By AMANDA VINCENT
NASCAR officials and Sprint Cup team owners continue to meet behind closed doors to hash out an ownership model that would make team ownership at the premier level more lucrative when it comes time for owners to retire or get out of the sport for any other reason.
Currently, there is no model. Anyone with enough money to buy or build a race car that meets NASCAR specifications and hire a driver and necessary crew members may enter the races. But when it comes time for owners to get out of the sport, all they have to show for their investment is equipment and race shop facilities that often sell at auction for pennies on the dollar. That fact has recently come to light with the demise of Michael Waltrip Racing. MWR will be closing up shop at the end of the 2015 season as majority team owner Rob Kauffman takes his funds to Chip Ganassi Racing to become a minority owner there.
NASCAR isn’t ready to release information on the possibilities. As a matter-of-fact, NASCAR spokesman Brett Jewkes released the following statement after a meeting in late September:
“There is still a lot of work to be done, and that will continue over the coming months. We understand there will be speculation and rumors related to the concepts outlined today, but would caution against coming to any conclusions as we work toward final decisions. When it is appropriate to do so, NASCAR will make an official announcement.”
Early talks included the term, “franchising,” but NASCAR is opting to use the word, “charter.” The plan tossed around now, reportedly, gives 36 existing team entries charters, guaranteeing spots in Sprint Cup Series race fields that will be reduced from the current 43-car count to 40. The charters could be sold if the car owner owning them decide to get out of the sport or decrease his/her number of entries.
Potential team owners without charters or not as many charters as desired entries may field car(s) without charters, but their starting spots would not be guaranteed.
If the system is implemented just as it is, reportedly, being discussed, charters would be distributed to current teams that have been full-time since 2013. Both Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing have added fourth cars to their stables since then. Also worth noting — Wood Brothers Racing hasn’t fielded its No. 21 Ford in several years.
MWR, however, has fielded at least two full-time entries since 2013. If this charter system is adopted and is implemented prior to the end of the 2015 season or before the start of 2016, Michael Waltrip Racing will likely have two charters to sell.
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