May.21 – The Red Bull Race possibly will not run off NASCAR completely but instead will scale back their sponsorship in order to focus their efforts on the inaugural 2011 F1 US Grand Prix in Austin Texas. The energy drink maker has enjoyed tremendous success in F1 with driver Sebastian Vettel winning the World Drivers’ Championship in 2010 and currently leading the standings. Their efforts in NASCAR’s top tier Sprint Cup Series, where they have been since 2007, has met with far less positive results with only one driver, Brian Vickers, scoring a single points paying win in 2009.
The sponsorship will end for Red Bull in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series at the end of the 2011 season but could remain with development driver Cole Whitt who competes in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and a few NASCAR Nationwide Series events. Officially the team isn’t indicating what Red Bull’s future in NASCAR will be.
“Red Bull Racing Team is currently seeking outside investors as we evaluate next steps in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. We are not at liberty to comment on details while negotiations are under way,” the team said in a statement released Monday. “Red Bull fully supports NASCAR and will continue its investment in America’s premier form of motorsports for the remainder of the 2011 season. The team’s focus will not waver as we fight for victories and a position in the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup.”
In addition to Vickers, the team currently fields a Toyota for driver Kasey Kahne. Kahne however is in a one year deal as he waits for the No. 5 seat to open at Hendrick Motorsports and will leave at season’s end.
The team currently fields a Toyota for Whitt. A team official speaking off the record while the final details are being worked out said that sponsorship could remain with Whitt which will allow Red Bull to maintain a NASCAR connection. The official also didn’t rule out the possibility of sponsoring another driver in the Sprint Cup Series, something that would cost much less than the sponsorship of an entire team. Red Bull mogul Dietrich Mateschitz is reportedly disappointed in the results of the NASCAR team but wants to continue to have some form of marketing as part of America’s largest spectator sport.
The team’s technical director Gunther Steiner, once a fixture in F1, is expected to be a large part of the efforts for Red Bull as they attempt to secure sponsorship of next season’s inaugural US GP in Austin.
There have been reports that the new Austin venue is struggling financially with the city council in Austin Texas balking at a proposal for an annual $4 million in taxpayers’ money to be paid into a state ‘Major Events’ trust fund. $25 million of that fund would be put towards the track.
The city council has already gone on record as saying that no taxpayer money will be used for the track, however the race organizers have indicated they would pay the $4 million tab. That amount would be near pocket change for Red Bull and the speculation is that the company would pay at least that amount and possibly more, to secure naming rights for the track, the race, or both.
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