The tides of change reached the shores of motorsports this week as Anheuser-Busch announced that Budweiser will no longer serve as the official beer of the Anheuser-Busch series and that its thirty years of support for Kenny Bernstein Racing’s NHRA team has been put on the blocks. According to Anheuser-Busch this ends a historic association that over-takes STP’s 28 year sponsorship of NASCAR’s Richard “The King” Petty as the longest run between a racer and a sponsor.
Anheuser-Busch hasn’t announced who they’re going to throw their sponsorship behind for 2009. They may go with Kasey Kahne, who they sponsored in 2008, after the departure of Dale Earnhardt Jr. for Hendricks Motorsports at the end of 2007. But they estimate they only received around 12 million in benefits due to this arrangement, less than fifty percent of the exposure value they received using Dale Earnhardt Jr., so they might be looking around for someone they figure is a little more high-profile to help them return a little more value for their dollar.
Kasey Kahne is probably crossing his fingers and planning on Budweiser continuing their relationship, it’s hard to find sponsors in the current economic climate and I’m sure the last thing we wants to do is find a new sponsor for 2009. Budweiser on the other hand, is probably wishing Richard or Dale were still available, instead of being otherwise occupied.
Juan Pablo Montoya came to NASCAR with visions of winning in short order. I think it’s fair to say at this point in time, he’s a little behind schedule. And that’s to be expected. Montoya is without a doubt, a very talented driver, but as others have learned, being excellent in one race series doesn’t necessarily translate over to NASCAR. Steve Kinser comes to mind because he tried to make the transition from sprint cars but decided to leave NASCAR after only 5 races because he was averaging 35th while driving for Kenny Bernstein.
On the other hand, there are numerous drivers that have left open-wheel racing and have succeeded very well. Tony Stewart is a prime example of that, and it shows that it can be done, but Montoya I think has more “attitude” problems than anything else at this point. He’s making enemies on the track ,and it can be very difficult come race day if you have no friends that could give you that break when you’re trying to get a lap back. Kurt Busch learned this the hard way, after having both on and off-track incidents that finally led to him leaving Rousch Racing in 2006.
Is Montoya too aggressive? Probably in terms of what he thinks his race car can do. These are not Indy or F1 cars, and stock cars have nothing in common with the type of cars he’s used to driving. But he’ll learn in time, and I predict that in a couple of years, he’ll be challenging for the Nextel Cup.