Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"The Switch" Goes Viral

In this new age where everyone with a keyboard can publish globally, there is no professional sport that has more amateur newshounds than NASCAR. The reason is very simple. NASCAR is the only major professional sport that does not police the Internet.

They are, however, vigilant to the second where use of NASCAR footage on TV is concerned. One phone call from NASCAR and some TV station or producer is given the choice of writing a check or heading for court. But, for some reason, anyone can use the NASCAR logo and even post race footage with audio on the Internet with absolutely no problem.

What Internet users can also do is say almost anything without expecting a response from NASCAR. The primary reason would be that NASCAR is not in the Internet business at all. is a licensed property run by the Turner Interactive group out of Atlanta, GA. It is what is often called a "third party" website.

The number one email question sent to TDP is how can a fan send an email to NASCAR? The answer was addressed in this column (click here) and told the tale of an organization that refuses to directly engage their own consumers.

While this lack of direct Internet communication had done nothing more harmful than glut the market with NASCAR video and commentary sites, the situation has now changed in a hurry. One network TV switch from ABC to ESPN2 of a race in-progress has caused an Internet snowball that is still heading downhill and picking up steam.

Perhaps, it is the frustration of two years of basically crummy Chase for the Championship coverage by the hype-driven NASCAR on ESPN gang. Perhaps, it is the late start times and the fact that so many fans now record the races for later viewing. Whatever the situation, the story of ABC's "big switch" has gone viral and is now an Internet sensation.

My late friend Scotty Connal was smack dab in the middle of NBC's decision to remove a live NFL football game from the air to start the movie "Heidi." What ABC and ESPN did was nothing even close to that move and yet the "Heidi" incident from decades ago has been compared endlessly on the Internet to the Phoenix network switch.

Amateur websites with official-looking NASCAR logos are talking openly about ESPN being dropped from the TV contract for next season. Well, that would be news to NASCAR and ESPN. Others are talking about Brian France being outraged at the TV network. Well, that was not what I heard from Mr. France on the NASCAR teleconference. Disappointment and outrage are two very different things.

Viral is a term for a story or video that crisscrosses the Internet growing larger and larger with every listing, posting and re-write. Now, the ABC switch had been tied to everything from lack of respect for the sport to the ABC executives not being NASCAR fans.

The way to stop this is simple. Offer direct interaction with the fans and continue to apologize and explain. The only problem is NASCAR has nowhere to do that. They have no TV network, no website of their own and no daily podcast. The don't even have a little free Google blog like this one.

The only story at uses Mr. France's quotes and then links to the full transcript of his teleconference. There are no comments allowed on the story page. Checking the NASCAR homepage results in no mention of "the big switch" at all.

Hopefully, over the off-season NASCAR will have a nice big meeting and re-direct its Internet philosophy. Developing a way to communicate directly with the fans through an Internet destination is going to be key to helping the sport through 2009.

This effort will not interfere with the Turner operation and will not detract from the fine video work of The NASCAR Media Group. What it must do, however, is build a bridge to the disenfranchised fans who may just need that personal touch to continue to devote 38 weekends a year to NASCAR on TV.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.


Dot said...

JD, when viral NASCAR info is all over the internet, isn't this what the "casual" fan is reading? There's alot of misinformation out there. I would think the Emperor on down would rather have some control over it. But then, we'd have only their spin on it.

Since we get to vent on your respected site, I'm sure the suits are reading all of our rants. It would be nice to actually get a response from them though.

Daly Planet Editor said...

That is what it all comes down to Dot, they have no place to respond directly to the fans.

The model they built for new media needs to be tweaked in the off-season.

That is why I respectfully suggested that Mr. France appear on the NASCAR Countdown show before Phoenix.

NASCAR has no direct access to TV or the Internet. What a tough spot to be in as a company.


Bill H said...

What a tough spot to be in as a company.

Once the checkered flag waves next Sunday their "tough spot" will get a little tougher. I will not be drinking the kool-aid next year and paying $220 for Hotpass and Trackpass. Perhaps I will get out of the house on Sunday next year instead of sitting around watching a steak rot on the tv.

Nascar and its partners in their quest for the all mighty dollar has ruined what was a money making venture for them. Like traders on the stock market, I am getting out before it hits rock bottom. I am sure I am not the only one who will be doing it either.

