In one of the most unusual announcements in memory, Joe Gibbs Racing said it made room for Dollar General's 12 races on the No. 20 Sprint Cup Series car next season by asking current sponsor The Home Depot to cut back.
It seems completely stunning that in this current economic environment, a race team would actually ask a full-season sponsor to not be a full-season sponsor anymore. But that's exactly what JGR maintained on Thursday, even after repeated opportunities to clarify.
"It wasn't Home Depot coming to us saying, 'Hey, look...'" team owner Joe Gibbs said. "It was us going to Home Depot."
JGR says it has a "long-term deal" with Home Depot, which extends beyond next season. So if that's the case, why ask a full season sponsor to pay less money?
According to team president J.D. Gibbs, it's because the Dollar General deal was so sweet (12 Cup races, a full-season Nationwide sponsorship on Brian Scott's No. 11 car, 10 other Nationwide races and 10 races on a Kyle Busch Motorsports truck) that "you don't want to pass on that and let someone else get the opportunity."
"We just kind of went to (Home Depot) and said, 'Here's the plan. Are you interested?'" J.D. Gibbs said. "They looked at it, went through the details and said, 'Yeah, that makes sense.'"
The perception in the garage is different. Carl Edwards had been rumored to be very close to signing with Home Depot and Gibbs until the home improvement company concluded it was too expensive. Now, the company appears to be cutting back.
Gibbs said that wasn't the case, but wouldn't elaborate. He insisted, though, that it was JGR's idea to go to Home Depot and ask the company to reduce its financial commitment.
"They worked with us," Gibbs said. "They didn't have to say 'yes.' It made sense in the big picture. They're just a good partner."
But if Home Depot had previously planned to stick to a full season, is JGR really getting so much more value with Dollar General? A different way to look at the Dollar General deal:
• The 12 Cup races would have already been covered by Home Depot;
• Brian Scott's Nationwide season would have been covered by the Scott family (so essentially, this program may have been a throw-in for Dollar General);
• Dollar General will sponsor 10 Nationwide races for Kyle Busch or Logano, so that's added value;
• Kyle Busch's truck is getting Dollar General sponsorship for 10 races, but that money is going to KBM, not JGR.
So ultimately, why would JGR ask Home Depot to cut back?
"To me, the reality of it was it was a good fit and worked for both of us," Gibbs said. "It was a plus for us and a plus for them. If it was a negative on one side, I'd say, 'Yeah, it'd be weird.' But there's not a negative to it."