WALL STREET WEST: Up-to-the-minute reaction to the financial crisis
DATE:2008-10-18  FROM:  AUTHOR:  DOWN:2548
The spreading financial gloom that envelops Wall Street has hit the most Main Street of American sports: NASCAR.

The popular race circuit has expanded beyond its redneck roots in the Deep South to capture fat profits and a huge TV audience throughout North America. But now it has turned into another high-profile victim of the global financial crisis and a rapidly slowing economy.

Some of the most illustrious names in the sport, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip, have suddenly lost a slew of big-time sponsors as struggling auto makers, flailing financial firms and retrenching oil companies decide they have better things to do with their shrinking capital than spend up to $25 million annually to sponsor a team.

NASCAR races are supposed to have 43 cars. But fields are certain to be smaller next year.

“There’s maybe 26 teams that have sponsorship for next year, and five or six that have partial,” Waltrip told Bloomberg News.

As money for deals dries up, stadium financing charges soar, expenses climb and major corporate sponsors disappear, the sports gravy train is definitely sputtering.

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