NASCAR runs on sponsorships, and no driver was more valuable than Dale Earnhardt. His death on Feb. 18 at the Daytona 500 came only days after Earnhardt had signed with his most recent sponsor, Sonic Drive-Ins.
The fast-food chain placed its logo on Earnhardt's car just four days before NASCAR's biggest race. The sponsorship, secured by Sonic agency Barkley Evergreen & Partners, was the Oklahoma City company's first national sponsorship.
"The whole situation is unfortunate," said Dan Fromm, head of Three Wide, the sports marketing arm of BE&P, Kansas City, Mo.
The dangers of the sport are not unknown to Three Wide. The agency had a similar experience last year with Adam Petty, who was in part sponsored by Three Wide client Sprint, he said. Petty died after a crash in May 2000.
Future sponsorship plans for Sonic are up in the air, he said.