A new General Motors opened its doors on Monday, and with it came more sweeping changes in NASCAR.
The struggling carmaker already slashed its support of the Sprint Cup Series - and dropped all funding to the Camping World Truck and Nationwide series - as part of its reorganization.
Bankruptcy allowed General Motors to terminate all of its contracts, and it wasted little time cutting out other perks in racing.
Among theme were the losses of 70 suite passes at the California Speedway; 77 tickets at the Daytona International Speedway; 65 suite passes at the Dover International Speedway; 66 suite passes at the Lowe's Motor Speedway; 60 suite passes at the Richmond International Raceway; personal service agreements with Jeff Burton and Ryan Newman and eliminating its sponsorship agreements with IMG Worldwide.
In all General Motors dropped 54 sports sponsor agreements.
Dodge is struggling to pay its bills with the Sprint Cup Series and Toyota isn't looking to expand its racing empire. Ford cut out the fat nearly two years ago, so it doesn't leave the sport a lot of options other than to re-invent itself.
"We cut our budget last year," said Tim Duerr, the NASCAR marketing manager for Ford. "We've been in survival mode for a while. We feel we're in a better position to make more money with less because we've learned to be more efficient."
Teams with connections to the four racing manufacturers depend on them for cash, engineering, parts and pieces. The flow of cash has been stopped or severely reduced for Chevrolet, Dodge and Ford. The car companies hope to make it up in other ways, and they are keenly aware if one fails, it hurts everyone.
"Ultimately, we need to have Ford, we need to have Chevrolet, we need to have Chrysler - all those guys need to be in this sport," Kyle Busch said.
While Chevrolet is still trying to find its way out of bankruptcy, a company spokesman said it remains committed to its racing program.
"Chevrolet's involvement in racing is a sound business decision that translates directly into the sale of cars and trucks. It is essential; however, that we continue to look at every penny we spend as General Motors takes the necessary steps to become a leaner company with a significantly stronger balance sheet," the spokesman said. "While Chevy Racing is talking to its business partners about ways to reduce cost and maximize the return on investment, it is our policy to not talk about the details of business relationships with our partners."
At Richard Childress Racing, the financial reduction amounted to $10 million, according to papers filed in bankruptcy court. While Ford hasn't paid its teams for nearly two years, it does offer bonuses for poles and top-three finishes in races.
"Racing is in our DNA," Duerr said. "We will make sure we stay on a level playing field. The U.S. government likes racing. That's why the Army, Air Force, postal service, National Guard and U.S. Customs are involved. They see the value. We've found that 52 percent of Ford owners are race fans. It still makes good business sense or all of us."
Making it work has required every team to make layoffs and curtail engineering and testing projects that used to be routine. Teams have looked at other ways to trim budgets by looking at travel, at-track hospitality and a reduction of race day personnel.
Ford saw the dark days earlier than the rest. That's why they pulled back a year in advance so they could weather the storm. The company hasn't asked for any government assistance - and doesn't plan to, Duerr said.
Ford drivers proudly wear their company logos because fans have reacted strongly to the way Ford has done its business.
"People pat you on the back all the time and thank you for not getting the bailout," said car owner Jack Roush, who operates five Cup and two Nationwide Ford teams. "It's something we're all very proud of."
Roush, who now advertises on national television and radio to find new sponsors, said NASCAR has been hurt by the struggling economy. But he said there are a lot of bargains out there.
"NASCAR in terms of its viewership and its energy, determined by the T-shirt sales and the rest of it is down 10-11 percent. The broader economy is down 20 to 30. That speaks volumes to the importance of NASCAR as a marketing tool, as an entertainment venue for the broader population. I think NASCAR is a success story in our downed economy. More things have gone right than have gone wrong," he said.
"NASCAR is alive and well. It behooves us to make investments in it to maintain momentum so they can have the prospect of either holding their market share, or in the case of the automobile manufacturers, lose the market share. The ones that blink will lose market share."