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Squeezed out (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday December 11, 2007 4:11PM; Updated: Tuesday December 11, 2007 4:11PM
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So, drivers like O'Quinn are forced to press on. He drove in six other races for the single-car No. 56 of Mac Hill, working with owner Jack MacNelly in trying to stay afloat in this age of multi-car powerhouses. Coming together in hopes of building a future, the two men have found a common bond in being ignored by the financial opportunities that, perhaps a decade earlier, would have come their way.

Not anymore.

"The difference is in my ability to attract money to run my operation," says MacNelly, who ran a shoestring budget en route to bringing O'Quinn to six races this season. "I cannot compete with the Ganassis, the Hendricks, the Gibbs, and the reason that I can't is they can go to these sponsors, to these Fortune 500 companies -- and say 'you can give us X number of dollars and we will give you Carl Edwards, we will give you Denny Hamlin.'"

"If you're not a household name, we have almost absolutely no chance of attracting money."

Of course, you'd think being Busch Series Rookie of the Year would be more than enough, but it's star power those sponsors want in an age of instant gratification. The problem is, how can you make new stars when you can't even get another one funded? Car owners in Cup have grown tired of the marketing push and found a simpler answer; replace them with stars from other series until the crop of established talent in all of auto racing has run out.

"That's definitely frustrating," says O'Quinn of watching the open-wheelers get the shot he's dreamed of -- exclusively -- since he was a little kid growing up in Virginia. "I don't have anything against anybody coming over and trying to race. But the fact they're going straight to Cup with no experience ... is kind of shocking to me."

"I think it's kind of shocking to most people. I think it's obvious it would really benefit those guys from running more Truck and Busch races. I know they're great race car drivers, but I mean, I've been here, I've drove stock cars all my life, and these things are not easy to drive by any means. I think even for some of them, most of them would probably say the same thing a year from now."

Of course, one year from now those men will be putting the finishing touches on their rookie year at the top level O'Quinn wanted all his life to reach -- while he's simply scratching for an opportunity to continue to compete.

"It's definitely discouraging, but you can't let it beat you down," says the optimist in him. "There's a lot of things in life that don't go your way, and that's just the fact of the matter. As frustrating as [this situation] may be, that's where [NASCAR]'s going, and we've just got to deal with it and figure out ways to work around it."

So, with the offseason here, O'Quinn looks toward a fresh start in '08 -- if only the right financial backer will listen.

"We've got to work hard and keep ourselves a fixture in the NASCAR ranks," he claims of both he and his team. "We're moving to a new shop, we've really got some things that are looking up to the team; and if anybody came over and took a look and what we're doing here, they'd be pretty impressed."

"Jack and everybody over here are willing to do what it takes to be successful at it; we've just got to get that someone to give us an opportunity."

Unfortunately for O'Quinn, that opportunity grows harder to find every day.

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