Daniel Suarez done in by doughnuts in NASCAR sponsor wars

NASCAR’s business model is imploding before our eyes. The New World Order is chaotic, unstable and highly unpredictable. Welcome to the crossfire, Daniel Suarez.

You’re fired! The reason? Doughnuts.

Suarez committed the deadly sin of promoting a competitor’s brand by handing out Dunkin’ Donuts to fans while riding a golf cart at New Hampshire in July. That’s a no-can-do because his sponsor, Subway, is also in the breakfast business.

Subway released the following statement: “Due to circumstances beyond our control, Subway had to terminate its sponsorship of Daniel Suarez.”

The quirky “Desayuno [breakfast] with Daniel" promotion turns out to be his Last Meal With Subway.

There are lines a driver can never cross outside of the weekend skirmishes at the track, and promoting a competitor’s brand is high on the list.

Witness the traditional scrums between Coke and Pepsi — Cola Wars with a twist of spittle on the side.

Jeff Gordon started out as a Coke Man with Hendrick Motorsports, but then switched over to Pepsi, and starting in 1997 became its most prominent face of the sport during much of his career.

Of course, there is more than one sponsor, and sacrifices had to be made.

“The first thing that comes to mind is Snickers early on in my career when I had to eat a lot of Snickers for a photo shoot,” Gordon said in an 2015 interview with USA Today. “I like Snickers, but not when you’re eating them over and over again. They just needed a picture of you biting into it. But even if you spit it out, there was still plenty. You think they’ll have it in one or two shots, but there’s a lot of different angles.”

Suarez’s mistake was an innocent one, but it confirms you cannot backstab a sponsor.

And in today’s NASCAR, sponsorship money is disappearing quickly. Throw in veteran drivers who have priced themselves out of the market, and the sport is in a huge state of turnover.

Veterans Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne have been dropped by their teams and don’t have a ride for 2018. Target has ended Kyle Larson’s sponsorship in 2018.

Every one of those drivers will advance to the playoffs barring some unforeseen misfortune.

“It’s the business model we are headed toward,” Fox Sports analyst Larry McReynolds said. “It’s not all about talent anymore — it’s also about dollars.”

And protecting the brand.

Suarez is a rising star in the sport. He is the 2016 Xfinity Series champion and is 20th in the playoff rankings.

But he stained the brand. Last call for Daniel Suarez.

Postseason view

There’s not a lot of drama in the playoff push with only one race left this weekend at Richmond. There are 16 spots available, and 13 drivers have clinched berths with at least one victory.

The next three drivers in the playoff rankings have solid margins of error. Chase Elliott is 94 points ahead of Clint Bowyer on the cutoff line. Kenseth is plus-92 and Jamie McMurray is plus-91.

The only way Bowyer — or anyone else below the cutoff — gets in is by winning the Richmond race and knocking out Elliott, Kenseth or McMurray.

Bowyer’s chances diminished last weekend when his car’s engine blew up at Darlington.

“It’s a pretty inopportune time to have it happen, but it’s never a good time," Bowyer said.

"Obviously, the way the playoffs look right now, we’re not out of this thing. We’ve still got a good race track coming up for us. We’ll just go there and do the best we can and put all the cards on the table over there.”

Junior reflects

Another driver on the outside is Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is 22nd in the standings and has been sputtering about all season long. There’s no shame in that, considering his health issues. But as he gets closer to his last ride at Homestead in November, he gets more introspective.

“I’ve been thinking about it a little bit as we get closer because this will go by pretty quick. These last few races will go by pretty fast, so it’s going to be here before I know it,” he said last weekend at Darlington. “I haven’t really had any emotions yet and I know I will be sad as well.

“It’s hard to put so much into something and then have to stop doing it and change directions. No matter why you are retiring or having to change what you are doing, when you put so much into it, it is hard to make that change. And I don’t really know what I’m going to miss. If I knew what I was going to miss, it would be more emotional and harder to deal with, but the fact that I’m not quite sure exactly what is going to be the most difficult part about it, it’s really not set in yet.”

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