GM, Chrysler bankruptcies cause uncertainty in auto racing world

The Charlotte ObserverJune 10, 2009 

Does NASCAR's future include Kurt Busch racing a Saturn? How about Kasey Kahne climbing behind the wheel of a Fiat?

The bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler have raised caution flags over the future of their longtime involvement with motorsports.

"Everybody's concerned about it because you just don't know what's going to happen," says Bob Pockrass, associate editor of NASCAR Scene. "Everybody thinks manufacturers will continue to be involved in the sport because it's a good marketing arm. To what scale … is the question."

Racing is still a key marketing tool for an industry whose motto has been "Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday." For the companies that build cars and the teams that run them, that's unlikely to change.

"Racing is very important to us," says GM spokeswoman Jan Thomas. "We want to win of course, but that's not the only reason we do it … It helps us sell cars and trucks."

One study, for example, found that 56 percent of Ford buyers called themselves race fans.

But now, with courts and even Congress weighing in, people are hedging their bets.

Chrysler wanted to spend $134million on advertising over the nine weeks it expects to be in bankruptcy court. President Obama's auto industry task force gave it half that. Similar cuts could trickle down to the race teams Chrysler sponsors.

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