We’re a little more than a month away from the official start to the 2022 NASCAR season. Yes, the Busch Light Clash is up first in a few weeks in Los Angeles but that’s a preseason exhibition race. The real season begins as it normally does – in Daytona.
With that said, are we even going to get to 40 cars? What about even going over that threshold? We did the last three years but there’s a very real chance this February, we may not eclipse the magic number of 40.
How? Well lets dig deeper as to why.
MBM Motorsports announced their plans on Tuesday with Timmy Hill.
The thing is, that’s just the 38th car announced for next month’s 64th annual Daytona 500. There’s 40 spots that we know will make the race with 36 of them going to chartered cars. Those cars are –
Hendrick Motorsports (Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, William Byron, Alex Bowman)
Joe Gibbs Racing (Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Christopher Bell)
Stewart-Haas Racing (Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola, Chase Briscoe, Cole Custer)
Team Penske (Austin Cindric R, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano)
Roush Fenway Racing (Brad Keselowski, Chris Buescher)
Richard Childress Racing (Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick)
Trackhouse Racing (Ross Chastain, Daniel Suarez)
Front Row Motorsports (Michael McDowell, Todd Gilliland R)
23XI Racing (Bubba Wallace, Kurt Busch)
Kaulig Racing (TBA either AJ Allmendinger or Daniel Hemric, Justin Haley)
Petty GMS Racing (Ty Dillon, Erik Jones)
Spire Sports (Corey LaJoie, TBA)
Wood Brothers (Harrison Burton R)
JTG Daugherty Racing (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.)
Live Fast Motorsports (TBA)
Rick Ware Racing (both cars TBA)
The not yet named drivers are for Kaulig (No. 16 Chevrolet), Spire (No. 77 Chevrolet), Live Fast (No. 78 Ford) and for both cars at Rick Ware Racing. We know Kaulig is down to Hemric and Allmendinger since Noah Gragson will be in an open car with Beard Motorsports. Allmendinger, hasn’t been too keen on superspeedway’s in Cup so this may be Hemric’s opportunity in that seat. Live Fast will more than likely be BJ McLeod again.
Spire and RWR could go in any direction as the TBA’s left from that point forward.
Those are the charters. There’s going to be 36 cars in Daytona. That’s a fact. Here’s the problem, do we have more than four open cars coming to round out the field or will we fall just short?
We know Beard Motorsports is back in the No. 62 Chevrolet and will do so with Noah Gragson. We now know that MBM is in with Timmy Hill in the No. 66 Ford for. That’s 38.
Do we have two cars more to fill the field?
The 39th car could be Team Hezeberg who now looks like they’ll take on Daytona. They initially weren’t but they’re testing down there this week with Jacques Villeneuve.
So, where does No. 40 come from and do we get anymore after to make the Duels beneficial?
In 2018, there were no extra cars with 40 cars showing up for 40 spots.
In 2019, we had six open cars meaning two wouldn’t make it
2020 saw seven open cars and 2021 with eight. Now, we could be back to 40 cars for 40 spots or even worse, less. That’s unfortunately where things may be again for a while due to this structure.
You may first be wondering, where did those eight “open” cars go from last year and secondly, why isn’t anyone there to take what’s not being used?
Kaulig found a charter. JTG dropped theirs. So did Penske who doesn’t need a fourth car this year since Austin Cindric is now a Cup driver.
That’s three of the eight open cars gone. It leaves the Gaunt Brothers, Front Row, MBM and Beard.
We know MBM and Beard are both back but MBM likely scales back from two cars to one. That’s a fourth open car gone. I’ve not heard anything yet from Gaunt or FRR (3rd car) on coming back again for these respective teams.
I don’t think FRR would just magically show up with a third car without having planned yet for one and the Gaunt Brothers have been quiet. So, that’s half the open cars from last year gone and no one really there to take their place outside of Hezeberg.
See, NASCAR has had a nice list of new teams the last few years wanting into the sport. You get 23XI Racing, GMS, Kaulig, Live Fast, Trackhouse, etc. The thing is, they’ve all found charters. They don’t need or want to run as open cars. Where the problem lies, the market to run as an open team is basically non existent.
The big teams are capped at four. The smaller teams can’t afford to just show up with an extra “open” car and get paid less. See, the business structure is for the chartered teams to get a larger piece of the pie. Unless you have a substantial sponsor, you really lose money as an open team.
It costs more and the payout is lower for non chartered cars so why would any new business or person want to enter NASCAR under those circumstances. They’re all going after charters. In turn, it drives down the car counts as a result.
What benefit is there to run as a Cup open team?
Look, I get that charters are an added benefit to NASCAR and their owners. Almost every other professional sporting league around this world has franchises that belong to those leagues. The owners are all very wealthy because of this and when the owners want out, they get to sell and keep the money that comes out of it.
It’s a great investment.
Prior to the charter system, NASCAR didn’t have that. If an owner wanted out, there’s not much he or she could do to recoup all the money they put into their business. The thing is, racing is an expensive venture. It’s hard to make money in this sport. Most of the time, when the owners left, they departed with nothing.
