So you have a championship caliber driver with 38 Cup wins and a 2003 title. Then there’s this other driver- though solid- with one career win. Which one would you take? You’d take the former, right? Wood Brothers didn’t. Paul Menard- he of one career Cup win at Indianapolis- will succeed Ryan Blaney at Wood Bros. What? Why? With Menard comes sponsorship money from his father’s business. Welcome to the economic realities of motorsports.
No, we’re not bagging on Menard. Being a top 25 driver is not a bad thing. We’d like to THINK we could do better, but we wouldn’t. Paul Menard isn’t one to stir up trouble, is considered a good teammate and hasn’t made the wrong kind of headlines in his decade plus of racing at NASCAR’s highest level. Others have done less with more.
On the other hand, why wouldn’t hand the keys to Matt Kenseth? The former champion and perennial contender has a long standing relationship with Ford, and he seems like a natural fit for the sport’s oldest racing team. He may be in his late 40s, but we’re talking about a driver who contends consistently, even when things aren’t going great. What’s not to like?
There’s no way neof getting around it: money is undeniably a part of the equation. Even in a good economy, sponsorship money doesn’t doesn’t grow on trees. We’re talking millions of dollars to get that corporate logo on the hood. If a driver can bring sponsorship money with him, all the better. This isn’t saying Kenseth with a corporate pariah, but he doesn’t bring his own money with him, and isn’t quite the commercial darling that a Dale Earnhardt Jr. is, or Carl Edwards was. That’s just the facts.
It’s has been said that to make a small fortune in racing, you must first start with a large one. Though having the 13th winningest driver in the modern era seems like a boon, it’s not always the way things play out. Kenseth will still land on his feet. Meanwhile, Paul Menard gets a fresh start, and his soon-to-be open ride likely fall to Ty Dillon, who has his grandpa’s monetary back through team ownership.
Welcome to the realities of sponsorship.