure even more drama and camera time, think of the combination of victories Jr could do, think of the drama! Driving the #3 to victory at Daytona, with Waltrip in second is Dale Earnhardt Jr!!

If nothing else, that's a brilliant move he could possibly make.
 
H

HardScrabble

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Excellent post!

Many valid points and a reasonable scenario.

One has to question though the assumption that a continuity of NAPA and Pennzoil is required. The assumption is also made that Teresa cannot either hold these or sponsors or obtain new ones if necessary. It appears that using the relationship of DE and Goodwrench as a baseline hinges the logic on an atypical rather than a typical case in point. The driver/team count with that advantage is miniscule. It then follows that if lack of this relationship dooms DEI, it also dooms the majority of the teams currently competing in WC.

Much will depend upon decisions made within the next year or two by DEI. To htis point we have nor real concept of Teresa's abilities or even aspirations as a team owner. Ty Norris, granted, has proven himself to date ill equipped to handle the top slot. the company is currently searching for a new president, depending upon the capabilities of their choice, dertain aspects of the teams future course remain unsure. The worst thing would be to allow this uncertainty to continue.

You may well prove to be correct, but the opportunity for the team sustain a successful operation for many years is currently viable.
 

TexasRaceLady

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Well thought-out, Ward Fan. You do bring up many excellent points about DEI's future.

As far as Teresa's ability to run the company, don't forget that DE always gave her the credit for being the moving force behind the scenes.

As far as Junior moving to RCR and driving the #3, or having the #3 come to DEI, that may happen --- but I don't see it happening any time soon.
 
T

TN-Ward-Fan

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Good point HS. Perhaps I din't make myself as clear as I could have on the sponsorships though. Lemme try it this way.

Again going to the hypothetical...IF Dale is alive and pulling the strings at DEI, I like his chances of getting $X million out of Pennzoil for Park's performance much better than I like Theresa's. Dale may have credited her with controlling the purse strings, but that isn't the question. Dale, IMO, could secure more sponsor support for a team he owns than Theresa can for one Dale started, she now owns on paper at least, and is being run like Enron, given equal on-track performance. She may prove me wrong; if so, more power to her. But I don't like her chances of staying afloat without the Dale Earnhardt name and presence at the bargaining table.

OMG, true debate and discussion going on here. And they said it couldn't be done...
 
A

abooja

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I agree that Dale Earnhardt Jr. going to RCR and driving the #3 car would be an amazing bit of publicity for all involved. I'm not sure how I feel about him driving the #3, but driving for a team in which he has no corporate position and for which he'd have to really sing for his supper, is a great idea, IMO. It doesn't matter if Kevin Harvick's already signed a 3-year deal with RCR. The addition of Dale Jr. shouldn't interfere with that, rather bolster the popularity of both. Kevin could keep the Goodwrench sponsorship -- that is, if they still wanted him -- and Budweiser could make the switch to the RCR organization.

As for DEI, it doesn't look too good for them right now. Perhaps the rumors about a merger between DEI and RCR are true. I don't think it would be a terrible idea. Teresa could get rid of the albatross and make some money off the deal. There are such close ties between the two organizations anyway. Dale Earnhardt had his stamp on both, after all. And Dale Jr.'s obviously comfortable with driving for Richard.

As for DEI's other two sponsors and drivers, well, Michael may be performing well right now, but I wonder if two wins will cut it for the folks at NAPA. I can't imagine Pennzoil would want to stick with Steve Park after this year, but I could be wrong. If both sponsors jump ship anyway, it'll be a moot point. Dale Jr. would be the last remaining DEI driver, and the transition to RCR would be that much easier. If one sponsor decides to stay (say, NAPA), then maybe Richard could make a ploy for them. I doubt he'd want Michael Waltrip, but maybe that would be a small price to pay to get Junior.

I would hope that Teresa and Richard have at least considered some of these options. There's no sense in having two less than successful 3-car organizations when one 2 or 3-car organization could do the job more efficiently.

Then again, who the hell am I? :sketchy:
 
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66mustang

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I am just wondering if Jr went to RCR and ran the #3, would Budweiser or GM Goodwrench be the sponsor? Harvick is close to signing a three-year contract but has Goodwrench signed anything. Could we see the #3 RCR GM Goodwrench chevrolet driven by Jr and the #29 RCR Budweiser chevrolet driven by Harvick in the next few years?
 

paul

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With the money that Childress and Jr could make off merchandise alone, Childress would dump Harvo at the drop of a hat.
 
