It's not too difficult to get the fact that the world as a whole is entering a pretty tough time financially. And when these things happen, some of the first industries to take a hit include entertainment and sports, thanks to people being more fiscally responsible.
We've already seen NASCAR ticket sales dropping pretty incredibly over the past few weeks -- last weekend's race at Atlanta was a glaring reminder -- and the next shoe to fall in the NASCAR economic climate appears to be sponsorship of race teams.
So teams, faced with the idea of racing in the near future with decreased funding, are apparently looking at making drastic cuts to the number of employees in the race shops. And when I say drastic, I'm not kidding.
Several sources have reported as many as 750 to 1,000 employees from various Sprint Cup, Nationwide and truck series teams will be released the Monday after the Homestead weekend season finales. DEI, faced with the prospect of shrinking from four to one full-time team in 2009, is poised to lay off as many 100 people if necessary. And according to Felix Sabates, part owner of Chip Ganassi's NASCAR operation, seven or eight teams from this year's Cup roster won't be in business in 2009.
Now before we start shouting for a NASCAR bailout package from Congress (you know some of those nimrods on Capitol Hill would seriously consider it), I'll admit that those numbers could easily be inflated because they are more hearsay guesses than actual rubber-to-the-road numbers.
But still, take half of the number granted there, and you're looking at 500 people in the NASCAR industry without a job and four teams (and 4-8 drivers, likely) that will be wiped off the NASCAR map.
Times are certainly not good for NASCAR teams -- we can assume the sanctioning body will be able to ride this wave out -- and it very well might be time for some drastic decisions on the short-term future of the sport.
Fox Sports' Lee Spencer pitched earlier in the week for NASCAR to shorten up the schedule to 25 races with a 5-race Chase that ends at Daytona in September, and I couldn't really fault her for it.
Sure, it's great to have NASCAR for nearly an entire calendar year (Feb. to Nov.) but the costs associated with that for teams who are building cars, testing cars, sending teams to the race track and all of the other miscellaneous costs really, truly add up.
I wouldn't be against the idea of a shorter season (it makes every race a little more intense and would lead to an immediate hacksaw effect of some tracks that certainly don't need two dates in a season) and truly wouldn't be too upset if NASCAR decided to switch it up.
Another rumor tossed around a few weeks back -- which NASCAR flatly denied -- was that the sport would cut back on the number of starting spots in each race, but I'm not exactly sure how that would save money, other than to lessen the number of officials at a race track and spread the post-race payout to less teams.
NASCAR certainly faces some interesting questions before we hit Daytona in 2009, and I won't be shocked if the sport tries to shore up some losses for the teams with drastic moves.