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Mahindra Group sponsors NASCAR Nationwide Series
Remember Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan in Ta Ra Rum Pum ? Not many remember much about the 2007 Bollywood flick, except perhaps the role Saif played of a NASCAR driver.

Circa 2009. Car number 23, a Chevrolet, finished a distant 29th out of 43 starters at the NASCAR Nationwide Series race held at the Bristol Motor Speedway in the US on Saturday. Nothing much to be elated about, right? And what has that got to do with Saif's role, you might ask? There's a connection.

For, Ta Ra Rum Pum was the first Hindi film to introduce the hugely popular motor sport of NASCAR to Indian audiences. And the No. 23 Chevrolet at Saturday's race was the only car to sport an Indian sponsor.

Mahindra Group is the first Indian company to sponsor a car in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Incidentally, it's the group's second year as a NASCAR racing team sponsor. Last year they sponsored the McDonald Motor sports team which runs the No. 81 car in the Nationwide Series.

Mahindra Group, through its parent company Mahindra USA, recently signed a 17-race primary and 18-race associate sponsorship of the 2009 Nationwide Series with R3 Motor sports The car, which sports the Mahindra Tractors brand on its livery, is driven by Robert Richardson Jr.

Said primary driver Robert Richardson, Jr. says, "I am looking forward to building the NASCAR fans awareness of just how good Mahindra tractors are. Being from Texas and having Mahindra Tractors as my sponsor is really cool."

At a time when sponsors are cold shouldering Motor sports, what made Mahindra turn towards NASCAR? "I think the time was just right for us," remarked Anand Mahindra, vice-chairman and managing director, Mahindra Group.

"When big sponsors, with multi-million dollar contracts, start pulling out, it creates opportunities for smaller companies, like Mahindra USA, to get involved in the sport for a fraction of what it would have cost a couple of years ago. We may never get the opportunity again to participate in such a visible and popular sport, so we are taking advantage of that." Anand Mahindra says.

While refusing to divulge the the financial aspect of the deal, Mahindra said that they were there to stay. "The sponsorship is for one year only, but is renewable for additional seasons. We feel our investment is not just a sunk cost. We plan to create revenue through sale of NASCAR related merchandise."

Mike Hilderbrand, vice-president, marketing, Mahindra USA, says, "We are pleased to team up with R3 Motor sports for the 2009 season. We see it as a good match-up since Mahindra USA and R3 are both young upstart organizations in their industries, each with a burning desire to win."

NASCAR is a stock car racing series owned and operated by National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR). There are about 75 million NASCAR fans in the US, representing one-third of the adult population.

NASCAR is also a stepping stone to F1, or vice versa. Like 23-year-old Kyle Busch, arguably the most talented driver in NASCAR, and Danica Patrick, who are tipped to drive for the USF1 team in 2010. Likewise, former F1 champ Jacques Villeneuve chose NASCAR, following in the footsteps of Juan Pablo Montoya

Normally, a sponsor has to shell out $ 20 million or more for primary sponsorship of a car at NASCAR. Most teams in NASCAR have an annual budget of between $ 40-80 million. A top NASCAR driver makes something between $ 25-30 million a year, which includes endorsements, salary and race winnings. The salary package varies between $ 2-12 million.

Mahindra USA Tractors, maker of some of the world's most rugged and reliable compact tractors, utility tractors and full-size tractors. Since 1963, the company has been building heavy-duty farm tractors and farm equipment that outperforms the competition, combining a quality-built tractor with the biggest bang for your buck.

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