Banned driver back, but NASCAR says no to marijuana-like sponsor

NASCAR disallowed the sponsor, Veedverks, on the hood of Carl Long’s car. (Yahoo Sports)

KANSAS CITY, Kansas — If you’re trying to make a return to Cup racing for the first time since NASCAR fined you a couple hundred grand almost a decade ago, and you don’t have much financial backing, well, you might be tempted to take sponsor money from wherever it comes.

Even a medical marijuana-like company.

Carl Long, last seen in a Cup race way back in 2009, before NASCAR fined him $200,000, rolled into Kansas Speedway Friday with very little funding, even less sleep and an interesting sponsor on the hood of his race car: Veedverks.

What is Veedverks? Well, it’s hard to know exactly, since the company’s “About Us” page reads like this:

We all see the world from a different perspective, but few experience the view afforded to us from the control cabin of our mighty rigid airship.  We grace the Rocky Mountain skyline with our powerful and elegant dirigible.  The hum of our powerful engines comforts the world below with the sound of freedom.  The sun sets on the foothills as we cast a fading shadow over the Mile High city.

The Denver-based company’s products include Indica, Sativa and Hybrid “experiences” that, according to testimonials on their website, are great for bad backs, so draw your own conclusions.

NASCAR has. All potential sponsors have to be approved by the sanctioning body, and Friday NASCAR just said no to Veedverks.

NASCAR didn’t cite a specific reason for the denial, but Section 7.6.2.a of the NASCAR rule book says “NASCAR may refuse to permit a Competitor to participate in an Event if NASCAR determines that any advertising, sponsorship, or similar agreement to which the Competitor is or will be a party, is detrimental to the sport, to NASCAR, Series Sponsor, or to the Promoter for any reason, including without limitation, the public image of the sport.”

While Veedverks claims its products are legal in all 50 states, its three types of cartridges contain trace amounts of THC, the principal psychoactive in marijuana.

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Saturday night’s Cup race will be Carl Long’s first points race since 2006. (Getty)

Long left Charlotte at 6 a.m. Thursday morning, driving his own hauler, and arrived at Kansas Speedway around Midnight. It had been eight years since he last attempted to qualify for a Cup race.

Back in 2009, he attempted the qualifying race for the All-Star Race, but made it just three laps and finished last. During post-race inspection, NASCAR deemed that Long’s engine – which he said he got from a supplier – was 0.17 inches too big. The sanctioning body fined the team $200,000. At that point, it was the largest monetary fine in NASCAR history.

Long couldn’t afford it, so for the past seven seasons he was banned from the Cup Series garage.

He hasn’t been gone from NASCAR entirely. He’s run 96 Xfinity Series races, 12 Camping World Truck Series races and is listed as the owner of MBM Motorsports, which fields the Nos. 13 and 40 cars in the Xfinity Series.

But you don’t get rich in NASCAR’s bottom two series unless you have a big-dollar sponsor. And Long hasn’t had a big-dollar sponsor.

Before the 2017 season, he satisfied his requirements regarding the fine, according to NASCAR, and was allowed back into the Cup garage.

On May 5, he put a plea out for $25,000 for a company to sponsor him for this weekend’s Go Bowling 400. The going rate for a one-race sponsorship with a top Cup Series team can be 10 times that amount, or even more. But Long just needed some money from someone.

“I put out a number, here it is,” Long said. “Most standard deals are about 300 grand, $250,000. I know I’m not going to be Jeff Gordon and [Dale Earnhardt Jr.] and all that kind of stuff, but this week coming back, I’m going to get a lot of press. And if someone can get us [$25,000], we can get here.”

Veedverks didn’t come up with $25,000 – Long wouldn’t say how much exactly – but a couple secondary sponsors made up the difference, so Long had what he needed.

Driving his own hauler, the 49-year-old Long arrived at Kansas Speedway just hours before the Cup garage opened Friday morning. As he went over the car prior to practice, a Veedverks decal adorned the hood. But when Long steered it out of his first practice, the Veedverks logo was gone.

“It was a last-minute deal,” Long explained prior to NASCAR’s ruling. “We submitted everything to NASCAR. The company makes a vape solution for electronic cigarettes and stuff. But their product, NASCAR said they needed to go back and review it a little more because I think it’s a hemp-based product. It’s legal in 50 states according to — honestly I didn’t do a whole lot of research. They said this is a legal product, I sent the stuff to NASCAR. The people down there said, ‘Great Carl, good to see you back let’s get over here.’ So now they want to investigate and make sure this isn’t anything that is marijuana based and so forth.”

(Update: Veedverks took to its Facebook page Friday night to claim that it was initially approved by NASCAR to be on Long’s car over the weekend. They were, but only because the company’s name was misspelled on the sponsor submission Long sent over to NASCAR.

Long spelled the company’s name as “Veeoverks” on the entry list and, according to the sanctioning body, said it was an electronic cigarette company. Unable to find a website or business for the company listed, NASCAR approved the sponsorship. The practice of approval without a website isn’t uncommon, especially among smaller companies wanting to be a sponsor in NASCAR’s lower series.

Long’s other sponsors were also approved Wednesday in his sponsor request. When NASCAR found out that the name of the company was different than it was on the submission list, the sanctioning body did research and decided not to approve the company. Long has posted to Facebook to tell fans to give NASCAR a break for his misspelling on the entry list.)

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Long’s entry to Saturday night’s race made him the 40th car in a 40-car field, meaning he’s guaranteed to participate in his first Cup Series points race since 2006. He’s probably going to finish closer to 40th than he will to first. With tires costing over $2,000 a set, a $25,000 sponsorship ask may not even cover many large teams’ tire bills for a weekend.

But for Long, that $25,000 has to pay for a lot of things, including licenses for he and his crew. (NASCAR issues licenses via level, and Long had to upgrade his team’s licenses to the Cup Series before they could start working on the car Friday morning.)

“I wrote a check this morning just for $11,000 to upgrade our licenses to get in the garage,” Long said, adding that he still needed Cup licenses for two additional crew members. “I got to thinking about it. I’ve been out of this for eight years and if I’d have been spending the money we have to spend on licenses for the last eight years, I’d already gave them back more than $200,000 just in licenses to get here.”

That $11,000 came from the money that he was supposed to have from Veedverks. And Long didn’t have a readily available backup plan if the sponsorship wasn’t approved.

“It just depends on what we can work out,” Long said. “The company is — they are four US Air Force Academy graduates of 1995 that own that company. … I’m assuming that one of that four in that group to have a start-up company like this, they already have a primary company. And if so, I’ll give them the spot. And if not … if I have to resort to giving them their sponsorship back, that’s what we have to do. But I’ve already spent a bunch of it already.”

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of Dr. Saturday and From the Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!