BRISTOL — Previously, a win at Daytona assured a race car driver a ride for the next four or five years.
John King II became one of the latest victims of a sluggish economy with the announcement last week that Red Horse Racing would be suspending operations on his No. 7 Toyota NASCAR Camping World Series team.
“Times have changed,” King said. “It’s tough for these companies to let go of a couple of million dollars to sponsor one of these trucks.”
It’s easy to see the similarities between the 24-year-old Kingsport driver and 21-year-old Knoxville driver Trevor Bayne. King won this year’s season-opening Truck Series race at Daytona, much like Bayne scored an upset win at the 2011 Daytona 500.
This year, Bayne had his Nationwide Series ride shut down due to a lack of sponsorship. While the same has happened to King, he’s not one to subscribe to misery loves company. Instead, he’s trying to stay positive.
“We started off the year working on sponsorship, and we have been ever since,” King said. “We had CONSOL energy on the truck for a couple of races, but we haven’t had anything concrete yet. Both Red Horse and myself have a lot of things working, but it’s tough times and a tough economy.”
It all adds up for a tough situation for a driver who even moved to Mooresville, N.C., so he could work alongside the crew during the week.
Still, King looks at this as a temporary setback, still confident the team will get the necessary funding to race later in the season.
“We have some things that look like they’re going to come together,” King said. “Hopefully in the next couple of weeks, I’ll be back in the seat. No matter what happens, I just have to thank Red Horse for the opportunity, (team owner) Tom Deloach and Toyota for all their help.”
King, the rookie driver on a team with veterans Timothy Peters and Todd Bodine, understands why his team was the one that was parked. He said his teammates have been supportive throughout the situation.
“Nobody is happy about shutting down the team,” he said. “Since I’m a rookie, I drew the short straw. That’s understandable since they’re veterans. They’re still real good friends. I still talk to them and I’m still a part of the Red Horse team.”
All of his crew members have stayed with the operation. When the Red Horse team had three trucks running, it was pushing everyone to their limits. Now, this has allowed the organization to take a step back before hopefully moving forward.
“We were using up all our people as it was,” King said. “A couple of the teams hadn’t got a sponsor yet. We hadn’t hired more people. Hopefully, it will work out and we can hire more people.”
While his Truck Series career is on hold, King is looking at returning to the short tracks. Bill Elliott, the 1988 NASCAR champion and a longtime family friend, ran King’s dirt late model car in the Prelude to the Dream charity race at Eldora, Ohio on Wednesday.
King, whose career started on the local dirt tracks of Volunteer Speedway and Wythe Raceway, wouldn’t mind playing in the mud while his No. 7 truck is parked.
“Bill Elliott ran my car up at Eldora,” King said. “We’ve kicked around the idea that we might try to qualify for some dirt track races.”