If you thought last year’s NASCAR Silly Season was wild, just wait. This year’s is already shaping up to be one for the ages. Each year it seems like we talk about how this year’s movement will shape the future of the sport but for the 2021 edition, it very well packs more of a punch than those past statements.
See, we have a new car coming out for 2022. The Next Gen model will debut for next February’s Daytona 500. In saying that, now is a great time to move up to the Cup Series with there not being much of a disadvantage in doing so.
That’s why you’re seeing so many teams flirt with coming up the ranks to the pinnacle series of the sport as well as teams with room to expand wanting to do so.
GMS Racing announced last Thursday their intention to move up to the Cup ranks. They currently field multiple entries in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and used to have an Xfinity Series team but now they’ll venture up to Cup. There’s a lot to work out still for them with the team not yet announcing if they’ll be full time or part time, which driver will pilot their car and what manufacturer that they’ll use. What we do know is that they’ll do it right.
Since its formation in 2014, GMS has won 61 races across the ARCA Menards Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series. GMS also took home the 2016 and 2020 Camping World Trucks championship, the 2015 ARCA Menards Series championship as well as the ARCA East championship in 2019 and 2020.
Then you have Kaulig moving up with two charters. More on this later. There’s also rumors of JR Motorsports looking for an opportunity to possibly have a Cup team. That’s just three new teams.
That comes after Trackhouse Racing, 23XI Racing and Live Fast Motorsports all coming into Cup last year. Among those three, two of which are eyeing a second car. That’s five new cars for 2021 that’s not on the full time 2020 roster. That’s all great news. But, there’s also a slight problem too, only two of which have a charter.
While they’re all saying that they can just race without one, do you really think that they’d want to? Having a charter has so many benefits in the sense that you know you have 36 guaranteed points paying races that you’re in the show for. You also get a larger chunk of the purse too.
With 40 spots available and those four teams saying that they’re willing to run as an open car, you’re risking now not making the race. On the flip side, some of these smaller teams that don’t have charters but showing up will get phased out. They don’t have the equipment to outqualify these new teams and their resources.
See the Catch 22.
It’s hard to get rid of the charters too because NASCAR has invested a lot in them over the years. The teams hold them with value and know that as new teams want to join, their current charters rise in value. It’s no different than stick-and-ball sports. The MLB, NBA, NFL, etc all have franchises that are in the leagues. The New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs are organizations within MLB. Team Penske and Hendrick Motorsports are organizations within NASCAR. Their teams hold charters.
The max a team can hold is four. HMS is capped out. So is Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing. The rest have room to grow.
As an example, Rick Ware Racing also has four charters. He’s trying to build a business but lacks resources to compete at the front. But, while holding four charters and paying less to field a team, they actually can make more money than some of the bigger organizations.
Think of it like this. You know HMS, JGR, etc all spend a ton of money to go fast. They have the best of everything. RWR buys older cars from these bigger teams fleets. Where HMS as an example spends millions to put one team on the track, RWR can buy older equipment just to show up. They can use older parts, etc, and have a car ready to go. Then, they get four drivers with sponsors to drive those cars and without any crash damage and finishing in the race, they get a hefty check each week for having a charter. Their overhead isn’t as much as the bigger teams.
So, for a team like RWR, some may say that they’re stealing charters but they accumulated them legally and making a business with it.
Here’s their drawback though. With this new car, old equipment is gone. You have to purchase the new car and new equipment so in an essence, RWR is going to have to pay as much as HMS for these new fleets. Can they afford it?
The other option then is to sell a charter or two to help fund that cost and to keep moving. That’s why these new teams are playing hardball in saying that they can just run as an open team and wait for RWR to struggle financially and get a charter later for cheaper.
There’s middle ground that both sides are heading towards.
