The National Guard and government sponsorship in general always seems to be problematic. The U.S. Postal Service had all kinds of issues sponsoring the Lance Armstrong led pro cycling team. When doping became an obvious issue with Armstrong, and pro cycling in general, having a government sponsor added a whole other level of oversight, lawsuits and overall headaches.
While no one wants to lose a sponsor, maybe getting rid of the National Guard as a sponsor on the Hendrick Motorsports team is a good idea, and maybe the timing couldn’t be better. It’s highly unlikely there’d be any drama like there was in pro cycling with the No. 88 team, but at the same time, having a taxpayer-based funding going on adds a whole new level of scrutiny and hoops to jump through that Hendrick Motorsports might as well be better off without.
Dale Jr. is by far the most popular driver in the sport. If the National Guard wants out, good riddance. With three wins already under their belt and a legitimate chance to win the 2014 Sprint Cup Championship, it really seems like a dumb time for a primary sponsor to jump ship, and a great opportunity for another sponsor — either new or existing to jump in and get great exposure.
From Hendrick Motorsports, it’s partially about the National Guard upholding their end of the deal. That’s money that Hendrick has already invested in its teams and future races. So on a basic level, the National Guard should be finishing their commitment — and there’s some contention whether that commitment runs through the end of this season or next. Hendrick says it’s 2015. The National Guard says 2014. It should be fairly simple to nail down though, by perusing that piece of paper both signed when the sponsorship deal was inked.
Regardless, there are still 5 races until the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship even begins. With the way the No. 88 team has been operating, 3 wins might only be the beginning for the remaining races of the season. It doesn’t make sense for the National Guard to make waves now.
But at the same time, it might be time for Hendrick Motorsports salesmen to jump in and start trying to wine and dine big sponsors. With a legitimate possibility of a 2014 championship in the cards, salesmen might be able to get some big name sponsors to back the No. 88 team in furture seasons, and make them a deal for the remainder of 2014.
It’s always sad to see a sponsor go from the sport we love, but if they don’t want to be there, let’s not keep them there. That being said, sponsors need to uphold their commitments, or help in the process of finding a substitute.