Reid Spencer – NASCAR Wire Service
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The structure is new, and the level of commitment is elevated, but the four companies announced Thursday as Premier Partners for the NASCAR Cup Series are hardly new to the sport.
Busch Beer, Coca-Cola, GEICO and Xfinity already enjoy significant roles in NASCAR, but the presence of those four companies will expand as part of a paradigm shift in sponsorship structure in 2020.
NASCAR’s premier division will be named the NASCAR Cup Series, with the four cornerstone brands announced Wednesday as Premier Partners, who collectively will own a presence connected to the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race and NASCAR All-Star Race.
“We’re thrilled with these brands,” said Daryl Wolfe, NASCAR executive vice president and chief sales and operations officer. “They’ve been in our sport for a long time. They’re invested in the sport emotionally, too—they care about the sport. They promote aggressively around the sport.
“We believe they’re the right four partners for us going forward.”
All four partners will be featured prominently in multiple platforms across the sport, including integrations in broadcast, NASCAR digital and social channels, event entitlements, in-market promotions and at-track activations.
Busch Beer, for example, will maintain its exclusive sponsorship of the Busch Pole Award, as well as adding an entitlement for a 2020 Cup race to its portfolio. Coca-Cola, which sponsors the sport’s longest race—the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway—will take on the role as presenting sponsor of the NASCAR Cup Series regular-season championship trophy.
Earlier this year, GEICO became the “Official Insurance Provider of NASCAR.” The company will enhance its involvement as a Premier Partner and as the presenting sponsor of a still-to-be-announced phase of the NASCAR Cup Series season.
Xfinity will retain its sponsorship of the NASCAR Xfinity Series and will add entitlement sponsorship of the 2020 Round of 8 Playoff cutoff race at Martinsville Speedway.
The prominence of the four Premier Partners, however, doesn’t obscure the fact that the NASCAR Cup Series brand will stand by itself.
“The first mark is our mark—it’s the NASCAR mark,” Wolfe said. “In the world of transitioning sponsorships, if you think about from Nextel to Sprint to Monster Energy, the pinnacle of our sport is the NASCAR Cup Series. We want to lead with our brand. We think that’s good for other partners.
“They’ve made an investment with our brand, the sport, NASCAR. We also think it’s good for fan-development opportunities… We’re leading with our brand, the NASCAR Cup Series, so we think that from a fan development opportunity and fan engagement opportunity, it’s a big plus for us going forward.
Wolfe said he expects Monster Energy, which has sponsored the Cup series for the past three years, to maintain a substantial presence in the sport.
NASCAR will not sunset existing deals in the categories of the four Premier Partners. Nor will race teams be restricted from attracting new sponsors by exclusivity provisions, as has been the case in the past.
“We’re looking at these deals holistically across the entire sport,” Wolfe said. “We wanted to make sure it was easier for our teams to go out there, prospect and find brands. So, no restrictions on teams… That was an important component of this.”
Hailie Deegan moves to Ford development program
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Hailie Deegan, one of NASCAR’s most-talked about young talents, was formally introduced Tuesday as a new Ford development driver. For the 2020 racing season, the 18-year old Californian will drive a Ford for the respected DGR-Crosley race team fulltime in the ARCA Menards Series and she will also compete in selected events for Ford’s Multimatic Motorsports team in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.
It’s a major announcement for Ford and for Deegan, who in 2018 became the first woman to win a race in the former NASCAR K&N Pro Series West (now known as the ARCA Menards Series West). She added two more victories in the series in 2019, earning three pole positions, eight top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in 14 starts en route to a third place finish in the championship.
In six ARCA Menards Series starts last year, Deegan earned a best finish of fifth at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Raceway.
“Hailie has shown in her brief time behind the wheel of a stock car that she’s got what it takes to be successful,’’ Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports said at Tuesday’s announcement in Concord, N.C.
“Our goal is to put her on a path to realize our shared goal of winning championships and part of that is gaining experience on tracks such as road courses and superspeedways. We feel this year will serve as a good foundation for what lies ahead.’’
That foundation will include an assortment of IMSA races in addition to the full 20-race ARCA schedule. Ford’s Rushbrook reiterated to the gathered media Tuesday that the plan is to bring Deegan up to speed, slowly and steadily. In recent seasons Ford has fostered the burgeoning careers of young drivers such as Cole Custer, Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe.
And Deegan said she was prepared for a measured approach – appreciated the plan.
“I think it’s really important because at the end of the day as a driver you pretty much have one reputation chance,’’ said Deegan, who will drive the No. 4 Monster Energy Ford in the ARCA ranks. “When you blow it, when you don’t do good, that kind of sits with you. It’s hard to get rid of that.
“I think it’s definitely important for me and the people who support me and are coming with me along the journey that we want to have success where we go. When we move up to the next level, we want to make sure we do it at the right time and I’m ready for it and they’re ready to take the step.
“I think we’re definitely taking the right route and process. If we can stick to what we’re doing, stick to the game plan, it should be good.’’
Deegan has contested her early stock car career in Toyota equipment and although grateful for the opportunities it presented, she said she felt this alliance with Ford would be beneficial long-term with increased opportunity. And, she noted often Tuesday, her family has a long relationship with the manufacturer. Her father, Brian Deegan, won a gold medal in the 2011 X Games driving a Ford Fiesta in the Global Rallycross Championship.
“I think it gives me the confidence to know that we made the right decision, confident in my future and my development just because we’re all on the same page,’’ Deegan said. “Especially with them starting this kind of lower level development where they had Chase Briscoe, Cindric, all the guys coming through the higher ranks, now they’re kind of stepping into the ARCA Series . It gives me a lot more confidence to know we’re doing the right thing.’’
As or her pace, Rushbrook indicated there was specifically no rush to get Deegan into one of NASCAR’s three national series until she was legitimately ready. It’s an approach Deegan appreciates and that Rushbrook expects to pay off.
“No comment on the length of the contract or even the progression,’’ Rushbrook said. “I think the great thing has been since the very first conversation that we want to see Hailie succeed and take the steps when the timing is right. I’ve got a lot of confidence that will go through in these coming years all the way to the Cup level.”
Deegan’s first formal time behind the Ford steering wheel will come at the Roar Before the 24 at Daytona International Speedway on Jan. 3, 2020 – the traditional three-day test for the Jan. 25-26 IMSA season-opening Rolex 24 sports car race weekend. Deegan will make her sports car debut on Friday, Jan. 25 with teammate Chase Briscoe in the Michelin Pilot Challenge.