The More Commercials, the More the Struggle for NASCAR Drivers

Lee FraserCorrespondent IAugust 29, 2009

BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 21: David Ragan, driver of the #6 Discount Tire Ford, stands on the grid prior to the NASCAR Nationwide Series Food City 250 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2009 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Since Ragan has done more commercials for UPS, the performance has weakend for the No. 6 Ford.

It's been something we've been seeing since NASCAR has been on TV.

Drivers appearing on commercials to promote their sponsors, and although that is one way to become popular amongst fans, history shows the performance takes a hit.

There are a few big examples, and two of them have to do with sponsor UPS.

In 2001, Dale Jarrett was on top of the NASCAR world, he had just been off of a championship run in 1999, and he had won 4 races, including the Daytona 500, in 2000, and now had a big brand new sponsor, in UPS, to drive to the front.

Dale's performance was great for 2001, and 2002, when UPS was shooting the infamous "Brown to the Bone," commercials.

In 2003, and new marketing campaign came along for UPS.

This time it involved their driver, fan favorite, Dale Jarrett, and it was the "big brown truck commercials."

Performance for Jarrett took a severe hit in 2003, one win, and and after finishing in the top 10 in points in the previous seven seasons, Jarrett finished a dismal, 26th in the series standings!

From 2004 on, Jarrett only had one more win, and never finished in the top-10 again in his career.

Many people blame Jarrett's age as being the result of the quick fall in Jarrett's career.

But that can't be the same excuse for the next UPS driver.

In 2008, David Ragan had an outstanding sophomore season.

He finished 13th in points, just barely missing the chase, and was looking to do big things in 2009.

AAA Insurance announced they would be leaving Ragan, and new sponsor, UPS came aboard to sponsor Ragan for 2009.

It seemed like a match made in heaven, UPS was back with Ford, where they've had their most successful seasons in the sport.

The move has deemed, just awful for Ragan, and UPS.

But why? Could it be the new maximum driver commercials that Ragan is shooting for UPS?

Maybe it could be.

As we've seen with Ragan, and Jarrett, they both had "chain-commercials," and a lot of them have to be shot in season.

Could the focus of the driver be taken away from the racetrack, as a result of too many extra things going on around him?

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is another example of struggling, with commercials.

Now, I know most of Jr. Nation is going to gripe that he's not struggling. He is, no doubt about it!

Nationwide, Chevrolet, Wrangler, GoDaddy.com, AMP, and Mountain Dew, are all products that have the sports most popular driver on their commercials.

No doubt, that Nationwide commercial was shot in season, because in the off season, Kevin Harvick was hired as the Nationwide spokesman.

The performance has tumbled for Jr. too.

After making the chase in 2008, many thought 2009, would be huge for him.

It's been the opposite. Twenty-first in points and not making the chase, and only four top-10's, Jr's performance has been terrible in 2009.

Another example is Michael Waltrip.

Michael had never really achieved super-star status, to begin with, but with Dale Earnhardt, Inc., Mikey's performance was the best it had been in his career.

From 2001-2004 Mikey has his only four wins.

The fans had started to accept Michael Waltrip, and thought his wacky persona was funny.

And sponsor NAPA took advantage of it.

Almost every commercial break from 2003-on, has had Michael Waltrip in it.

Whether, its been, NAPA, Aaron's, or Best Western, Michael is always on the TV.

It seemed like, the poorer Michael was running, the more commercials we saw him shoot.

The number of commercials has gotten to the point where, we will not miss them when they're gone in a couple of seasons.

Mikey's performance has been very bad, for the last 5 seasons, and yet, he still stays in the spotlight.

The final example is Kasey Kahne.

Kahne is the opposite of the drivers above, sort of.

The year 2006, was a dream year for Kahne.

In 2007, sponsor Allstate, starting shooting those irritating, and dopey commercials for Kahne.

And 2007 was just horrible for Kahne.

Kahne had not won a race, for the first time since his rookie season, and was struggling mightily.

A mid-season surge, and some great runs early for Kahne, kept his 2008 chase hopes alive, but he missed the chase again, and the commercials were still going on.

Those Allstate commercials, much like the UPS and NAPA commercials, were chain commercials, and a lot of them were shot in season.

Now 2009. Kahne is 11th in points, and chase hopes still alive.

One win at Sears Point, is lessย than last year, but the car has overall performed better in 2009.

Less shoots, more shoots to the front.

It could be coincidence, it could be that once a driver struggles, the sponsor needs someway to promote their product, or it could be something more.

Could it be, that commercials take away from the driver's focus at the track, which causes the driver's performance to go down.

What ever the reason, history shows commercials are great for a driver's popularity, but terrible for their performance. And it's performance that matters!


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