H

HardScrabble

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Enjoying it TWF,

DE could likely have gotten a decent sponsor for the #13 Studebaker driven by Clyde Rufus Stumbledorf if need be.

The DEI organization is struggling right now in the performance department with the results being mediocre. Given that as set parameter, the attraction of major sponsors will be a severe challenge. Offsetting that challenge let's make an assumption that the Budweiser deal can be held as long Jr stands fast. So we have one solid deal that is done. Based on performance and personality we can probably make the assumption that NAPA will hold for at least a year or two. Pennzoil and Steve are the big question marks for the moment.

Within that scenario DEI needs to make a decision on the driver of the #1 car and step up their program to ensure a sponsor for the team. Worst case, they blow it and become a two car operation for the next couple of years. This is not a disaster and might even prove a blessing. And that is the worst case, odds are both an acceptable driver and sponsor could be found based on the reputation and prestige which lingers around the mystique of the Earnhardt name.

Will it be easy, no. But to borrow one my favorite lines.

It's hard, it's supposed to be hard. If it was easy everybody would do it.
 

barelypure

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Perhaps the rumors about a merger between DEI and RCR are true.
If I remember correctly Jeff Hammond said that you could only own two WC cars. If this is true, how would the ownership of the cars go if DEI and RCR merged? More importantly what is the ownership now if they can only own two cars?
 
H

HardScrabble

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The ownership name is just that, a name. Roush, Hendrix, DEI, RCR and those teams have at least one or more cars officially owned by a relative or some such thing. Doesn't mean a thing, just a loophole that NASCAR doen't even bother to worry about.

If Yates starts another team next year it will "owned" by Doug Yates. Robert will pull all the strings.
 
6

66mustang

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Why would Childress drop Harvick when he could have both. If I were Childress, I'd drop Green. That could be a very good team, Earnhardt Jr and Harvick.
 

TexasRaceLady

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Also, remember, Teresa's focus has not been on DEI exclusively for the last 18 months. She's been trying to grieve for her husband and fighting the battle over the autopsy photos, plus trying to run DEI, and raise a daughter.

When/If things settle down, let's see what she can do. I do hope she and Ty can find a president that can run things.
 

97forever

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A really well thought out thread TWF.And several well-reasoned and thoughtful responses as well.Some of you guys amaze and impress me!

Regarding the topic,here is my very humble opinion:

I think the obvious is being overlooked concerning the future of D.E.I.In my view,they are in more trouble than is probably apparent to most fans.The carefully reasoned financial-sponsorship issue has been well documented by you guys...will sponsor 'a' go,will sponsor'b'stay...good questions,but questions that likely have less to do with the future of D.E.I than one might think.

I am of this opinion then.As Paul touched on,Earnhardt Sr.,NOT Budweiser,NAPA,Jr.Teresa or Ty Norris[or anything else]is the true heart of D.E.I..And any fortune-or mis-fortune-D.E.I has or will have is directly tied to Earnhardt.This may seem like I am stating the obvious,but this key fact is the cornerstone,I feel,of where the future lies for D.E.I.

Because Earnhardt,and his followers and fans,are almost a singular event in Nascar history.Not because he was the greatest driver ever[as his fans would claim]but more because of a carefully crafted,well thought out image he portrayed.And,yes,Earnhardt knew it...like Elvis or Madonna,he took full advantage of it.Curiously,this is not touched on very often in accounts of Earnhardts accomplishments,but it is one ,nonetheless.

Now:what does any of this have to do with sponsorship dollars and the future of D.E.I?I would say everything.Whether it is admitted much or not,JR.has been riding a crest of the 'sympathy-crowd'still reeling from Dale's untimely death.D.E.I has really reaped the benefits,as hard as that sounds,from the death of Dale.
They are a pretty good team...but nowhere near the caliber of the big 4.