Now, when they want out, they get millions. As a result, Wall Street has in turn hit Charlotte. NASCAR’s fast paced version of the stock market is ringing louder and louder.
StarCom bought a charter when they started out a few years ago for next to nothing. They got $13.5-million this offseason for theirs when they walked away. It was also found out that GMS owner Maury Gallagher paid $19.1-million for Richard Petty Motorsports’ two charters to take over the majority stake of that operation.
This all comes after last summer’s shocking announcement that Trackhouse bought out Chip Ganassi Racing in order to obtain their two charters. The financial terms of this deal wasn’t disclosed but it was obviously way more money since it was a full buyout of everything.
Ganassi, leaves the sport with a hefty sum instead of arguably nothing if he left five years prior.
23XI Racing only gets a charter from Starcom and a charter only, hence that being less.
Kaulig Racing also bought two charters from Spire which had a nice price tag to it too.
In saying all of this, the reported $10-million price tag per charter was likely true all along. That’s a big increase though from 2020 into 2021 when 23XI Racing bought one for around $4-million for their No. 23 Toyota that debuted this past season.
It’s a large increase and is giving owners something to walk away with.
The thing now is, where this is like the stock market, does the value rise, go down or stay the same for a charter moving forward? It has to do one of the three. It’s exponentially gone over steadily year over year.
My sense though is, for the near future, they likely go down a bit now.
See, NASCAR is in a fundamental shift and have seen a lot of new teams come to the premiere series over the past couple of seasons. That, plus most of the now existing teams that didn’t sell, well combine all of this and they’re not going anywhere for a long time either.
Joe Gibbs Racing is set up for the future. So is Hendrick Motorsports, Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske. They all have people in place to carry on their respective legacies into the far distant future.
Now that Brad Keselowski has bought into Roush Fenway, this organization has a successor. Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan are young enough to lead 23XI Racing for a long time. Same for Justin Marks and Pitbull over there at Trackhouse. Matt Kaulig and Chris Rice are young and have a lot of energy to propel Kaulig Racing for a while. GMS is new and in a same boat.
Which brings us back to the point of which direction does the market for a charter now go for the 2023 season and beyond and how does this affect races like the Daytona 500 and its car counts.
Some of these new teams that are in the sport now could eye further expansion I guess. You may even see some other new people want to join the sport.
The thing is, where do those charters come from?
The only question marks really are Rick Ware Racing, JTG Daugherty, Live Fast and Front Row Motorsports. How long do they stay around and can they make this work financially or do they sell down the line?
All four teams were brought up as potential sellers for 2022. The thing is, now that the new teams have already announced, are there any more out there eyeing to get in or are these teams part of the long term future of the sport too?
With a new car coming out, it made a lot of sense for these new teams to do so now. Does it help someone new to come in with these teams already having a full season or even more under their belts of this new car?
Plus, will the price tag be $10 million for them to come in?
The other aspect to this is, what does the Wood Brothers and Richard Childress Racing do? Is there anyone in place below the elder Wood’s and even Richard Childress to keep these storied teams going or do they get out while they can get a hefty payout while doing so.
So, while there’s value to be had, do the Wood Brothers and RCR sell while they can? Prior to the charter system, if they exited the sport, they had to sell of equipment on their own and hope to gain some money by that on their ways out. Now, someone would have to buy their charters which is worth far more in the process.
With all the more new teams that come in, there’s going to be a time to where the line at the door waiting to get into this sport is going to be short, if any at all.
36 is 36 and when most of the 36 don’t go anywhere, what incentive does a new team have to join with a charter when they literally can’t buy one. Plus, with that number being the number, the value of a charter drops if you add charters to accommodate those new teams wanting in. At this rate, you kind of have to keep the chartered number at 36.
With a four car max, JGR, HMS and SHR can’t expand. I don’t ever see Penske being a four car Cup team. They’re basically set. Does 23XI Racing, Trackhouse, RFK Racing, Kaulig or anyone else eye expansion down the road? Each are two car teams but can they sustain success and a three or even four car team? If they do, they would need a charter and that’s where the likes of RCR, Wood Brothers, JTG, RWR, Live Fast and Front Row come into play.
That’s why I don’t necessarily think charters now are going to cost over $10-million for 2023 to get in and it may drop over the years because there’s going to come a point where none are for sale and no right amount of money will be able to buy one out like Trackhouse or GMS did to Ganassi and Petty respectively.
So, while the going is still somewhat hot, what does RCR and the Wood Brothers do and what about the other smaller teams do moving forward?
The charter movement the last two years have shaped this sport for the future with it being as bright as ever. We’re rapidly approaching a time where the 36 charters are going to be held by their respective teams for a decade plus.
It’s buy or sell time now.
There’s only 36 of these things to go around and one can make a case that most are set for the future now.
Where this affects the Daytona 500 is, why would anyone new come into the sport as an open car? The only way we see open cars are for existing teams that have room to grow by running an extra car for the sake of it.
What’s scary is, we’re flirting with not even having a full field for next month’s Daytona 500 as a result. Is that a good or bad thing?
This is something to keep an eye out on.