SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Rusty Wallace's big smile just got a lot brighter.
Wallace announced Wednesday he had landed Aspen Dental as a new sponsor for Nationwide driver Brendan Gaughan for the final race of the season at Homestead. The agreement is with Aspen Dental of Syracuse for Gaughan's No. 62 Toyota.
"This is good to have a sponsor like this that's gonna help us in this economy, help us get our race teams going, and be partners of ours for a long time to come," Wallace said. "This is a one-off right now, but we're looking for these guys to be major partners."
Aspen Dental marketing director Mike Petrosillo said the company, which has 255 dental practices in 21 states, looked at a lot of race teams before deciding on Wallace. The company hopes to extend the sponsorship through next year with a goal of reaching the Cup level if and when Wallace makes the jump.
"We're committed to this for the long term," Petrosillo said. "We believe you've got to stick with things to make them work, and we plan to do that. We would go to the Cup level with Rusty. That's the big win, racing on Sunday."
Wallace said he was ready to move to such a level this year if he could have found sponsorship.
"I'll tell you, it is super expensive," Wallace said. "It costs about $6 million a year to run one of these Nationwide cars and it costs about $18 million to run the Cup series. It doesn't have to all come from one sponsor, but I think the days of having one major sponsor on a car all year long are about over."
Half of Gaughan's races are sponsored by a casino and the other half by various entities.
Wallace's announcement came on a day when the owner of Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis said it would cease all operations at the track. Dover Motorsports Inc. said in a release the track could no longer be operated with an "acceptable return."
The company previously announced that it would not look to run any NASCAR Series events at the facility in 2011. The track ran its final NASCAR Nationwide Series event last month.
"Some racetracks have struggled and some have not," said Wallace, co-owner of Iowa Speedway. "For whatever reason, Gateway struggled because they just couldn't seem to get the crowds across that bridge to the track. Some of the major metro cities, there's a lot to do. I hate to see St. Louis go because it's a great track, but I just think they could have done a better job promoting that thing."