So, you may be asking then, who all holds charters. For 2021, the list is as follows:
Hendrick Motorsports (No. 5, No. 9, No. 24, No. 48)
Stewart-Haas Racing (No. 4, No. 10, No. 14, No. 41)
Joe Gibbs Racing (No. 11, No. 18, No. 19, No. 20)
Rick Ware Racing (No. 52, No. 53, No. 15)
Team Penske (No. 2, No. 12, No. 22)
Richard Childress Racing (No. 3, No. 8)
Roush Fenway Racing (No. 6, No. 17)
Chip Ganassi Racing (No. 1, No. 42)
Front Row Motorsports (No. 34, No. 38)
JTG Daugherty Racing (No. 47)
23XI Racing (No. 23)
Wood Brothers (No. 21)
Spire Sports (No. 7, No. 77)
Spire Sports (No. 99) *leased to Trackhouse Racing
Richard Petty Motorsports (No. 43)
Live Fast Motorsports (No. 78)
StarCom Racing (No. 00)
Petty Ware Racing (No. 51)
So, for 2022, you can eliminate HMS, JGR or SHR taking away any of their four charters. Penske will keep their three, RCR, RFR, Ganassi and FRM will keep their two. Why would they get rid of them? I don’t see JTG selling or leasing their one charter as they’re in the market for a second. 23XI, Wood Brothers, Petty and Live Fast will almost certainly keep theirs too.
That means 28 charters aren’t going anywhere. Spire is keeping the No. 7 charter for Corey LaJoie but sold their other two to Kaulig. That means Trackhouse is out of a charter now for 2022 and if they expand to a second team, they need two charters now.
RWR has four but can they afford all four. Can StarCom afford their one? These are the teams to watch (RWR, StarCom).
You have GMS Racing, Trackhouse, 23XI Racing and JTG all interested in more charters. Then you get JR Motorsports and what they do or don’t do.
That’s five charters right now that I can say can get moved around with five new cars wanting them. It’s going to come down to RWR and StarCom and if they can hang onto their charters. In turn, the teams wanting charters may have to wait.
That’s part 1.
Here’s part 2. What do the drivers do?
We know with the upmost certainty that it’s just a formality that Brad Keselowski is moving to RFR in 2022. He’d take on a part ownership stake as well as drive. That leaves a seat at Team Penske open. It also makes one wonder, is Ryan Newman and Chris Buescher both back with RFR and they expand to a third team. If so, that’s seven cars needing a charter now for 2022. If not, Newman would be the odd one out.
That leaves Penske. Who goes to the No. 2 Ford? Austin Cindric was announced already to move to the Wood Brothers and replace Matt DiBenedetto next season. Do they just move Cindric now to the 2 and leave DiBenedetto in the 21? What about if DiBenedetto goes to the 2 and Cindric stays in the 21? What if DiBenedetto just leaves all together leaving at least the 2 or 21 open?
What does Kurt Busch do? He’s been rumored to be going to the second Trackhouse ride or second car at 23XI Racing. What if he just stays at Ganassi? It’s all dependent on Monster Energy too. Would Busch want to leave a team he already knows? Busch, is also thinking post NASCAR as the first contract he signed with Ganassi he said he was interested in all that Ganassi offers post Cup career. Ganassi has an IMSA team as well as an INDYCAR operation. If Busch stays at Ganassi, he has endless possibilities to keep racing in other forms of motorsports. If he leaves, does Monster Energy want to go to a team without a charter? I see the the appeal for Busch to go to 23XI and be suedo teammates with his brother since they’re aligned with JGR. I can also see the appeal to Trackhouse too. I mean Monster Energy would fit in well with Michael Jordan (23XI) or Pitbull (Trackhouse) so maybe the charter doesn’t matter.
These are the top few driver dominos that fall in line with the charters.
HMS technically has Alex Bowman as a free agent but both sides have said that they’ll be back. What does Ricky Stenhouse Jr. or Ryan Preece do. Both are free agents and JTG and their charter scenario is in limbo. What does SHR do? Kevin Harvick needs helps and he has younger teammates of Cole Custer and Chase Briscoe. Neither of these three are in danger of leaving the team. But, what do they do with the 10 car? Aric Almirola typically operates on a year to year deal. Smithfield is a big sponsor for him and the team. If Smithfield is back, is it with Almirola? If they aren’t back, that 10 seat will open up and if it does, they’ll have to go younger.