Originally created 02/09/02

Sponsorship dollars shrink



DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Travis Carter has joined a growing list of NASCAR team owners searching for sponsors.

Kmart, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Jan. 22, announced last week that it was not going to support Carter's teams for the full season. Instead, the nation's No. 3 discount retailer will sponsor Todd Bodine and Joe Nemechek in just the first two points races, starting with the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 17.

Bodine also will carry the company's colors in the non-points Budweiser Shootout on Sunday.

"This hit us right in the midst of preparations for Daytona and the entire season, but you've got to take a deep breath and really start thinking through things," Carter said Friday. "You can't just react and you can't run and hide, either. You have to put up a good fight and that's what I'm prepared to do."

This is Bodine's second season with Carter. Nemechek signed a two-year contract with the team late last year.

"Right now, I'm not looking for a job and Joe's not looking for a job," Bodine said. "We're 110 percent behind Travis Carter and until Travis tells us to put our helmets in the bag and get our suits and leave, we're there and we're going to stick with him."

Four other teams that traveled to every race in 2001 face a similar situation. Owner/driver Brett Bodine has a couple of associate sponsors and enough money for only a few races, and Junie Donleavy has a half-season deal with Duke's Mayonnaise to field a car for Rick Mast.

Owners Mark Melling and Andy Petree have sponsors just for Daytona.

"A lot of us had year-to-year deals," Melling said. "I think if some of the bigger teams had contracts expiring this year, you would have seen them in the same situation. You can't help what's happening in the business world."

He's looking at the bright side, though.

"It's kind of fun this way," Melling said. "We're the little guy fighting against the big guys. We're the underdog."

LEFFLER OUT OF SHOOTOUT: Even though he won a pole last season, Jason Leffler won't race in the shootout Sunday.

Leffler, who lost his job with Chip Ganassi in the off-season, will drive in the Craftsman Truck series this year. He couldn't get a deal with a Winston Cup team in time, so he'll sit out.

A record 22 cars will be in the made-for-TV, 70-lap race. All pole winners from last season are eligible, along with past winners of the event.

Kurt Busch gained the top position in a blind draw Friday.

CONFISCATED PARTS: Several teams had illegal parts taken away in inspection Thursday and Friday, and as usual, NASCAR put the pieces on display in its command center.

The biggest piece was part of the exhaust system from Stacy Compton's Pontiac, which had been modified to help the car's aerodynamics.

Other drivers losing something from their cars were Jeff Gordon, Ricky Rudd, Johnny Benson, John Andretti, Kenny Wallace, Brett Bodine, Carl Long and Bobby Gerhart.