As for "The Switch". It's time for Nascar to "man up" and say something. Ignoring it will not make it go away. Even if it is something as simple as, "We were blinded by all the money and didnt read the fine print that gives our broadcast partners the right to do whatever they want to our sport. BTW did you see the new Jet I got?"

Bill H

Kyle said...

JD, just to let you know where the rumor was started...

Apparently, a few fans got in touch with the "NASCAR Headquarters" and many spoke to one of the Public Relations people who said that the suits at NASCAR are really upset about ESPN not showing practices and things like that. Then they go and change the programming. Which apparently NASCAR received higher ratings then that stupid America's "Funniest" Home Videos (which is just staged events of people throwing things through windows that they were going to take out anyway).

I think NASCAR has begun to take about half of a pinky toe into this. They have had many site with NASCAR in the URL (I know from experience) remove it from the URL and redirect it to But aside from that, nothing has been done. There are too many sites like Jayski that post about anything. I personally used to have the same problem with mine. But it is too hard anymore to seperate an actual rumor from a rumor that was pulled out of midair because of everything that circulates the internet these days. So sticking with the truth is the best way to go with me personally.

Like you said, anyone can go to blogger, wordpress, etc. and create a blog that is open to millions. Wordpress, for example, is really good with search engines and actually has its own search engine built in.

Anyone can start a rumor and say Gordon leaving HMS for DEI in 2009. Yes, most people will hopefully know that that is not going to happen. I doubt that its going to end before 2014 comes in. Maybe somewhere like 2010 or 2011, but there wouldn't be enough time to get another Network on and advertise it. Plus, the only network that would really be available is NBC, and I think we can remember the fuss about them. And Speed is not in nearly enough homes yet.

Kyle said...

Didn't complete the thought in the last comment. The second part of why the rumor was caused was that the PR rep said that NASCAR could be looking at changes, and/or eluding to that.

Skip said...

I think the reason that there's been such an outcry over this is simple. A large percentage of us are Tivo-ing or otherwise recording the races due to the extremely late start times. I know that I do for every single race. About half the time I'll watch the race during the evening, and about half the time I'll start the race 60-90 minutes in, which usually results in seeing the end of the race just about live.

So guess what, ESPN. You lost me for this season. I'm not watching either of the final two races on your network. It's not that great a loss because the nationwide races are usually not very good, and we know that the cup race is going to be nothing but a closeup on the 48 for the entire race. Or maybe a split-screen of the 48 in-car camera and the exterior shot. But still, if they hadn't thumbed their noses at us I'd have watched it.

NASCAR needs to realize that when they make changes that cause people to switch from 'plan my Sunday afternoon around watching the race' to 'maybe I'll watch it if I'm not busy', they may never get those fans back. And to pull this post semi-back on topic, if they had better interaction with the fans on the internet, maybe they'd realize this.

darbar said...

What is Nascar afraid of? Why do they refuse to join the computer age and modernize their sport? They're not going to hear anything different than they already hear from their disillusioned fan base via other means. Sticking their collective heads in the sand doesn't change reality. The sport is sinking, their corporate sponsorships continue to shrink, and despite the fact that their beloved COT, which was supposed to level the playing field and reduce costs, has been shown to be a failure in those respects. When you add the unfavorable reviews of the coverage from their contracted partner ESPN, Nascar is is big trouble, in more ways than one. The ONLY thing that will cause Brian France to come out of his self-induced coma is for him to receive a direct, and enormous, hit in his wallet.

Anonymous said...
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Sophia said...

"We were blinded by all the money and didnt read the fine print that gives our broadcast partners the right to do whatever they want to our sport. BTW did you see the new Jet I got?"

Bill H

I so agree with this statement. I think this has to be it...or it must be NASCAR's motto.

While I have been critical of ESPN much of the time, I have to finally believe NASCAR is no longer in control...NOR do TPTB care.

Let's face it, would any football league allow the camera roulette we have seen this year between NW and Cup? In all fairness, this happened to the IRL also..and I remember one time early this season or end of last season, IRL changed the station 3 times due to a golf tournament, I believe.

I am glad fans have gone 'viral'. It's much deserved. Be curious to know the percentage that taped/or DVR'd the race, too.

glenc1 said...

