The US National Guard has spent $44 million on sponsorships in NASCAR and IndyCar this year, a particularly troubling figure in a time when every military expenditure is given careful scrutiny. That's prompted some members of Congress to question the usefulness of the motorsports partnerships.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, has been one of the most vocal critics of the guard's motorsports sponsorships, saying the part-time army wastes "a bunch of money on a very expensive sports sponsorship" that offers no conclusive benefits to recruitment figures. McCaskill's statements came back in May, and are now apparently being met with action, as the guard has officially terminated both its NASCAR and IndyCar sponsorships.
"Significantly constrained resources and the likelihood of further reductions in the future call for more innovative and cost-effective ways of doing business," Maj. Gen. Judd H. Lyons, the guard's acting director, said in a statement.
In May, a USA Today report found that the guard's NASCAR sponsorship led to 24,800 recruiting prospects in 2012, but that only 20 met the entry qualifications (that works out to 0.0008-percent eligibility). Of those 20, none signed on.
The guard currently sponsors drivers Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the IndyCar series and fan favorite Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Hendrick Motorsports, in the Sprint Cup.
RLL Racing co-owner Bobby Rahal said he was disappointed considering the "significant incremental brand exposure we have worked to produce for the National guard in our first season together, including various off-track marketing and advertising programs focused on supporting the mission set forth."
Hendrick Motorsports, meanwhile, pointed out that it has a contract with the guard through 2015. "We have not been approached by the guard about potential changes and plan to honor our current agreement," the team said in a statement obtained by Stars and Stripes.
Of course, the guard contradicted this, saying its agreements with teams from both sports is slated to "expire at the end of the current season." It's unlikely we've heard the last of this one.