Ford Racing pulls back slightly at Homestead, fan experience remains focus
By Scott E. Pacheco
Ford Racing is pulling back slightly on its financial commitment to the Ford 400 Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Most notably missing will be a 50-foot tower that featured a Ford truck rotating on top.
"We've had to scale back a little bit," said Tim Duerr, NASCAR marketing manager for Ford Racing. "From a budget standpoint we've had to scale back from a display standpoint."
But that doesn't mean fan experience will be lessened.
Coca-Cola has stepped up to co-sponsor the Coke Zero Racefest today (11/19) at the Seminole Hard Rock in Broward County. But under the Ford Motor Co. umbrella, including areas such as the parts division, expenditures will end up being the same as in 2008, just with a smaller contribution from the racing department, Mr. Duerr said.
"Our contribution to the weekend has lessened.… We are just trying to be more efficient in how we spend the funds during the weekend in order to maximize the return," he said. He declined to say how much Ford spends on the weekend.
Ford has been the center of good news lately, posting a profit of nearly $1 billion in the third quarter and $1.8 billion through September.
And the North American division reported a profit of $357 million, the first profitable quarter since the first quarter of 2005.
Still, Mr. Duerr said, that doesn't mean the company should splurge.
"Keep in mind a lot of the profit that we had within the third quarter was the result of the government's Cash for Clunkers," he said. "We're off life support but we are still in intensive care. We still have our work cut out for us for to stay competitive with our competitors that did accept the bailout.
"We still want to remain very productive but yet cautious as far as our overall expenditures."
Cash for Clunkers let people turn in old cars for a tax credit toward a new, more fuel-efficient vehicle. Of the major three American automakers, Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, Ford was the only one that didn't accept federal bailout funds when the economy hit the skids a year ago.
"We still have tremendous debt," Mr. Duerr said. "And therein is our focus: to continue to be profitable every quarter to pay down our debt."
The deal between Homestead and Ford started in 2002 and runs through 2014 — the largest motorsport sponsorship agreement in the company's history, according to Ford.
According to Ford, 52% of Ford Division buyers are race fans, with 60% of F-Series buyers saying they're race fans. That makes Ford Division 15% higher than the Industry average of 44%, and F-Series buyers 27% higher than the average.
That's one reason the race continues to be an important marketing tool for the company. The Ford 400 is also the last racing weekend of the year, when the season's champion is often crowned.
Said Mr. Duerr, "It's a year-long investment because people talk about it and create the awareness for that weekend all year long."