JD, I seem to remember about 10 years ago, trying to e-mail NASCAR and realizing it didn't go directly to them. Hard to imagine nothing has changed in all that time. 'This is crazy; this is crazy', to quote your favorite ad...

Skip and Sophia--just a guess on my part, but I doubt that the percentage of TIVO'ers is 'large'...I can't remember what numbers I last saw, but as I recall the vast majority of people don't have TIVO or DVR....

glenc1 said...

sorry, I know that you both said 'record' as well, but I still don't think that would encompass that many people...and I don't know that it's something that can be in all fairness perhaps it's pointless to say the number is big or small if it can't be measured...

Richard in N.C. said...

JD, The disrespectful ABC switch was just the most recent ESPN slight to its customers in my view.

My anger goes to the current management's screwing up of something I have enjoyed and valued for years - ESPN.

I have watched and, in general, enjoyed ESPN since the days of Australian Rules Football. Watching today's ESPN is like seeing the home of a childhood friend rented out to a hippie commune and painted a garish color - like Dawg Pound orange. One can only hope it will come to its senses, but I doubt that will occur until there is a viable, national competitor.

In fact I find ESPN's NASCAR coverage to be some of its better work today. I find First Take, many of ESPN's commentators, and its Sunday NFL coverage (other than NFL Matchup) to be of much, much poorer quality. Much of its commentaries, especially re the NFL, seem not to be honest, but only to provide controversy.

In my view today most of the time ESPN displays an arrogance and we're better than you attitude - the culmination of which was the switch of Sunday's race to ESPN2. If the switch had been done for one of the first 8 races I would have just taken that as the way the cookie crumbles. But ESPN switched Sunday when the championship could have been decided on ESPN2.

If ABC/ESPN had no contingency plan to take into account the possibility of the championship's being decided after the switch, then in my view that demonstrates a gross lack of foresight, a gross disregard for its customers, and very poor, shortsighted business judgment.

Bottom line, ESPN is no longer a sports network, it is now just an entertainment, lifestyle vendor where amateur videos are just as worthy as a property in which it has invested months and millions.

Kyle said...

Also JD, what exactly do you mean by "official-looking NASCAR Logos". Do you you mean when people use the color bar logo with their name replacing nascar? Or the low-resolution logos snatched from Google?

Sophia said...

for the record, we only have VCR's in this house. 4 of, 3 and a half..some are very old and my room mate will use two so one is a back up.

I taped a race a few weeks ago camehome and the tape had spat out of the player. I must have set the wrong tape speed...funny, I caught the last 25 laps and it was enough.

I think part of the viral is folks up in arms for their households and the impact of the country...and we thought we could count on NASCAR races to distract us...and when they made the switch, thus the reaction.

Frankly, this last part of the season I have enjoyed the SPEED boys more than the race broadcast. Kinda sad ain't it? I get more fan appreciation and details from watching prac and qual on SPEED and info on TWIN.

I did like RACEDAY and like the folks on the show but it's just TOO LONG at two hours.

And for folks with just basic cable it's tough to count on ESPN to deliver the goods on the sport.

And where else can you find Gazoo, who's character's voice was the late Harvey Korman of Carol Burnett show fame. :-) but on TWIN. The Great Gazoo made it on the bonus footage this week on

Daly Planet Editor said...


If you would like to discuss the issue of Internet copyright, please drop me an email. Thank you.

I would respectfully suggest that no one, at any time from the NASCAR PR office ever has made a comment to a phone caller about "being upset" about ESPN.

This is a billion dollar eight year TV contract that has all types of content including international broadcasts and multi-series live coverage.

I assure you ESPN and ABC will be back for 2009. Reporting otherwise as fact is simply off-base.


3KillerBs said...

You're absolutely right about the problem of Nascar not providing an opportunity to directly receive fan feedback and to respond directly to fan concerns. Its a serious oversight to ignore something that could readily be used to foster goodwill. I hope that they, at least, have someone assigned to read the Nascar-related internet -- both the "official" journalists and the amateur/independent ones.

Let me clear up a misconception. I do not tape races because of the late start times. I tape races because I have a family and that means multiple commitments in my life ranging from bullseye pistol competitions with my daughter to watching Steelers games with my DH to playing board games with my 8yo.

