Ranking the 10 Most Embarrassing NASCAR Driver Sponsors in History
Remember the movie Stroker Ace?
In it, Burt Reynolds was a top-tier NASCAR driver trying to get out of a terrible contract with a businessman named Clyde Torkle. Ace, not the greatest at contract negotiation (obviously), was forced to make numerous public appearances in a chicken suit as a means of promoting Torkle's Chicken Pit restaurants.
Well, Stroker Ace would have been glad to don the chicken suit if he had to choose between that and these 10 companies.
Auto racing is a sport that relies on finance, and for investing in it, these companies have played a great part in what it is today. That being said, drivers probably weren't lining up for these deals.
An alliance with a wrestling federation may have worked well for the NFL's Adam "Pacman" Jones, but when the WCW and nWo came to NASCAR, the results weren't quite as solid.
Kyle Petty drove a handful of races in an nWo-sponsored car in the then-Busch Series, scoring a best finish of fourth at Talladega in May 1997.
The WCW cars were slightly more successful. Steve Grissom won the season-opening Busch race at Daytona that year, but a handful of other races through the late 1990s and early 2000s with Jerry Nadeau, Lance Hooper, Greg Sacks and Blaise Alexander weren't quite as strong.
9. Cartoon Network
Honestly, it's kind of hard to hate on Cartoon Network Wacky Racing. It was a cool program that lasted five years and definitely got some kids interested in the sport. It's also related to the WCW/nWo deal; since Cartoon Network was a Turner network and WCW and nWo were on Turner networks, they often shared cars.
From 1996 to 2000, this sponsorship bounced around from Diamond Ridge Racing to Melling Racing to Galaxy Motorsports. Drivers like Robert Pressley, Jeff Green, Jerry Nadeau and Wally Dallenbach would not find Victory Lane with it. In fact, not until 2000 (Dallenbach at Galaxy) would one driver complete the full schedule with a Cartoon Network-sponsored team, and by then, TBS was the primary brand of choice on the car.
Derrike Cope made his name by winning the 1990 Daytona 500, but over the past decade, he has become better known for unconventional sponsorship deals and his racing daughters than his greatest triumph. In 2002, Cope's self-owned No. 37 Ford was mostly sponsored by musicians and rock festivals, with the Poison paint scheme perhaps the most egregious.
Cope brought the car to Pocono in July, where he completed 154 of 175 laps before losing an engine and finishing 35th. That was better than his Pocono run in June, where a car sponsored by Alabama finished the race but came home 38th. Cope wouldn't do any better until the season finale at Homestead, where he finished 34th.
In perhaps the scariest 12-race deal in the history of Cup racing, Ken Schrader dealt with Carrot Top's head on the hood of his No. 49 BAM Racing Dodge for a third of the 2003 season. Remember when the prop comedian was telling people to "dial down the center" on just about every commercial imaginable? Yep...that.
Schrader made 32 starts that season, posting only two top-10s, one of which came in the Carrot Top car (a 10th place at Martinsville in the spring). But despite only ranking 36th in points, the team's performance was strong enough (and the sponsor market deep enough) to attract Schwan's Home Service to the team in a full-season deal for the next two years.
6. Affliction Clothing
You wouldn't guess it by the way he's driving this season, but Matt Kenseth had some major sponsorship troubles late in his career with Roush Fenway Racing. That became apparent in 2011, when Affliction Clothing—perhaps the least likely clothing brand to sponsor a mild-mannered driver like Kenseth—signed on for five races on the hood of the No. 17 Ford.
Kenseth failed to put the brand in Victory Lane, but he did come close at Daytona in July, finishing second to teammate David Ragan under caution. He scored three more top-10s in the car as well.
5. Sephora (Kim Kardashian Fragrance)
It's been a long road to financial stability for Tommy Baldwin Racing, which ran this car for Mike Bliss at Las Vegas in 2010. Sephora, a leading makeup outlet, used the deal to exhibit Kim Kardashian-branded products.
Bliss was a good sport in the pits, and Kardashian seemed to enjoy the promotion, but the partnership wasn't too successful on the track. Bliss qualified 30th and crashed after 135 of 267 laps on the way to finishing 39th. The 2002 Camping World Truck Series champion would leave TBR four races later.
At Las Vegas in 2004, the fledgling Arnold Motorsports team looked forward to adding a new sponsor to its No. 50 Dodge with driver Derrike Cope: RedneckJunk.com, a classified ad service for auto parts, hunting equipment and other items to reflect "redneck" pastimes.
NASCAR wasn't too impressed. In fact, it ordered the decals off the car.
When all was said and done, NASCAR may have done the company a favor. Cope started 40th and finished 33rd, making him the last driver to complete the race. Arnold Motorsports folded in 2005 after a disastrous Truck campaign with Shigeaki Hattori and a limited Cup schedule with Jimmy Spencer.
In an attempt to make adult diapers slightly less embarrassing, Depend has been going after football players like Wes Welker and DeMarcus Ware. But at Richmond this year, the company expanded into NASCAR sponsorship, partnering with Target to take over Juan Montoya's No. 42 Chevrolet.
The results were actually pretty good. Montoya posted season highs in starting position (sixth), finishing position (fourth) and laps led (67). In fact, so far, the Depend race has been the lone bright spot in a season where the ex-Formula 1 star has never ranked above 22nd in points.
2. Boudreaux's Butt Paste
In the mid-2000s, long before the days of Danica Patrick running stock cars, female drivers were struggling to make a name for themselves. Patty Moise was out of the sport, while Shawna Robinson was closer to the end of her career than the beginning.
Former middle school principal Kim Crosby attempted to change that by bringing along a sponsor: Boudreaux's Butt Paste, a cream for diaper rash.
Before you ask, no, it did not go to plan.
Crosby only made 10 career starts in what was then the Busch Series. Her only lead-lap finish came in the first one, at Talladega in spring 2004; twice in those 10 starts, she was black-flagged for being too slow.
The Boudreaux's deal evaporated in early 2005, and after starting last and finishing second-to-last at Milwaukee in 2006, she switched to driving monster trucks.
For six years, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer promoted its erectile dysfunction pills by sponsoring NASCAR teams. The first year saw Mike Bliss driver the No. 27 car for Eel River Racing, while the subsequent five were supposed to be the waning years of Mark Martin's storied career with Roush Racing.
The partnership didn't work at Eel River, but Martin was moderately successful with Viagra on the hood. Though he only won three races, he finished second in points in 2002 and fourth in both 2004 and 2005.
Granted, the years 2001 (no wins) and 2003 (a career-low 17th in points) were pretty dysfunctional, but everyone is bound to run into some trouble eventually. (Sorry. Had to.)
For more from Christopher Leone, follow @christopherlion on Twitter.
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