US National Guard Spent $88 Million On NASCAR And Got Basically Nothing

A Missouri senator is busting the US National Guard's Constitutionally-empowered balls today for failing to sign up a "single new soldier to its ranks" in 2012, reports USA Today, via the fat taxbux it spent on a NASCAR sponsorship to support a recruitment effort.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) released briefing materials indicating the Guard failed to sign up any new recruits in 2012 by way of its NASCAR efforts, despite spending $26.5 million that year. The documents indicated the Guard spent $88 million as a NASCAR sponsor between 2011 and 2013, according to USA Today, with unclear results.

The briefing arrived ahead of a hearing today by the Senate subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight, which McCaskill chairs, to investigate possible waste in the National Guard's motorsports spending. That spending also includes $38 million on an IndyCar racing sponsorship with Panther Racing during the same period.

This past October, the Guard re-upped its primary sponsorship with Dale Earnhardt Jr. for 20 races with Hendrick Motorsports in 2014, including the Daytona 500. According to Forbes, NASCAR pulls in approximately $3 billion per year in sponsor dollars, more than twice that of the NFL, and corporate sponsorship of a NASCAR driver and car can cost up to $30 million.

The Guard's sponsorship stems from its need for young recruits. To fulfill its goal of 50,000 new soldiers per year, the Guard must attract one million leads, according to estimates. Perhaps unfortunately for the Guard, NASCAR's fan base new skews older than most Guard recruits. In fact, these days a NASCAR fan is twice as likely to be over 45 than under 29, and fewer than one-third of NASCAR fans are between the ages of 18 and 35, according to the briefing materials.

Not surprising, other branches of the armed services that once tapped NASCAR for its recruitment efforts have been opting out in recent years. According to USA Today:

"The Army, the Navy, the Marines and the Coast Guard all canceled their sponsorships with NASCAR due to cost, ineffectiveness and difficulty in measuring results," according to the briefing document obtained by USA Today. "The Army specifically stated that NASCAR was declining against the Army's core target audience and that NASCAR sponsorship had the highest cost per engagement in the Army's portfolio of sponsorships — three times the next highest program."

The US Army ended its NASCAR sponsorship two years ago, but retained an NHRA sponsorship because top recruitment brass found drag racing a better value for its troop-enlistment dollar.

According to Jalopnik calculations, that IndyCar cash should have yielded results better than zero wins and J.R. Hildebrand's heartbreaking crash on the final lap while leading the Indianapolis 500 in 2011. (The Guard moved its IndyCar sponsorship to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for 2014.)

Still, Guard brass insist the NASCAR money is well spent. One spokesman in the USA Today article said that a strong branding effort is "a good value" and "helps create a fundamental awareness of the National Guard as a career option." According to the documents, McCaskill will ask whether the sponsorship program included perks for Guard leaders at NASCAR events.

Sounds like fun. Then again, think about what all those buckets of public money could do for fledgling racing events that bring out actual recruitment-age kids, like drifting and rallycross. Of course, they could just give it all to Ken Block to reenact the Battle Of Gettysburg with rally cars.