If you're one of the 88,000 people who follow NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace on Twitter, you know he's in a difficult sponsorship situation.
Wallace tweeted this week his future is in doubt due to a lack of funding at the RAB Racing team in the Nationwide Series. The driver has essentially begged for a company to support his efforts to keep racing.
Ha ha ha!...Yes everyone! Please tell the world #sponsorkenny ....I truly need you all and I am NOT embarrassed to say it..HELP!— Kenny Wallace (@Kenny_Wallace) March 2, 2012
Wallace told SceneDaily.com the team was "broke" and also tweeted repeatedly about RAB's financial situation.
BIG Nationwide teams get 150 to 200 thousand a race!..I drive FREE and my team cuts cost so we can run in top 10 for 100 thousand a race!— Kenny Wallace (@Kenny_Wallace) March 2, 2012
Team owner Robby Benton, though, told SB Nation he takes exception to Wallace's approach. Benton said he's been trying to find sponsorship for Wallace over the past 14 months and is running a black, unsponsored car at Phoenix in an effort to show the ride is available.
But Benton feels Wallace's desperation is undermining his efforts to strike a deal with a potential sponsor.
"He thinks what he's doing is generating interest," Benton said. "But at the end of the day, it's making me and our race team look (unprofessional) and trying to get people to feel sorry for him. That's not productive. You don't want people to feel sorry for you. We're trying to sell a strong, marketable program."
Benton said RAB Racing is not broke and has the structure in place to field a strong program. But it will be broke if sponsorship isn't found, which is why Benton said he's in a position to make some difficult choices.
"For what it costs to be associated with us, to get the performance we exhibit and to get the popularity Kenny has got, we're one of the best bargains in the garage," Benton said. "And we still can't sell it.
"So in order to not break myself and put us in a position where we're destitute, I've got to make some tough decisions."
That includes listening to offers from drivers who could potentially bring funding to the team. Wallace was particularly vocal on Twitter about the rent-a-ride philosophy.
I am a BIG BOY! but it sure is a Kick in My Gut to watch these "Wealthy Dad's" walk up in MY hauler today offering money for there Child.— Kenny Wallace (@Kenny_Wallace) March 2, 2012
Naturally, this has resulted in backlash against RAB. Benton said he's received hate mail since Wallace's latest tweets.
"Kenny's frustrated and nobody wants to be out of their ride," he said. "Unfortunately, I'm having a hard time selling it. I'm not independently wealthy. I can't just do what I want to do; I have to do what I have to do.
"Just because somebody walks in to come see me doesn't mean I'm going to put them in the car. I'm not going to be a rent-a-ride."
Here's the situation, according to Benton: RAB has sponsorship for only four of the remaining 32 Nationwide Series events this season (the races are scattered throughout the year). Companies who backed the team in 2011, including Federated Auto Parts, UNOH and G-Oil, all decided not to return for this season.
With no funding to move forward with Wallace, Benton said he's been forced to entertain offers from drivers who can bring sponsorship and keep the team running.
Benton had one such offer for Phoenix, but felt it would be ethically wrong to pull the rug out from under Wallace's feet after Daytona (Benton and Wallace entered a car in the Daytona 500, but failed to make the field). So Benton and his partners committed to running Wallace in the next four races – unsponsored – in hopes of finding money.
"I turned away a one-race deal because I didn't feel like it was the right thing to do with Kenny," Benton said. "I feel like I'm doing the right things, but I'm getting crucified."
Wallace, though, isn't about to let his racing career slip away without doing everything he can. And that includes pleading with his fans to spread the word about the sponsorship situation.
I don't want to Quit because I LOVE racing Nascar SO Much, This year was planned to be "My Year" So I will not Quit and I will Over come!— Kenny Wallace (@Kenny_Wallace) March 2, 2012