APR Says Show Me The Money

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ROCKINGHAM, N.C. – Economics being the way they are these days, a NASCAR Winston Cup Series victory – an impressive one at that – could be as good as gold for teams looking for a sponsor for next year.

At least that’s what car owner Andy Petree is counting on, following Joe Nemechek’s dominating triumph in Sunday’s Pop Secret 400 at North Carolina Speedway.

Petree is in the process of looking for a primary sponsor for his No. 33 Chevy, currently occupied by Nemechek. His current sponsor, Oakwood Homes, announced earlier this year that it would not be returning for the 2002 season. Nemechek, in turn, will not be back as the driver of the car, either, as he’ll be behind the wheel of the No. 26 Ford owned by Travis Carter.

With only three races left in the 2001 season, time is rapidly running out before preseason testing in January and the Daytona 500 in February. New and available existing sponsors are few and far between, but Petree hopes this victory will help turn some heads and loosen the money belts of potential financial backers.

“You can’t understate what a win like this could do for us,” Petree said. “I just wish this would have come earlier in the year so we would have been able to keep this deal together and keep Joe in the car.

“I can say that we do have a lot things going right now, and this is by far the best team available that needs a sponsor. Trying to get sponsors for both of my cars (the No. 33 Chevy and the No. 55 Chevy driven by Bobby Hamilton) has been very stressful on us this year and it’s taken a toll on all of us. But this victory is enormous. It gives us a tremendous amount of pride and it gives us a lot of ammunition when it comes to talking to potential sponsors.”

So does the fact that not only does Andy Petree Racing have two victories this season, but it has one victory each on a 1-mile oval (North Carolina Speedway) and a superspeedway (Talladega Superspeedway). Hamilton won the spring race at Talladega, coming from behind on the final lap to give Petree his first triumph as a Winston Cup car owner.

Square D also announced earlier this season that it could not afford to come back as the sponsor of the No. 55 Chevy. However, Square D’s parent company, Schneider Electric, merged with a company named Legrand, a deal that was finalized in mid-October.

Schneider Electric/Schneider Legrand is now using their sponsorship of the No. 55 Chevy as a rallying point for their organization.

Petree said he hopes the victories he’s gained at diverse tracks will be a strong selling point for a potential sponsor for the No. 33 Chevy.

“It obviously depends on who it is,” Petree said. “If they have a long history in racing, they will realize the difference between winning a restrictor-plate race and one at Rockingham. A restrictor-plate race is a whole different animal. I’ll tell ya, to be honest, I’m stunned we won this race, and I’m stunned about the way we did it. But it certainly will be a big boost for us.”

If Nemechek had his druthers, he would have stayed at Andy Petree Racing into next year. With the early announcement of Oakwood Homes’ departure, however, Nemechek said he wasn’t sure what the status of job would be by the end of the 2001 season, so he had to weigh all of his options.

Although it has yet to be formally announced, the deal with Carter’s team was appealing for him and his family, so he snapped it up.

“These victories are so hard to get, and I wish this would have happened earlier in the year, too,” Nemechek said. “It’s been a long time since I won (1999 at New Hampshire). It’s an elite group to be able to be in the Winston Cup winner’s circle. Now, to be able to win twice, it feels pretty good.

“This is a good race team, and I know they’ll get a sponsor and that Andy and this team will be successful down the road. Winning this race should definitely help that along.”

Petree said he doesn’t plan on going to Daytona next year without a sponsor, but that he’ll deal with it when the time comes.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” Petree said. “I’m trying not to plan for anything right now, but we’ll just wait and see what happens. Hopefully, we won’t have to worry about that.”

With the way the American economy has gone lately, as well as the sponsorship situation in NASCAR, he might not have a choice.

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