In fact, later start times often permit me to arrange my family activities so that I can accomplish them early in the afternoon and then settle in for the race at 4 (anyone who has nothing to do with a Sunday afternoon but mope around waiting for the race to start needs a life).

Obviously its better for everyone -- fans, Nascar, networks, sponsors, etc -- if everyone watches live. However, it is better that I tape races to watch than that I miss races completely -- better for me as a fan and better for all the Nascar sponsors whom I see on screen.

If Nascar went to the 12 noon starts that some "old school" fans call for I would have to tape every race. Church theoretically ends at noon. Most pastors run a bit long. Then you have to drive home. Then we ladies (its almost always the ladies), have to make lunch for the entire family.

Back in those "old school" days women may never have been allowed to dream of watching a race from flag to flag -- contenting themselves with brief glimpses as they waited on their men and kept the kids out of the way. If that day ever existed its long over. I'm not Edith Bunker and I don't know any woman who is.

Supposedly 40% of Nascar's fan base is female. Alienating them -- at least the ones who have families -- by ensuring that they'd never see a green flag all year would not be a wise move.

Ideally, green flag should fall no sooner than 1pm eastern and no later than 2pm eastern FOR EAST COAST RACES.

It would be utter nonsense to expect west coast races to run on east coast time (though its common sense that even west coast night races should not be scheduled to run past midnight eastern).

Still, its easy to live with less than ideal scheduling (thanks in part to that recording device), as long as I know in advance where the race, ALL OF IT, will be broadcast.

GinaV24 said...

Great summary, JD, as always. I almost spit my tea on the keyboard though at the thought that NASCAR might actually WANT to interact with their fans. No, not really. As long as the fans keep showing up, tuning in and spending money on NASCAR stuff, that's all the interaction that NASCAR really needs with, in Kyle Petty's words, "the lunatic fans". Nope, we'll keep using the internet to talk to one another and comment on blogs like this one about NASCAR racing, but we will never ever get to actually let the Emperor know that he's not wearing any clothes. Third party website, indeed. I used to send them e-mails at the fanfeedback address until I read your information and realized that I was just wasting my time trying to be heard. Now, I come here -- at least there's a knowledgeable person behind this site.

glenc1 said...

Sophia, I've messed up that tape speed thing more times than I care to remember...

I still use my VCR even though I have a DVD recorder (both of which I can use to time shift a race, but I rarely do unless it's a favorite track.) with so many races on the schedule, skipping a few is not a big deal to me--sometimes I record and then never watch it...

But I was thinking this morning--we are all so used to e-mailing, but seriously--if we took the time to actually type out a letter and send it snail mail, they have a corporate address and *someone* would get it. Probably wouldn't pay any more attention to it that way, but it is just a thought...

3bud said...

You would think in this computer age that NASCAR would find at least some sort of forum or blog of it's own a necessity.DirecTv has a forum of it's own as part of it's website, where you can talk about various issues or even gripe about DirecTv issues.There are other ones out there but I have found you get the most reliable information from the DirecTv forum,so you would think it would be in NASCAR's best interest to do the same so the most reliable information could be circulated. A little off topic how many times have we seen switched to ESPN Classic prerace Nationwide cover as to not interrupt college football ,prerecorded Happy Hour etc. Point is those games were not switched to another station to make room for NASCAR but NASCAR possible Championship clinch is switched for America's Funnest Home Video. Just shows a total lack of respect for the sport IMO.

Anonymous said...

The latest Regime in NASCAR has no more interest in what the fans think than they do in what the competitors think . Remember the good old days when Bill France Jr. would talk to Petty , Earnhardt , and the others to get their input . Can anyone name an instance of Brian walking through the garage area , cornering a driver to get his ideas on the rules or the racing ? I suspect Brian would need a map to find the garage area .
And you can be sure that any fan interaction with NASCAR will be handled by interns in the marketing department that have never even seen a stockcar race and have a script that they are to follow to the letter .

midasmicah said...

