Tide hasn't been a sponsor of a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team since they concluded the 2006 season on the hood and fenders of the No. 32 Chevrolet driven by Travis Kvapil. When the decals came off the car - which was folded into Michael Waltrip Racing's fledgling effort for 2007 - it ended one of the most popular and successful runs for a sponsor in the sport's history. The highlights, of course, were Darrell Waltrip's 1989 Daytona 500 triumph and Ricky Rudd's victory in the 1997 Brickyard 400.
Early Tuesday morning, Tide again won the Daytona 500. No the famous bright orange, yellow, and white Tide Ride wasn't on track, but the fan-favorite detergent was put to good use, cleaning up hundreds of gallons of jet and diesel fuel that had burned across the surface in turn three after Juan Pablo Montoya's, erm, incident with a jet dryer. The Tide worked like a charm, getting the surface squeaky clean - and likely smelling like an ocean breeze - thus allowing the final 40 laps of the Great American Race to be contested without issue.
The cleanup, with the Tide boxes shown clearly and Waltrip recounting a story of a past similar incident in which his then-sponsor saved the day, was worth plenty of free publicity. According to Twitter timelines, Tide's popularity has shot up even further, with comments like "if it can clean jet fuel off a race track, it can get pizza sauce out of my whites!" and the like.
Here's hoping the publicity and the huge fan reaction will be enough to inspire Proctor and Gamble to pony up the dollars and slap the Tide livery back on a race car where it belongs.