Hand Shake Deals, No Longer Good in the World of NASCAR

NASCAR's Silly Season moves to a new level with the recent dust-up between Richard Petty Motorsports and Smithfield Foods.

The 43 Petty / Smithfield Ford
Lasco Press Photo

By now most avid NASCAR fans know that Smithfield Foods will no longer be a sponsor for Richard Petty Motorsports. In case you missed it, the news broke Sunday 9/10 and was reported by Lee Spencer NASCAR Senior Writer at Motorsports.com. By Tuesday, Richard Petty and Kenneth Sullivan, President, and CEO of Smithfield Foods had engaged in a social media war of words. Petty claiming that a “hand shake” deal was in place for 2018 and Sullivan calling Petty a liar.

It is interesting to read Smithfield’s Twitter Tweet, especially the portion below.

“It is very unfortunate and disheartening that RPM has chosen to disseminate false statements regarding our communications to NASCAR fans who we have supported wholeheartedly with more than a $100 million investment in the sport over the last several years.”

Since Bob Weber, Vice President of Corporate Marketing at Smithfield Foods, left his post earlier in the year you have to wonder who’s running the PR department at Smithfield? It is interesting to note Sullivan talks about supporting NASCAR fans with more than a $100 million investment. No mention of NASCAR fans supporting Smithfield Foods by buying their products.

The King Holds Court
Lasco Press Photo

Why, after investing $100 millon dollars in the sport would you publicly denounce the man who has undoubtedly been the face of the sport for the last 50 years? A beloved iconic figure to a large percentage of NASCAR fans and industry insiders.

Only a few people know the true facts of what occurred, one is no longer involved with either party. Could disagreements over the direction of Smithfield’s advertising dollars in NASCAR be the reason Weber resigned? Regardless of how it all went down, who is going to come out looking like the villain? It’s great Smithfield intends to remain a sponsor in the sport, NASCAR needs every sponsor it can find that’s willing to invest in a race team. But you have to wonder will that investment provide the return it has in the past?

NASCAR fans are noted for their brand loyalty, people that love the sport support those brands with their pocketbooks. In my wallet, the only gas card you will find is one from Sunoco. Outback is my favorite Steakhouse, I used to eat sandwiches from Subway and Jimmy Johns. But now I lean more to Kevin Harvick’s sponsor than the one that left Daniel Suarez. Will I reach past the Smithfield Bacon to grab another brands package?

No Winner in this Contest

Petty with his driver Aric Almirola
Lasco Press Photo

Likely no one wins in this situation. This may be the blow that retires the King to North Carolina and all of NASCAR suffers for it. Smithfield Foods may wish they had remained mute and rode out the firestorm. Instead of throwing fuel on it. But then again there are those who believe even bad press is good press. Yes, we are writing about it.

Men like Petty, Junior Johnson, the Wood Brothers, and I’m sure Bill France Sr. did many a deal on a hand shake. Your word of honor was more important than a signature on a piece of paper. It’s sad that this incident will finally leave that era firmly behind us. Everyone being more cautious to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. My Dad was right, I should have studied to be a lawyer.

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