Something was missing when AMA Pro Racing announced the 2008 dirt track schedule; a series sponsor.
The Ford Quality Checked division of Ford Motor Company, which had sponsored the series for three years, quietly withdrew their support in mid-November. Caught in the squeeze was seven-time AMA Grand National Champion Chris Carr.
Quality Checked Certified Pre-Owned Ford has been Carr’s main backer for the past six years and the collaboration was mutually beneficial. Carr continued to win and Ford had an effective and articulate spokesman on the dirt track trail. But on the same day Ford pulled their series sponsorship, they also withdrew their support of Carr. It wasn’t for lack of results. Rather it was due to the current restructuring at Ford Motor Company. Carr said a shift in the distribution of funds within the company prevented the partnership from continuing.
He also said that from the beginning of the program, back in 2002, it has provided measurable results. In conjunction with a Detroit-based marketing company, iCMS, a program was put in place to track and measure the effectiveness of sponsoring his team, and later of Ford as the series sponsor.
“In all six seasons, the partnership was able to produce a positive measure of Ford’s association with Chris Carr Racing,” Carr said and he hopes another sponsor will see that as he searches for sponsorship for the 2008 season.
Despite a sub-par 2007 season, Carr feels he can still “go out and be competitive, although it’s going to be tough with the strength of the other teams out there, especially Harley-Davidson. But I feel comfortable that we can go out and compete on a weekly basis and help the sport through the marketing opportunities that racing provides.”
Carr’s only win in 2007 came in the Labor Day running of the Springfield Mile when he beat Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson’s Kenny Coolbeth by .047 seconds. Carr finished second to Coolbeth in the Memorial Day Springfield Mile, the race where Coolbeth’s XR-750 was initially found to be six pounds underweight.
The victory came in the second half of the season when Carr had more experience with the revised firing order of the XR-750.
“There was a new technical rule that I actually voted for to take away the twingles (firing order) and go to standard firing order on Harleys,” Carr said. “We missed our set-up from the beginning of the season and it took us until late July to realize we’d been going in the wrong direction. We finished the second half of the season stronger than we started.”
Carr added that he fell behind early because the factory Harleys were using a more advanced engine management system.
“That was something that came from the end of the claiming rule,” he said. The claiming rule was quietly rescinded prior to the start of the 2007 season. The belief in much of the dirt track paddock is that it was done unilaterally by then AMA CEO Patti DiPietro. “It happened without the approval of the technical committee or the knowledge of the entire paddock. It was just deleted from the ‘07 rulebook. Then I noticed they’d allowed onboard timing devices in dirt track.
“Basically, what has happened is that engine management has found it’s way to H-D XR750’s. We were behind in those areas. We’re taking the necessary steps as we speak to gain back what we’ve fallen behind.”
And the necessary steps to make sure he’s ready when the 2008 season starts up in March.