Tweet from Camping World owner set up the company as the NHRA’s new title sponsor

NHRA Camping World sponsorship
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Marcus Lemonis first learned the NHRA drag racing series had abruptly lost its title sponsorship via Twitter and used the same social media platform to alert the league his Camping World company was interested.

Lemonis tweeted Sept. 22 to NHRA that Camping World isn’t “scared of our commitment to racing… let’s sit down and talk sponsorship.” Just 12 days later, NHRA announced a multi-year partnership with Camping World as its new title sponsor.

“This is the power of social media, it really is. Welcome to 2020,” NHRA President Glen Cromwell said. “Marcus is extremely good at positioning himself and his company in a great light on social media, and he took advantage of a great opportunity, probably within 24 hours of the news.”

Lemonis took notice the same day NHRA filed suit against sponsor Coca-Cola after Coke severed its 19-year sponsorship agreement that ran through 2023. The suit alleges Coca-Cola, which marketed various products during the deal, “seized on global tragedy, the COVID-19 pandemic, as a pretext” to walk away to save money.

NHRA, like most businesses, has had a turbulent season while navigating the pandemic. The schedule of 24 events was decimated by cancellations, teams struggled to make budgets work and John Force, the immensely popular 16-time Funny Car champion, sidelined his four-car organization when racing resumed in July.

This season will ultimately have just 11 events and the abrupt and unexpected loss of the title sponsor was going to be a significant blow.

Then Lemonis took notice.

Camping World has sponsored NASCAR’s Truck Series since 2009 and Lemonis is already a significant contributor to the motorsports industry. The NHRA sponsorship issue was tagged to him on Twitter by another user and he immediately began his due diligence.

“I do spend a lot of time working with people that want some help,” Lemonis said. “We all need help. I need help in my businesses, I need more customers. They need help in their business, they need more customers. And I’m attracted to things that are in crisis. I am a person that likes to look for the things that look undervalued and underserved.”

The banter between Lemonis, the NHRA, its competitors and fans at first appeared to be playful with perhaps some potential.

“It was really me flirting more than anything else,” Lemonis said.

Then he began to research the series, had conversations with industry insiders, studied attendance and ratings figures, and sent a team to the Gatornationals in Florida just three days after the Twitter relationship began. Lemonis was not interested in marketing to one audience, and if drag racing catered to NASCAR customers he already served, there was no reason to move forward.

“I was shocked at how the reports came back in almost every instance that the audience and the viewership was different,” Lemonis said. “I had photos and videos provided to me from Gainesville that showed there are far more families and multi-generational families. grandparents, parents, kids, all around campers. And I was very impressed by the amount of diversity, both in gender and race.”

Lemonis brokers deals directly, and he rapidly closed the deal. He has seen social media reaction accusing him of “dumpster diving” but defended his business strategy. Lemonis said he must act in the best interest of shareholders and employees, just as the NHRA is required.

“If you want to be opportunistic in business and have it work for both sides, you do things quickly,” he said.

The new sponsorship was announced Sunday during the Midwest Nationals, and Camping World immediately assumed NHRA’s naming rights. NHRA, five days before it lost Coca-Cola, had reached a multiyear extension with Fox across its networks for the biggest television platform in the sport’s history. On Wednesday, NHRA released a 22-race schedule for next season.

What could have been a disastrous year for NHRA is now three events away from its conclusion. Limited spectators have been permitted, and the series takes pride in how well it adapted during the pandemic.

“Our stakeholders, our fans, our race teams, our track partners and our sponsors have all really come together to understand the challenges we’ve faced in 2020,” Cromwell said. “That’s allowed us to race this year, provide great racing for our fans and really set a springboard into 2021.”

Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
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Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”