By: Ashley McCubbin
Whenever a driver is able to land an opportunity with a new team for the next NASCAR season, one of the biggest questions asked right away – where is the sponsorship coming from?
“I know it’s a touchy subject but it’s a reality that we live in right now,” Ty Dillon commented on Tuesday. “I think everyone’s hopes that the new car coming in 2022 with help change some of that. We’re all hopeful for that, and yeah, it was most of my challenge this off-season.”
The third-generation racer had grown comfortable at Germain Racing, helping build the team to be able to run closer to the front of the field. However, everything fell apart upon GEICO announcing they were stepping away from the sport. As a result, Dillon was left without a ride, searching for an opportunity.
He was able to land a ride for the Daytona 500 with Gaunt Brothers Racing, but it allowed him to see how much things have changed since the last time he was looking for a ride in the Cup Series four years ago.
“I think when I came in four years ago, I was at the tail end of the guys getting a chance and didn’t have to bring a whole lot of money on their own,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “Now if you’re not bringing money, there’s really no conversation to have. You’d really love to lead with talent alone, and personality and I think I have an abundance of that, but that’s not where it’s at currently.
“I don’t think that’s fault to the owners or anyone, but I think it’s just where we need to work on things in the future of the sport and rise up the talent that brings good personality and good talent into this sport. It’s a tough landscape, especially with COVID-19, as everybody is tight on budgets in every facet. Everybody is looking in different directions to make changes.”
As a result of the ever-changing landscape and costs going up, the past couple of years have seen more buy-rides ultimately take up the grid in across all of three of NASCAR primary series, and even beyond that in the ARCA Menards Series.
It could be easy to point fingers and blame the officials or team owners, but ultimately it was a combination of everything together which allowed things to get out of control – before everybody realized what was happening.
Fortunately, there could be hope just around the horizon with NASCAR introducing the Next Generation of racecar for the 2022 season.
“I think it’s about getting the roots and making this sport more financially stable for everyone involved because when it gets to expensive, it starts affecting everyone,” he commented.
Dillon believes a focus could be put back on talent, rather than sponsorship, thanks to the cost of racing being cheaper with the new build.
“As it relates to the driver, the drivers and teams are having to work so hard to compile enough money to just make it through a full season because it is so expensive,” he explained. “So if the cost of building a racecar and running a race team comes down substantially, that need for a driver to bring $3 to $5 million to run a full series to just get your name in the hat goes away. So if we can cut $3 to $5 million off the top per team, then that’s money the driver doesn’t have to bring to go to a meeting and put his name in front, but just go off talent and personality. I think there’s no one in the sport that would say that’s not good for the sport to let some more of that come out.
“We used to talk about talent and how well people represented their sponsors and companies, now we talk about where he comes from; we’re busy connecting the dots of how he got here, and not he’s so talented and so natural in representing the companies that want to partner with him, and it creates a great relationship. That used to be the great conversation, but now it starts with connecting the dots in where his finances came from.”
As for Dillon, he was able to overcome the divide with a couple long-time supporters of her own to put together a one-race deal that shows potential to grow into more starts for 2021.
“To end up not getting into a full-time ride, I was beat out by money a couple times and that was frustrating, especially with having four years of experience, being one of the best speedway racers in my four years and winning stages with a team in Germain Racing that was still growing and developing year after year,” he admitted. “Unfortunate timing, but sometimes things work out in the best ways for careers and in life and I just believe that whatever the next opportunity hat is comes – this is the opportunity that was supposed to be there, and I’m extremely thrilled to take it.”