It’s rare that news as big as the one we saw come down on Wednesday doesn’t get leaked. Normally, there’s some inside chatter and rumors you hear by industry sources, but with the announcement that Trackhouse will expand to a two-car team and with how they accomplished this venture, well that’s not only way out of left field but rather something so massive that it’s astonishing it didn’t get leaked out there prior.
See, Trackhouse leased a charter from Spire for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season. A charter can’t be leased for two years straight. Trackhouse was in the market to buy that one and another in an effort to expand their NASCAR interest. Unfortunately for them, Spire sold two charters to Kaulig Racing for 2022, which left Trackhouse searching. They tried to acquire charters three separate times. They failed each one of them.
“I told Ty (Norris) let’s not lose sight of where there might be charters or business opportunities for Trackhouse where nobody is looking,” Justin Marks said. “A lot of these owners are toward the end of their careers, and I was just thinking, maybe there’s somebody out there that is ready to make a change, is ready to step away or ready to move on and focus on other things.”
Now, they pulled it off.
Trackhouse has acquired not one, but both of Chip Ganassi Racing’s charters as well as his entire team. Ganassi, is getting out of NASCAR and Trackhouse is taking over. Daniel Suarez will remain with the team in 1 car while it’s still TBA who will drive the other.
“My NASCAR team was not for sale,” Chip Ganassi said on Wednesday. “Justin (Marks) simply came to me with a great offer and an even better vision. As everyone knows, I care deeply for my employees so selling to someone like Justin who is part of the CGR family make the reality of selling much easier.
“I’m not leaving motor racing. Instead of being in a NASCAR race, I’ll be at a sports car race or an IndyCar race or Extreme E race or something. I’m still in racing. There’s a lot of other racing out there.
“At first, it surprised me a little bit, but I have to say that – after thinking about it for a while – it very much reminded me of about 20 years ago, when I was talking to Felix Sabates about getting involved in NASCAR. I felt like there’s a lot of young, energetic thought being put into what Justin was saying.
“With all the new blood that seems to be coming into the sport now, with Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin and maybe [Brad] Keselowski, and Tony Stewart has his team, Jeff Gordon’s back involved… all these sorts of things.
“The sport is great for some new young blood. We talk about a new generation of drivers and I think you’re going to see a new generation of owners now. I think it’s a great thing for the sport.”
Marks, raced 23 times in the Xfinity Series for Ganassi between 2015 and 2018. He won a race for them in 2016 at Mid-Ohio. So, the two have a friendship and history together.
Plus, Marks’ team in Trackhouse has financial capital from Pitbull as well as Chevrolet cars which is what Ganassi also has which makes this even more seamless.
“This process took several weeks and I want to thank Chip (Ganassi) for being so open and candid with me every step of the journey,” Marks said. “Chip has built an iconic motorsports empire and the Ganassi brand is globally recognized as a winner in the auto racing industry.”
Ganassi, is one of the all-time greats as owners in this sport. He’s an annual championship contender in the NTT IndyCar Series, brought back an IMSA team for 2021 and has been in NASCAR since 2001 to where he’s won 14 races as an owner.
Now, the tenure in NASCAR has ended with Trackhouse Racing taking over.
That sparks more silly season questions as what happens to both Ganassi drivers in Kurt Busch and Ross Chastain? There’s a seat open now at Trackhouse, formerly Ganassi. Busch was always rumored to be heading to Trackhouse so does he just stay put now? He’s also been linked to the 23XI Racing team as a teammate to Bubba Wallace.
See, Denny Hamlin has expressed interest in starting a second car soon. The intrigue to this organization is more than just Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin. I mean Monster Energy would have to love that tandem. But, it’s also a chance for Busch to drive for every manufacturer in Cup as he’s raced for Dodge, Ford and now Chevrolet. What about Toyota? Plus, the organization is aligned with Joe Gibbs Racing meaning Busch can work closely with his brother Kyle Busch too.
We know Kaulig is having Justin Haley as one full time driver in one car and AJ Allmendinger in select races in the second. That second car is chartered and will have multiple drivers in it.
GMS has also expressed their interest in moving up to Cup and will do so next season. There’s no word on a driver or manufacturer yet as they’ve not secured a charter either.
So, where does everything else stand? It’s all dependent on charters.
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 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. Spire also has one now.
Kaulig and Trackhouse each now have two.
That means 31 charters are accounted for.
RWR has four of the other five but can they afford all four. Can StarCom afford their one? These are the teams to watch (RWR, StarCom).
You have GMS Racing, 23XI Racing and JTG all interested in more charters. Three teams eyeing five charters.
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.
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.
That’s part 1.
Here’s part 2. What do the drivers do?
We already discussed Busch and Chastain, but who else? The Penske and Roush Fenway dealings are likely coming next. It’s all but confirmed that Brad Keselowski is leaving Penske for a driver/owner role at Roush Fenway. That takes Ryan Newman’s seat away and opens one up at Penske.
The thing is, does Penske just end up sliding Austin Cindric over?
Cindric, was already announced to be moving up from the NASCAR Xfinity Series 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?
These are the top few driver dominos that fall in line with the charters.
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.
The driver portion of this silly season now goes to Penske and what they do with the 2 car. That will start the dominoes for everything else.