Canadian Tire Ending Partnership with Canadian NASCAR Series

Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Feb. 17 2015, 10:07 AM EST
Last updated Tuesday, Feb. 17 2015, 5:57 PM EST

Canada’s top stock car series needs to look for a new title sponsor.

Canadian Tire will end its decade-long partnership with the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series (NCTS) at the end of 2015, a move that may leave stock cars on shaky ground in this country.

“For over eight years, Canadian Tire and NASCAR have shared a successful partnership that has helped grow the sport of auto racing in Canada,” the company said in a written statement.

“We’ve shared with NASCAR our decision to end the partnership at the end of the 2015 season. We are proud to have brought The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series to racing enthusiasts across the country. We will continue to be a sponsor of the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and support Canadian drivers and racing where it makes sense in the future.”

The exit also includes ending sponsorship of three-time NCTS champion Scott Steckly. The move comes 10 years into NASCAR’s ownership of the series, which was supposed to breathe new life into the old CASCAR Series. In reality, it’s almost impossible to see any difference, and it’s tough to blame Canadian Tire for jumping ship because it’s doubtful the retailer gets much value for its sponsorship money.

With almost non-existent live television exposure, its visibility is almost zero. That, in turn, makes it difficult for young talent to get backing and move to bigger and better things, which is supposed to be a regional series’ raison d’être. It’s also no surprise that young star J.R. Fitzpatrick announced this month that he’d rather go back to late model racing than spend $1-million in NCTS.

The retailer’s decision may now open the door to spend money elsewhere. For example, IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe is probably the most popular Canadian racer and a marketer’s dream and Canadian Tire may want to look at riding his rising star.

Although IndyCar isn’t breaking any audience records lately, its races are on live TV, its audience is bigger than NCTS and growing, and it has the added lure of the Indianapolis 500.

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