"One of first questions always is, who's the driver?" says Patrice Anton, Slice Racing's spokesman-for-now. But Anton is mum on that subject, at least until the end of this NASCAR season, "out of respect for the current team and current sponsors," he explains.
Anton also can't reveal the owners of the team, who he says are based in Colorado. He hints that there's a Boulder and a Denver connection, and says the team will court Colorado sponsors who are connected with a healthy lifestyle. (Read: Probably not Coors.) He also says the team will go after Italian and French companies "because that's some heritage related to the team." A press release for Slice Racing gives another clue: It calls the unnamed driver "a model of health and wellness" -- which can't be said for all of 'em.
One possibility? Driver Mark Martin, who the media loves to call "NASCAR's healthiest driver." Take this snippet from a 2011 CNN story:
A 40-time race winner on NASCAR's elite level, Martin discovered many years before his peers that eating healthy would make him a better competitor behind the wheel. Back in 1988, the Batesville, Arkansas native decided that it was time to drop the cheeseburgers and French fries for fresh fish and steamed veggies.
"When my career got to a certain level where I didn't have to personally be at the shop and work on the cars myself all the time, it was time to shift some of that energy toward trying to make myself better, rather than trying to make my cars better," explains Martin.
Martin is candid that the transformation didn't happen overnight. He started eating more chicken, potatoes, and broccoli, but was still drinking alcohol and having salads with ranch dressing. Now, his outlook has changed: "Ranch dressing? You might as well be eating pizza or cheeseburgers. It's awful...I gave up mayonnaise for mustard. I didn't like mustard...but I gave it up."
But that's just a guess, and Anton isn't giving any more hints.
What he can talk about is Slice Racing's innovative sponsorship structure. Instead of making a deal with one big team sponsor -- Mountain Dew, Bass Pro Shops, M&Ms -- Slice Racing will divide its sponsorship opportunities by the number of races in a season, hence the name Slice. Sponsors will pay $250,000 per race, instead of up to $5 million per season, to have their name emblazoned on the car and the driver's uniform for the week or two leading up to a race and at the race itself. There are 33 races per year in the so-called Nationwide Series, NASCAR's second-tier of races, which Slice Racing will participate in.
"It's like putting your eggs in more than a single basket," Anton says. "If we lose a sponsor, we only have to replace a sponsor at $250,000."
And the kind of sponsors Slice Racing is courting aren't your usual NASCAR fare. "The driver is somewhat a person that lives a life of health and wellness," Anton says. With the sponsorships, "we're trying to say for morning, noon and night, what are the products you actually use? We'll go out and try to get those people as sponsors first and foremost."
Whether companies that are all about, as Anton says, "clean and green and natural and organic" are interested in sponsoring a NASCAR team remains to be seen. But Anton is hopeful. He says Slice Racing is currently contacting sponsors on an alphabetical list. They started with airlines, are now finishing apparel (both designer and casual) and will move on to automobile manufacturers next. Also on the list -- perhaps under "C" -- are Colorado companies, which Anton says they'll be contacting soon.
Slice Racing hopes to reveal all by October, Anton says, and be on the starting line at the first NASCAR Nationwide Series race in February 2013. The team will be the second NASCAR team located in Colorado. The first is Denver's Furniture Row Racing, which fields #78 driver Regan Smith and made its debut in 2005.
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