DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Daytona 500 Media Day festivities got an early start on Wednesday with a pair of driver/team signings for 2024 and beyond. First it was Daniel Suarez and Trackhouse announcing a multi-year extension. Then it was Alex Bowman and Hendrick Motorsports’ turn.
Here are my top takeaways from those announcements.
Suarez Changed His Tune
The last time we came to Daytona, last August, Daniel Suarez also announced a contract extension. However, on the even of last year’s Coke Zero Sugar 400, the announcement was only for a one-year contract. That would put Suarez in the exact same position this season as he was in last.
Before the first race has even occurred this year, he’s already signed a multi-year deal to stay in place for 2024 and beyond.
It’s a wise move to do so before the year started because there was a ton of risk involved in this. Trackhouse became a desired spot. Their performance a year ago and the atmosphere there was going to make this No. 99 Chevrolet seat a coveted one in free agency.
For Suarez, I get the notion to prove it because you could garner a bigger contract. However, what if his stats slipped in 2023 and a year after scoring his first career win and landing in the top 10 of the final standings, what if he went winless and missed the playoffs altogether?
What would that do to his stock.
Suarez has always wanted to feel appreciated in NASCAR and after years of proving himself with bigger teams like Gibbs and SHR, Trackhouse has given Suarez the tools and job security needed to thrive. Why wait any longer?
HMS/Ally Values Bowman
Likewise for Alex Bowman. He has always felt like he’s had to prove himself in this sport. Despite 7 wins in NASCAR’s premiere series, a lot of his peers and the fan base has called them “fluke” wins. Entering a contract year, Bowman had to hear the noise that he was HMS’ weakest link and saw some wonder when his replacement would be named.
That’s not going to happen.
HMS values Alex Bowman. So does his sponsor Ally. HMS and Dale Earnhardt Jr. handpicked Bowman to fill the most popular drivers’ shoes. When Jimmie Johnson retired next, HMS and Ally picked Bowman as his successor.
Even at times to where Bowman doesn’t feel appreciated, today’s announcement proves otherwise.
“We couldn’t ask for a better partner than Hendrick Motorsports, so extending our relationship for the next five years was a no-brainer,” said Andrea Brimmer, Ally’s chief marketing and public relations officer. “We’re one team, and Ally, together with Hendrick Motorsports and Alex, are a winning combination. Through this extension and our recently announced NASCAR sponsorship, we are fully committed to being an active part of the sport and deepening our engagement with fans.”
“Alex is our guy, and a true ally. He’s an incredible driver who shares our passion for connecting to the community,” Brimmer added. “We’re proud to stand by him as his longest sponsor and expand on this true partnership.”
Hendrick gave equal praise.
“We’re thrilled to extend with Alex, who is one of NASCAR’s most exciting young stars,” he said. “In addition to being hugely talented, he has incredible passion and commitment that set him apart. He’s a proven winner, and I don’t know of anyone who has worked harder to reach this level. The opportunity to continue our relationships with Alex and everyone at Ally is a great way to kick off 2023. It’s a tremendous combination.”
Bowman says that it’s hard to put into words what this opportunity means to him.
“Having support from a sponsor like Ally, a car owner like Mr. Hendrick and a team like Hendrick Motorsports is everything you could want as a race car driver. I’m pumped about what’s in store for the Ally 48 this season and love the direction we’re heading. We have a lot to accomplish, and it all starts this week in Daytona.”
HMS Solidified For The Future
Ally is back on the 48 car through 2028. Alex Bowman is in it through 2026. Kyle Larson and his sponsors just signed an extension and will be in the No. 5 Chevrolet through 2026. William Byron’s deal runs through 2025 while Chase Elliott’s is through 2027.
Both Signings Also A Risk For More Money If They Waited
The current TV deal expires at the end of the 2024 season. That means a new deal will be in place for 2025 that reportedly will be even bigger than the one that they’re operating on right now. Where this affects silly season is the fact that how can you now sign a “multi-year deal” knowing that things could change for 2025?
What I mean by that is, teams are negotiating a bigger piece of that TV money pie. They feel like if they can get more, they can offer more money to drivers instead of taking sponsorships money from drivers coming to them. In wake of that, drivers could in theory make way more money in 2025 with this TV deal.
So, why take a multi-year deal like both Bowman and Suarez did and sell yourself short of making more money in 2025 and beyond? However, why take a one-year deal also and put yourself right back in the thick of uncertainty for two full seasons?
Maybe someone with money comes to a team and takes less with a longer security of a job and the teams finds them attractive enough to hire because if they do get a larger chunk of the TV money, that’s extra profit.
See where I’m going with this?
We know the No. 4 Ford with Stewart-Haas Racing is open next season. Does someone come into that ride on a one-year deal?
What about Martin Truex Jr? What about Denny Hamlin? What about both Trackhouse Racing seats if Suarez didn’t get this deal done? What about Bowman? That’s 6 quality rides and 6 championship quality drivers, that as of now, are open in 2024.
That could be why Suarez and Bowman took themselves out of the market now because what if someone looking for their next big break came to one of these teams with some sponsorship checks in hand and say I’ll commit for a 2-3 year deal and get you through 2025? Does that devalue the market for these veteran drivers?
What happens if both Suarez and Bowman don’t win races this season? I mean we saw a record amount of winners in 2022 and with so much parity now, you can have a solid season similar to what Martin Truex Jr. did last year but miss out on the playoffs.
That devalues your market personally.
That’s why I find it highly intriguing what this year’s silly season looks like because these are big drivers and massive championship caliber rides but the TV deal and what that looks like doesn’t start until 2025.
Silly Season Now
That’s 2 names and 2 rides off the market for Silly Season, however there’s still some prominent ones left. We know Kevin Harvick is retiring at seasons end and his ride is open. We know Martin Truex Jr. is on a one year deal and his ride for 2024 is now open.
Ross Chastain just hired a new agency and is a free agent. Does he sign with Trackhouse or possibly wait for one of those rides? Aric Almirola, like Truex, is year-to-year. Denny Hamlin and FedEx are reportedly up for renewals this year. Can they make that happen?
There’s plenty open for 2024 and something to watch going forward.