News & Media


Roush drivers still struggling to find sponsors

March 11, 2012, Jill Erwin, NASCAR.com

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the Las Vegas Nationwide race, but he didn't have many sponsors to thank in Victory Lane. (Autostock)

LAS VEGAS -- Kenseth, Stenhouse have half-season deals; Bayne's situation is bleaker

Roush Fenway Racing has the past two Daytona 500 winners and the defending Nationwide Series champion in its stable. All of them are in the top five in their respective series points standings.

None of them have a full season of sponsorship.

Staying positive


Daytona 500 champ Matt Kenseth doesn't have a full-season sponsor, but that isn't keeping him from staying upbeat on what the season holds.

Matt Kenseth, winner of this year's 500, had a press conference Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to announce a new deal with Zest, but he's still only got primary sponsorship for about half of the 36 Sprint Cup Series points races.

Nationwide champ Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has partial-season deals with two sponsors, but he's still missing the big-money backer for which he's been searching.

And Trevor Bayne has what is expected to be approximately 19 races between Cup and Nationwide, enough to keep him in the car but not enough to keep him there every week.

However, the shifting sponsor-team power struggle and the focus of RFR to keep its young stars within the family and on the track has led to struggles that team president Steve Newmark say are showing signs of lessening.

"We're pretty excited about how things are moving in a positive direction," Newmark said. "The number of meetings that we're entertaining now is exponentially higher than what we were seeing a year and a half ago. The main difference is we got spoiled in prior years in which you'd meet with a prospect and two days later you signed a deal because you told them if they didn't take it there were 10 more waiting in the wings to take it.

"Companies are a little more conservative with their marketing dollars. We're talking about a lot more innovative and creative programs. I do think you'll see that bear fruit, it just might not happen in the next week or two weeks, but it will happen in time."

Newmark said he expected to have some announcements in the next two to three weeks regarding sponsorship for Stenhouse, and said the team was having several meetings about Kenseth.

Bayne's situation, however, was described by Newmark as "the one that has been tough and that I think is going to be difficult."

The 21-year-old is third in the Nationwide points; all of those races were run without sponsorship. However, Saturday's Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas was the last guaranteed Nationwide race for Bayne this season.

"The number of meetings that we're entertaining now is exponentially higher than what we were seeing a year and a half ago."

--STEVE NEWMARK

Newmark is hoping Bayne can get a minimum of six more races the rest of the season.

But nothing is written in stone, and that's hard for Bayne to swallow as he hunts hard for even local sponsorship for the next two races -- Bristol and Auto Club Speedway.

"I'd love to to run the full deal; that's my goal," Bayne said. "We've got to make sure we can get to Bristol and California first, and then we have two weeks off to try to work on it."

The optimism is still strong in Newmark, but he knows it's more of a long-term fix than any miracle sponsor that will soon appear and solve all the problems.

"I think you'll see Trevor's character in the sense that he understands the economic situation and how it's unfolding and I think he appreciates the opportunity Jack gave him last year to run without sponsorship when really there was no one else in the garage who was going to step up and do that," Newmark said. "But he's also a competitor and 21 years old. That kid would be in the car seven days a week if you would allow it. I do have a lot of confidence in Trevor's ability to handle that -- probably a lot better than I would have handled it at his age."

Stenhouse ran a Ford EcoBoost paint scheme at Las Vegas which is, in effect, a house ad for the manufacturer. Rather than running a plain white car, RFR plasters the car in Ford colors.

The comeback story of the year in 2011, Stenhouse wants more in the long term. Rather than moving to the Cup Series in 2012, Stenhouse told Roush he wanted to run one more season of Nationwide to continue his growth as a driver, and he's hoping to find a sponsor who wants to start in Nationwide and move to Cup with him.

"We have some great partners as it is, and we're looking for that one that can stay with us and grow with us and that's what we're looking for," Stenhouse said. "That's the plan. That's what I've always wanted is to have that 3M sponsorship like Greg Biffle does and stay with that one company. That would be ideal, so that's what we're hoping for."