NASCAR Racing has taken a turn for the worse with sponsorship dollars on a sharp decline. We have already seen Todd Bodine, the 2006 and 2010 Camping World Truck Series Champion, in jeopardy of not being able to run the entire 2011 schedule because of sponsorship shortfalls. In order to defend his championship, his No. 30 Germain Racing Toyota Tundra had to merge with the No. 5 Randy Moss Motorsports entry.
NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Reed Sorenson was dismissed by Turner Motorsports this week, in a move that has surprised many within the sport. What were the reasons behind this move? Was it Dollar General's sponsorship, which is rumored to be leaving Turner Motorsports in 2012? Is Turner's financial obligation overextended in fielding three Nationwide and two Camping World programs? Did Sorenson cross the line? Was there a problem with performance?
Turner and NASCAR are mum on all of the above.
Whatever the reason, Sorenson is out of a ride, which opens up an opportunity for a team outside the top 10 to make a run at the 2011 Nationwide Series Championship. The options span across all makes and models, sponsors, car owners and even fans.
The teams that come to mind are in the Penske Racing stable of cars. Brad Keselowski cannot run for a championship in his No. 22 Discount Tire/Ruby Tuesday Dodge Challenger, Sam Hornish is running 25th and is 768 points out of first, running a limited schedule in the No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts/Penske Rental Dodge Challenger and Parker Klingerman is running 112th and is 1025 points behind and has only run a handful of races in the No. 77 Penske Rental Dodge Challenger.
What a great opportunity for Penske Racing. They could use Reed Sorenson's position in the points and place him in any of the three cars and be an automatic contender for the 2011 Championship.
The most reasonable options would be to put him in the No. 22 or No. 77 rides. It will be very hard to drag Keselowski out of the No. 22 car, but this would give Brad a chance to fully focus on the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship. Since Hornish is on the verge of running full-time in the No. 12 with Penske and Alliance Truck Parts as a sponsor in 2012, he is not a good choice at this time. That leaves Klingerman in the No. 77, which would also make sense since he is only a developmental driver for Penske.
Other team possibilities would be Rusty Wallace Racing's No. 64 Aspen Dental Toyota Camry, Roush Racing's No. 16 Ford Mustang and Kevin Harvick Racing's No. 33 Jimmy Johns Chevy Impala and Junior Motorsports No. 7 Chevy Impala .
These seem to be less viable since Roush, Harvick and Earnhardt already have cars running in the top five in points, and wouldn't want to compete against themselves this late in the game. Wallace, on the other hand, has the No. 8 and No. 10 position and may not want to rock the boat, since he is looking for sponsorship for his son Steven in 2012.
Yes, there are other teams that could take a chance, but unless any team hoping to make this move will almost definitely have to guarantee Sorenson a multi-year contract with their organization. This will most likely be the biggest obstacle to avoid, which leaves Penske with the best options. It puts an established race team right in the middle of the fray, with a chance to "steal" a championship.