Scammin' for Sponsors

By Susan Wade

t was brought to Drag Racing Online's attention that several pro-class NHRA drivers have been approached by, and appear to have been defrauded by, a less-than-forthcoming individual regarding sponsorship. Several from the Pro Stock class, at least two low-budget Funny Car teams, and three Top Fuel operations have found out the hard way that this person has misrepresented himself, taken their money and so far failed to deliver any services.

Securing sponsorship deals is a long, often complicated process, but this case certainly is not business as usual. We contacted several victims, who asked not to be identified. Besides the chagrin of getting involved with a scam, they said they were reluctant to interfere with any legal action that might result from reporting their stories to law-enforcement officials. Several have said they are not yet convinced this person will not deliver. Several also have expressed concern because of a confidentiality agreement this agent persuaded them to sign. Some teams will feel the financial hurt much more than others, but it is no less critical that these unethical and/or illegal practices be punished because a few of the victims in this case might not suffer terribly because of their losses.

Here are the facts are we know them.

The fuel may be nitromethane, but the life-blood of any professional or top-sportsman racer is the money from sponsors.

Money buys parts to make the cars go faster. Money pays for travel to the exhausting schedule. Money covers hospitality for guests and keeps brand awareness at a peak. Sponsors and their money keep the NHRA moving into a place that makes it the second-most watched motorsport in America - second only to big brother NASCAR.

With all that money and the competitive nature of drivers and teams, it's not surprising that there are many people trying to get their parts of the pie -- even if it means lying to some honest folks and taking advantage of their dreams.

Enter Paul E. Blackford and Blackford Motorsports.

The approach, the racers we spoke with said, is the same: contact a team with little or no funding, or someone who has no title sponsor, tell them that there is a large corporation
that has been secured and is just waiting for a team to be selected. Convince them to sign a non-disclosure agreement so they won't say a word, and then ask for a meager retainer - $1,500 up front for expenses, $1,500 when a contract is signed, and some other small expense charges in the $1,500 to $2,500 range.

Get the money, and then tell them the deal is coming - drag them along, assuring them you're working it, milking them and making sure they don't talk to anyone about what is happening.

It has happened at least eight times in the 2003 NHRA season - for a total of approximately $40,000 - and to some names that might surprise you. Why do people fall for a scam and how can they let it happen? Even more so - why does it continue, what can be done, and why doesn't the NHRA do anything to stop it? Can the NHRA do anything to stop it?

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