I thank God the cup season is almost over. I'm tired of beating the same horse time and again. Brian France and the other heads of na$car have become woefully distant from their fans. Not that they've ever pretended to be overly concerned, but it's gotten worse. The switch left some of us on the west coast confused also. But like you said JD. When you sell your soul to the devil, this is the end result. You reap what you sow. I don't know if I can take another year of this. As long as "the mayor" is still racing, I'll still have some interest. But the "fanatic" as in fan has left me. I'm just sad. Thanks for listening

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, the "Great Switch" is a reality check for NASCAR. It confirmed that in the wider world, NASCAR is regarded as a second tier entertainment property.

The actuality was that the switch was just an inconvenience for the majority of fans. It is the perceived arrogance and disrespect that most fans find offensive.

In my opinion, if each TV partner posted their respective policies in advance regarding major race delays, fans would know what to expect. There are too many third parties involved in a network broadcast to be as flexible as we might desire.

This issue could have easily been addressed on the non existent NASCAR Internet portal that JD suggests.


RRoberts -Durham NC said...

Just FYI.. I've sent three or four e-mails to Ramsey Poston, and always received a reply. I believe his title is NASCAR's Managing Director of Communications. The first e-mail was, well, let's just say it wasn't the most polite letter I've ever sent. =) The other e-mails weren't so.. abrasive.. and I've always heard back within a day or so.

Daly Planet Editor said...


The NASCAR PR staff is fantastic. They have been a big help to me for the past two seasons.

I think you can clearly see that the point I am making is that direct email access to NASCAR is not available to the fans through or any other public site.

The media site is a great resource for all types of journalists, but cannot serve the general public.

No one is trying to suggest that the NASCAR PR staff is not responsive to media contacts.

The point of the column is to make clear that fans surfing the Internet or trying to find a contact at are not going to be able to do so.

Thank you for your comment.


RROberts - Durham, NC said...

Thanks for the reply JD. You're correct in that there is no easy access that I'm aware of.

I actually had to guess at Mr. Poston's e-mail address, and I'm assuming that the real person is the one replying to me. The replies certainly sound like NA$CAR-speak.

The only other avenue that I'm aware of where fans can communicate directly with NASCAR is through their NASCAR Fan Council questionnaires. I'm a member of that group, and occasionally get the questionnaire to fill out. Most of it is guided responses, where you check a check box, but they always have a free text section where you can comment on whatever you like. I've always filled mine out, but I can't say I've ever seen that my feedback was reviewed or replied to.

Other than that, I'll have to agree that the virtual NASCAR castle is pretty well impenetrable.

GinaV24 said...

RRoberts, interesting, I'm on that "fan council" deal too and like you I sure do use the opportunity to "comment". They did some sort of a summary of the survey back about 4 months ago, but there hasn't been anything since, so there goes another avenue for fans. I figured NASCAR didn't like the answers they were getting, so they quit asking. There's another good way to run a business! Not! Anyway, I was just reading on Jayski (Pete Pistone's column) -- JD, I hope I can reference it here? He stated that the provision in the TV contract is that they can switch within the "family of networks", so ABC/ESPN had the right to do it, even though my opinion that it is a shame they did hasn't changed.

Ken said...

I am not surprised that the race was switched. I realized long ago that NA$CAR has a very limited audience regardless of what others want to think. It is much like tennis, soccer and other sports that have a very dedicated but limited following. The instant gratification public does not have the patience to watch 4 hours of TV to see 4 minutes of action. I think NA$CAR is losing many newer fans because the sport has not lived up to their expectations and they are losing old time fans because of the changes that attempts to recruit new fans.

My DVR is set to automatically record every NA$CAR race in case I have something more interesting to do or I fall asleep. I wouldn't mind the change if they would announce up front that the race would be switched to another station at a certain time if it is not over. That way, I could set my DVR to handle the change.

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- Since I am frequently told that I am border-line computer literate, wouldn't there be a way that a "Contact Us" or "Contact NASCAR" feature could be added to the site with the messages sent thereto periodically forwarded to NASCAR? The first time I went to one of the first things I noticed was that there was no way to communicate with the site unless it was about a problem or a question about an order.

Daly Planet Editor said...

richard, is a third party for profit business run by Turner.

They have only offered support and email since the start.

Tons of email that is sent to them by fans thinking they are contacting NASCAR is routinely deleted.

A little off-season change could go a long way.


Tracy said...

