NASCAR faces a gut-wrenching month, and the outcome will directly impact the sport for years


Everything's OK, right?


And this month could determine whether NASCAR has a healthy outlook for the next few years, or faces even more uncertainty.

The sport should be focused on Championship Week in Las Vegas, but instead, it faces two huge questions  that should be answered soon -- will Monster Energy extend its contract as the sport's primary sponsor in 2019 and 202o, and will it continue to sponsor the No. 41 for Stewart-Haas Racing?


Both have implications for a sport already roiling from a number of problems.

Monster has been the primary NASCAR sponsor since 2016, after Sprint, the telecommunications company, bowed out. Forbes has reported that Sprint paid NASCAR $50 million annually, and you can bet Monster paid less.

And it should be no surprise that Monster is taking its time making a decision. TV ratings are down; track attendance is expected to be down for the 10th(!) year in a row; and the sports, in as matter of a few years, has lost Jess Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Danica Patrick and the popular Matt Kenseth.

No one at NASCAR should underestimate the consequence of Monster's decision. Not renewing the agreement throws the sport into uncertainty, and almost surely means it will receive even less money from whomever decides to sign on next.


Not only that, Kurt Busch's future remains up in the air as Monster decides whether to renew its sponsorship. Busch and Stewart-Haas both say they want a reunion, but there are land mines. In addition to Stewart-Haas has reportedly asked Busch to take a pay cut, and some of NASCAR's biggest names are beginning to wonder whether Busch actually won't come back -- a possibility thought to be remote.

The last thing NASCAR needs is to lose another big name. Whether it does -- and whether it has to scramble -- is all in the hands of Monster.