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NASCAR'S New Breed Of Owners

This post is from guest blogger Sarah Talalay:

Walk through the NASCAR garage area these days and scattered among the team owners who were former drivers and mechanics or are auto parts company executives, you’ll find a growing number of businessmen who don’t have grease under their fingernails.

In 2007, among the notable new faces to join NASCAR:

Boston Red Sox owner and commodities guru John Henry partnered with NASCAR veteran Jack Roush to form Fenway Racing.

George Gillett, owner of the Montreal Canadiens and co-owner of the English soccer team, Liverpool Football Club, joined longtime Jeff Gordon crew chief Ray Evernham to form Gillett Evernham Motorsports.

Arizona Diamondbacks executives Jeff Moorad (a former baseball agent) and Tom Garfinkel bought controlling interest of Hall of Fame Racing from former Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman.

The sport, which traces its roots to bootleggers who needed fast drivers to deliver illegal moonshine, has grown into a corporate darling with 75 million fans. Now its ownership has evolved, too. Roush said once the sport captured the interest of “main street and Wall Street,” businessmen began to take note.

“It’s matured to the point that the John Henrys and George Gilletts have got a legitimate interest based on the performance results from a business point of view of the various business units, from the T-shirt business to the owning racetracks to owning racecars to being suppliers to the race cars for parts,” Roush said Sunday at NASCAR’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Get used to it, says longtime NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter.

“It costs so much money to race today. We’re probably going to see more of that,” Hunter said. “Those [businessmen] who have experience in other professional sports, there’s some things that they can learn from NASCAR in the way you market a racecar and a race team and apply it to other professional sports and vice versa.”

Moorad said he was attracted to sport’s sponsor-focused business model. “The intriguing thing about NASCAR from a team ownership standpoint is the ability to focus in on efforts of the sport itself with no pressure to sell tickets, to worry about broadcast contracts or the venues that the sport occurs in,” Moorad said.

Hunter predicts that an even newer breed of owner could be the driver-owner who retires earlier than his predecessors—since there’s more money to be made today—and uses his racing and business-savvy to build a team. A model for that type of owner could be Tony Stewart. Stewart, who owns racetracks and cars, drove his last race for Joe Gibbs Racing Sunday and moves onto becoming a driver-owner with Stewart-Haas Racing next year.

STEWART’S NEW TEAM
Stewart also gets new sponsors. He moves from the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota to the No. 14 Chevrolet, co-sponsored by Office Depot and Old Spice. Both company names will appear on the car for every Sprint Cup race, but Office Depot will be the primary sponsor for 22 races; Old Spice for 14.

Luckily both Office Depot’s and Old Spice’s palette color is red. It’s exactly the same red. In case you’re looking to re-paint your walls: that’s PMS (stands for the universal color chart’s Pantone Matching System) 186.

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Sarah Talalay has been the sports business writer at the South Florida Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale for the past nine years. Read her sports business blog at sunsentinel.com/sportsbiz.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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