Shell-Pennzoil is supposed to steer clear of promoting its gasoline business as part of its NASCAR sponsorship, so as not to infringe on Sunoco’s role as the official fuel of the sport.
But a comment by Shell-Pennzoil driver Kurt Busch seemingly promoting the fuel following Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 isn’t out of bounds, as far as NASCAR is concerned.
During Fox’s post-race coverage Busch — who finished fourth in a race in which fuel conservation was as a premium and Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran out out gas after leading on the final lap — said, “[It] always feels good when you’re driving a Shell car to have enough gas to make it.”
On Tuesday, NASCAR Senior Director of Competition Communications Kerry Tharp confirmed to “As the World Turns (Left)” that Busch won’t be called on the carpet for his quote.
“Kurt Busch was just trying to put in a plug for his sponsor,” Tharp said. “It had nothing to do with what was on his uniform or what was on his race car, etc.”
Sunoco and Shell-Pennzoil have sparred over the former’s exclusive sponsorship before. In 2007 former Shell-Pennzoil driver Kevin Harvick’s fire suit and helmet designs had to be redone to make the Shell logo less prominent. Sunoco also balked over a extensive ad campaign centered around Harvick promoting Shell’s gas quality. Shell-Pennzoil claimed it already had received NASCAR’s OK on the marketing program.
Later that year, Robby Gordon was forced to pull Motorola stickers off his car at Atlanta when NASCAR argued that it violated the exclusivity agreement with title sponsor Nextel (now Sprint). Gordon was eventually allowed to put the stickers back on, along with others that made clear he was promoting a Motorola digital audio player.
Later that year, NASCAR, Sprint Nextel, AT&T and Richard Childress Racing settled a lawsuit stemming from AT&T tried to rebrand Jeff Burton’s No. 31 after acquiring Cingular. AT&T was allowed to stay on the car through 2008 before being forced to leave NASCAR’s top series.
Fuel has been especially prominent in 2011, with the introduction of Sunoco Green E15 fuel featuring 15 percent ethanol. The program also includes green fuel intakes on the cars.