Like it or not,Earnhardt and the faithful[and this is in no way a bash]are a 'cult of personality'..a personality ole 'Earnest Hemmingway'of the nascar crowd had in spades!But is now missing from the Race-team that bears his name.Not that JR.doesn't try,with his musical taste and backwards cap,he is TRYING to build a following of his own.Just not racing good enough to back it up.Think Kyle Petty.

D.E.I is going to suffer,and likely even fall to also-ran status,as soon as a little more of the trauma left by Big E's death wears off.JR,remember,inherited a large portion of his fans from his dad...a portion of fans that were used to seeing Dale do outrageous and amazing things in a race car.Things that JR.may NEVER be able to do.

Budweiser,especially,is riding the crest...they love JR.now-until a little more time passes,a little more mediocrity sets in.Then they may well look for Jimmie or Ryan.

Jr.simply put,is not going to be the next Gordon or Stewart.I would bet against him ever matching their records.As sweet and poignant as it would be to his fans.And D.E.I is not going to be the next Hendricks or Yates team...simply because the clock is ticking.And Dale's sad death fades into the past a little more everyday.

Sorry if I veered off topic a little,like Spencer on a road course,but this is where I see D.E.I going.
 
H

HappyHour

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[easy] there 97 with, the, commas


But seriously, you have some points, but I don't think it's as easy as that.

Hoestly, everyone, look at the post about who's an "outsider" in the sport, and you find almost everyone's name dropped once. The sport has a tradition, but that tradition seems to be change every couple of years. That's the nature of the sport.

Now you have open wheelers, old names like Andretti/Earnheardt, and the like, as well as "young guns" and such. But finding the likes of Richmond, Gordon, and even Kulwicki on the list of "outsiders" makes me think everone has thier own view of stock car racing throughout the years.

It's gonna change, our drivers are going to come from different backgrounds, that's it...
 

Lap3Forever

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i do not belive he was blocking., and i dont think you could prove to me he was. he was a racer he was there to win not help his cars win. if he had the car he would have passed them boath and told them they were #1 as he passed
 

Tabasco

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97 look how long it took Hendrick and Yates to get where they are, DEI will have to grow into that kind of team. They are not going to run for a championship this year or next.Everyone is talking about here and now, not further down the road. We don't have a clue at what is being done to set those things up. My only point about sponserships and DEI is Sam Hornish Jr. He is comming to DEI and has ties to Penz. That may just be the sign of things to come.(but what do I know);)
 
H

HardScrabble

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Would not say you veered off topic at all 97.

Btw, I ve been to BIR several times, though it was some years ago back in the '80's. They used to host some All-Pro Series races back before the series was bought by NASCAR. Nice track to run on if you can hold the bottom line.

Anyway. the mystique of the Earnhardt name is indeed a factor in the equation. And it must be conceded that over time that light will dim and hold less magic than it does now. Time does march on.

The key is the next two years or so. The mystique will help through that period, but other things must be accomplished. As you put it so well the heart of the organization was ripped out unexpectedly, a serious blow no doubt. But not IMHO necessaruly a fatal one. The teams performance this year while considered to be less than stellar, is better than a look at the points standing s indicates. The organization hs two wins under its belt and the true halfway point of the season has not been reached. The 15 car is picking up the pace with each passing week and Jr has been in postion to add some wins to creel as well. While a championship is pretty much out of the question, I would not write them off as mediocre yet.

Jr may be much better than you think. In two and a half seasons starting with his rookie year he has logged 6 wins. Three of them last year despite the distractions and all coming in the last half of the season when the 8 team was making its own way without the DE guidance. Just as a comparison Jeff Gordon in his first three seasons beginning with his rookie year had a total of 9 wins. Jr will ot likely be the next Jeff Gordon, or DE, but he doesn't have to be.

Jr's challenge, much like Kyles, will be establish his own identity. In a sad and convoluted way his path may be easier. The legend in whose shadow he labors has passed. In his defense remember that he had developed a fair country following among the fans even while DE lived, and to this point has shown no signs of losing them.

The organization has a couple of years, Teresa may assert herself as more of a leader than we imagine, or the leader may come from outside. It won't matter which , I give the team a far better than average chance to make it in this sport.
 
J

judas1

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hmmmmmmmmm, this is all very interesting.

Nothing will change at DEI except a driver.
everything will be just fine. now say your prayers and go to sleep.
night night :)
 
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