DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Feb. 12 (UPI) -- The slumping U.S. economy is hitting NASCAR with car manufacturers and sponsors cutting back their auto racing budgets.
The circuit's 60th season gets underway Sunday with the Daytona 500. Two major names are gone with Petty Enterprises merged into Gillet Evernham Motorsports and Dale Earnhardt Inc., into Ganassi Racing, the Indianapolis Star reported.
GM, Ford and Chrysler have all cut their NASCAR budgets and Toyota is expected to follow suit. "There is probably not anything on this earth Toyota is involved with now that is not under some level of review," said Lee White, president of Toyota Racing Development. "If contracts have expired, it's very likely they have not been renewed -- or if they are being renewed, they are certainly being renegotiated."
NASCAR officials say that individual teams and tracks have to deal with the changing economic landscape.
"There's some things we can't help them with," said Mike Helton, president of NASCAR. "There's some things we give them the recipe to help themselves and it's up to them to see how the pie comes out of the oven."
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