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Recession pushes NASCAR racer into owner

  • Story Highlights
  • NASCAR racer Marc Davis,18, lost driver's contract and became owner
  • His father says recession has cut sponsorship money
  • Family and friends sponsor Davis' 2-car team in Nationwide Series
  • Teen is only current African-American racer and owner in NASCAR
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By Larry Lazo
CNN
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(CNN) -- You can call 18-year-old Marc Davis a veteran of the racetrack. On everything from BMX bikes and Bandolero cars to Legends and Late Models, Davis has steadily moved up the ranks of competitive racing.

Marc Davis, right, helps a crew put a car into place on the track at Bristol, Tennessee.

Marc Davis, left, talks strategy with crew chief Billy Venturini in Concord, North Carolina.

"I've been racing for 13 years. Started out when I was 6 years old," said Davis, who is set to race this month as NASCAR's only current African-American driver/owner.

Two years ago, Davis signed a six-year contract with the Joe Gibbs Race team as a developmental driver. But then the economy went south, and Davis was let go in a cost-cutting move. He was another casualty of the recession.

"We got bit by the economy," Davis said.

Mike Herman Jr. has worked as Davis' coach for the past two years and feels that NASCAR could be in store for even rougher financial times. "In my honest opinion, I feel like motorsports is a year away from feeling the brunt of the recession."

Davis' father, Harry, breaks it down further and says it's all about sponsorship money. "Sponsors are harder to find. Teams want more money. So now instead of being unemployed, Marc is now self-employed, moving forward and racing his own team." Video Watch Marc Davis at the track »

Davis formed his own two-car team to compete in this year's Nationwide Series, with his first entry set for Bristol, Tennessee, on March 21. His team is being funded by family and a few sponsors, not an easy feat when it costs a minimum of $75,000 to enter a Nationwide Series race.

In fact, a two-car team is considered a skeletal operation by NASCAR standards. Some of the better-funded racing teams have 12 to 20 cars at their disposal.

But Davis' crew chief, Billy Venturini, says a two-car team can work for the time being. "It's a start-up deal, but I think with the short schedule he's got, I think we'll be in fine shape."

Several NASCAR teams have scaled back on their budgets, and Davis feels that it actually levels the playing field a bit.

"With a lower-budget team, you have a better shot of making races and winning races to be more competitive, since a lot of the higher teams have cut back their budgets as well."

NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston agrees with Davis and goes one step further.

"Several teams are watching their spending, and that brings more parity in the sport, with the result being a more competitive and enjoyable product for race fans."

Davis plans to compete in a number of Nationwide Series races before moving on to the Sprint Cup Series.

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"I want to progress through the Nationwide Series and enter the Sprint Cup Series and win championships and hopefully be a full-time owner years down the road, so I think everything's going in the right direction," Davis said.

With a strong family and a nuts and bolts crew behind him, Marc Davis could be on the cusp of something special.

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