For about what it cost him to claim a brawny over-the-hill slugger off waivers, George Steinbrenner bought himself one of the fastest cars in the world. At the NHRA nationals last week, the Yankees' owner announced that he would become the primary sponsor of the top-fuel dragster driven by Mike Dunn next year. The Steinbrenner family and businessman Darrell Gwynn will co-own the car, which is, of course, navy blue with pinstripes.
The three-year sponsorship deal will cost Steinbrenner $3.3 million annually, which is significantly cheaper than the $10 million to $15 million required to sponsor a Winston Cup car-, and there's a chance Steinbrenner will get real bang for his buck. Next year the NHRA will heavily promote its 50th anniversary.
The Boss is also getting something he treasures more than a bargain: a chance to win a title. Dunn and Gwynn finished fourth in the 1999 top-fuel points race, but their sponsor pulled out, leaving them without a car in 2000. Along with Steinbrenner's backing, which should give them the resources to compete for a title, come expectations. "George gave Billy Martin five chances," says Gwynn, who will oversee the team's day-to-day operations. "I hope he gives us that many too."