Caution flag for RIR

The financial turmoil surrounding Detroit’s Big Three automakers could throw a wrench into one of the area’s biggest sports engines: Richmond International Raceway.

Domestic automakers have slashed their marketing budgets, which means millions in potential losses not only for NASCAR, but also for RIR and parent company ISC Motorsports.

Chevrolet, a General Motors brand, announced this summer that it was cutting sponsorship deals at 12 tracks across the country. RIR was one of them.

Aimee Turner, a spokeswoman for the track, said Chevrolet would honor their contract that lasts through the end of the 2009 season. But after that, Chevrolet’s title sponsorship of the Chevy Rock and Roll 400 race in September will likely come to an end.

Chevrolet has sponsored the race since 2000.

“For 2010, we will probably be looking for new sponsorship, but anticipate to continue have some relationship with Chevrolet,” Turner said.

Chevrolet is the official vehicle of the race track, a sponsorship that could be cut as well. In addition, Chevrolet operates a corporate display on the raceway grounds during major events.

Turner wouldn’t say how much Chevrolet’s sponsorship contract is worth; the costs of auto-racing sponsorships are typically kept under wraps. But Sprint Cup sponsorships can exceed a million dollars, according to the Associated Press.

The track for the first time in several years didn’t sell out tickets before the race.

ISC Motorsports, which is publicly traded, anticipates earning $745 million to $765 million in 2009, as much as $40 million less than they will earn for 2008. In a recent financial statement, ISC projected a “mid single digit” decline in motor-sports related revenue for 2009. Some experts say it could be even worse. Motor-sports-related revenue is primarily composed of sponsorships and advertising.

Professional auto races at RIR contribute more than $200 million to the local economy each year, according to the track.

More reading:

Nascar’s Sponsors – Hit By Sticker Shock – New York Times

Chevrolet ad agency to shed up to 100 jobs – Left Lane News

GM Rethinks Whether It Will Keep Sponsoring Daytona, NASCAR – The Detroit News

Gentlemen, Stop Your Engines – Slate

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