Here's your chance to sponsor a Cup car

October, 29, 2009

Matt Ferguson was watching a Sprint Cup race in March when he turned to his wife with what at first seemed like another one of his crazy ideas.

He wanted to sponsor a car.

Well, not just him. He wanted to devise a plan where all fans would have an opportunity to sponsor a car. So he began researching, hired an agent and developed a program.

It's called FanCar, and you can learn more about it at It's really simple. For $20, fans who sign up will get their name on the car of an established team owner with a driver already in place.

The plan is to debut the FanCar in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The owner and driver will be announced on Monday, so fans will know whom they're backing.

"This is not some start-up team," said Ferguson, a 32-year-old businessman from College Station, Texas. "This isn't their first race, and they're not a start-and-park team. We're not going to have somebody who doesn't know what they're doing or isn't respected by other drivers.

"Now, we don't have Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon or Dale Earnhardt Jr., but we're out there with a car to race."

I can't tell you who it is, but he is a familiar name and is guaranteed to be in the field. Maybe you can figure it out based on which driver is looking for sponsorship in Homestead.

But if this works, Ferguson plans to have another FanCar in the 2010 Daytona 500 and as many races as he can next season. If it works really well, he'll try to sponsor two cars.

"My guarantee to the fans is 100 percent of the sponsorship dollars goes to the car and its owner," Ferguson said. "I don't take a dime. In fact, I pay all the development fees and transaction fees.

"I told my wife, 'I know we can do this.' She finally said, 'I'll let you do this one, but it'll be your birthday present for this year, next year and your Christmas, too.'"

Here's how it works: Fans register at the Web site and contribute $20. For that each fan gets his name or the name of a friend or family member on the car, a vote to decide the design of the car, a vote to decide the message on the side of the car, an e-certificate confirming he is an official sponsor and exclusive inside content about what's going on with the car.

"I don't skim off the top," Ferguson said. "It's the car owner's money -- not mine. I take nothing. It's written in the contract."

It's an interesting concept, one that quite possibly could keep a car and driver on the track that might have to be parked thanks to lack of sponsorship.

And it's nice to see somebody actually is trying to help during these difficult economic times instead of bashing everything from the car to Johnson's run at a fourth title to the Chase format.

But to succeed it'll take a lot of participation. Realistically, it will take 10,000 or more fans to make it worth an owner's expense because it costs $200,000 to $500,000 a weekend for one car.

But if NASCAR has 75 million fans as its publicity department says, 10,000 or more should be a drop in the bucket.

And if for some reason the deal falls through, fans can either get their money back or have it donated to one of four charities listed on the Web site. Ferguson says he wants none of it.

"I know times are tough," he said. "Hopefully, FanCar can generate some excitement and we'll be competing with other people for these sponsor deals in the future.

"I guess this is just what happens when a NASCAR fan teases his entrepreneurial spirit."

David Newton | email

ESPN Staff Writer



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