By virtue of being a woman I tend to lead with my heart. But I’m logical and intelligent and I understand cold hard facts. I know that money is usually the biggest deciding factor in the world of NASCAR race teams and in this economic climate it seems like it’s the only one.
Still, even with those hard truths, I can’t help but feel like there’s more at work with the lack of attention being paid to great drivers like David Gilliland and Travis Kvapil. These are guys that truly deserve more time to prove themselves on the racetrack. Gilliland finished 2nd at Infineon Raceway last year, the best race finish between the two Yates Racing drivers for the season.
So what does his effort get him? Only to be left without a ride and on contract with a company who has given the points he earned to the new guy, Bobby Labonte who hasn’t had a top-5 finish since 2006.
While Kvapil still has a ride for 2009 it doesn’t have a sponsor yet (although Golden Corral has signed on to sponsor him in the Daytona 500) and his points have been moved to Paul Menard. Menard has had only two top-10 finishes in his entire Sprint Cup career and Kvapil has had six.
That just doesn’t sit right with me. Frankly I’m pretty disgusted by it. I understand wanting and needing drivers that can succeed and rack up great finishes. I also understand wanting and needing drivers that are marketable. Both of those criteria are needed to secure sponsorships and I know that Gilliland and Kvapil are completely capable of both of those things.
I had the chance to interview them during the 2008 season and you’re not going to find more genuinely nice, honest and hardworking guys. They’re both well-spoken, good-looking guys with beautiful families. They also have the most important thing: the passion and drive to want to win races. They want to put in the work.
So why did Bobby Labonte and Paul Menard suddenly become the new fresh faces of Yates Racing? Because everybody knows who Bobby Labonte is and Paul Menard comes with a built-in sponsor.
I’m not saying that Yates Racing doesn’t value the talent they have in Travis and David. I don’t think they would have signed them on in the first place if they hadn’t. I just think it’s sad that they couldn’t have held on to what they’d accomplished, built on the team success they had from last year and figured out a way to stay loyal to drivers already in their stable.
It’s really sad when the choice of sponsorship over talent rules the day.