Keeping up with an internet form of communications with fans would be a BIG job. Plus, how do they monitor the responses? Have only form letters those handling the inbox are allowed to use? I'm looking at this from both sides - the frustrated fan who'd like to be heard - and the business that can't wrap its head around how to keep up with what will probably be a gigantic job to handle with tact, grace, and a modicum of truth. Sounds like an impossible job for Nascar, to be honest. Please note the "Nascar" disclaimer.

I've emailed the president of Lowe's, (found his e-addy on the web with relative ease) and you bet I got a response answering my question. But they're in business to keep the customers coming through the door. I doubt Nascar fans are convinced that TPTB in the France family have the same goal. Which may be the answer as to why there's no direct and easily available way to contact Nascar on the Web. Nascar doesn't want one.

Anonymous said...

What NASCAR doesn't yet realize is the money to be made on the internet. Once they do, they'll wise up real quick.

I saw a special on baseball the other day, and commissioner Bud Selig talked about how behind MLB was with the internet until about 2.5 years ago. Now, less than 900 days later, the internet is bringing in something like 25-35% of team revenue!

Anonymous said...

Tons of email that is sent to them by fans thinking they are contacting NASCAR is routinely deleted.

A little off-season change could go a long way.

Sure, but NASCAR likes it that way. Then they don't have to be bothered to answer.

Anonymous said...
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AFMSgt said...


I have been an avid reader of this blog since last year and it has become one of the defacto voices of large amounts of the NASCAR fan base. Between your blog and David Poole's blog it is pretty clear what the state of the NASCAR fan is and it is not happy.

The problem is that NASCAR has shown that it has only minimal concern for the fans. The problem is that without the fans, there is no business reason for NASCAR to exist. The thing that scares me most is that during a period of fan discontent, the global business community is also having large problems.

NASCAR racing is very dependent on the business community. That community makes financial decisions based on metrics - and the metrics related to NASCAR are not good:
- Viewership has been consistently decreasing since its peak in 2005,

- Advertising costs are higher due to the new TV deal;

- Sponsorship costs are at their highest ever; and

- Fan attendance is markedly lower at all tracks. Even Daytona is affected... they are not selling tickets for the superstretch for the July race due to lack of demand;

I fear that this could become a perfect storm of events that could lead to severe contraction in the sport:

- Facts are that ESPN only provides TV coverage of the top-10 (and barely that);

- The sponsors, already strapped for advertising funds, see diminished value in sponsoring a mid-level team due to lack of TV coverage;

- Teams outside the big four - Roush, Hendrick, JGR, and RCR - continue to disappear... unable to retain sponsors nor TV coverage to develop a fan base

- We are left with what was killing MLB: the Yankees syndrome. Only the powerhouse teams survive and fan base starts to disappear... along with race attendance.

Combine those factors with a very large recession looming and I consider stock car racing, the sport I truly love, to be at significant risk.

How long did it take MLB to recapture the fans it lost due to the '94 strike? I have heard that it never really did. Everyone has a stake in success - or will suffer with its failure. There have been estimates that there could be between 500-1000 NASCAR team members out of work on Monday after Homestead. Not a good sign - now is NOT the time for a diminished product.

NASCAR in Daytona needs to start looking at itself as a portfolio of capabilities - not a single business entity. If one fails, then all are at risk. The extended NASCAR group of businesses really needs to develop a collaborative solution that will help all: this would include all of the stakeholders... NASCAR (both the biz side in Daytona and operations side in Concord), the TV networks, ISC and SMC, and the independent track owners. That needs to be combined with some way to measure the desires of the fans... the cornerstone of the strength of the NASCAR product. No fans, no bucks. No bucks, no Buck Rodgers.

For the sake of the sport so many of us love and for those teams, officials, and track workers that make it happen, I hope NASCAR gets its collective s#%t together and starts to work out sustainable solutions.

I shall continue to hope...

Anonymous said...

I still say its ABC who is to blame, not ESPN.

Richard in N.C. said...

Bob Margolis has an interesting article saying that he found from talking to fans at the track that fans are not nearly as dissatisfied as the predominant stories in the media say.

It does seem to me that the networks' failing to give exposure to mid- and lower-level teams during the races is contributing to the problems those teams are having in keeping or getting sponsorship.