Race Weekend Central

Did You Notice?: New NASCAR Teams Slowing to a Crawl?

Did You Notice? … The number of new NASCAR team owners has slowed to a crawl in 2023? After a promising start to the year, where eight unchartered cars battled for four spots in February’s Daytona 500, the number of potential new entrants into the Cup Series has dwindled substantially.

Halfway through the regular season, that’s the last time we ran with a full 40-car field at NASCAR’s top level. We’ve seen open teams enter just five of the 13 races, the smallest number since the sport adopted the current charter system in 2016.

Those rules reduced the field from 43 to 40 while guaranteeing spots to 36 cars in the field. Up to four remaining positions are open to others, although the purse money distribution is heavily tilted toward full-time entries (NASCAR no longer publicly releases money won each week).

A quick look at those extra cars shows zero new owners have dipped their toe into Cup in 2023. The vast majority of open spots, when filled, have come from an already-established team like Kaulig Racing.

2023 OPEN NASCAR TEAMS

Car No.OrganizationStarts
13Kaulig Racing2*
36Front Row Motorsports2
84Legacy Motor Club2
50The Money Team Racing2
62Beard Motorsports1*
6723XI Racing1
91Trackhouse Racing1
* Also failed to qualify for Daytona 500

See also
Podcast: Al Niece Discusses His Time in Vietnam War

If you’re counting at home, that’s a total of seven open teams, only one of which is not connected to a charter program (Beard Motorsports). Only 43 cars have attempted at least one Cup event, a number that would be the smallest in NASCAR history over a full season. Not exactly what was expected when the supposedly less expensive Next Gen chassis was introduced to cut costs before 2022.

But a recent trend toward streamlining ownership has also made it down to lower NASCAR divisions, too. Take the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, whose Saturday race (May 20) at North Wilkesboro Speedway is a historic event, the type that would typically attract a number of part-time, local entries hoping to make a name for themselves.

Indeed, there are 40 entries battling to be part of the 36-truck field. But a lot of those extra cars are coming from the same full-time organizations. Ten of the 40 trucks (25%) come from just two teams: TRICON Garage (Toyota) and Thorsport Racing (Ford). Cost concerns there have also pushed single-car, part-time efforts to the sidelines or kept newer teams from forming. Rev Racing, partnered with Kyle Busch Motorsports this season, is really the only new organization that we’ve seen emerge in 2023.

Why is all this smaller field stuff worth mentioning now? Well, for starters, Cup owners continue to go public about their dissatisfaction with negotiations about NASCAR making the charter system permanent following the 2024 season.

“We have seen the market for Charters rise since initially issued, but there is currently no real market due to the uncertainty surrounding the pending renewal process,” they wrote to NASCAR earlier this month in a letter obtained by the Associated Press. “In order to continue to invest in our Teams and the sport as a whole, we need to build long-term value in our Charter ownership that is stable, predictable, and permanent.”

Something only has value if people are willing to buy it, right? I could look at an old penny and say that it’s invaluable, one of only a handful made in the country. But if a coin collector doesn’t want to buy it, it’s only worth one cent.

See my point?

NASCAR has owners increasingly unsettled at a time the market for these full-time charters doesn’t appear to be, well, robust. A number of potential new entrants into the sport, from a German 3F team to a Stange Racing entry headlined by Tarso Marques, have never made it onto the racetrack. Others, like a Team Hezeberg that once looked poised to do a part-time schedule with former Formula 1 and Indianapolis 500 champion Jacques Villeneuve, fizzled out.

In the meantime, the teams still in existence insist expansion won’t really be on the table until a new deal is signed and complain incessantly that, even with the Next Gen rollout, running a team at the Cup level is far too expensive. And those concerns are growing louder within NASCAR Xfinity and Truck Series garages where manufacturer support is becoming more of a necessity to survive with limited sponsorship.

It should give the owners a whole lot of leverage in their talks going forward; after all, it’s hard to have a race if no one shows up. But it’s got to be at least a little unnerving that people aren’t publicly going after charters, either. Feels like Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s claim charters are currently worth $20 million might be a little overblown? Was it posturing?

Or is the price held down because prospective new owners are keeping quiet, just hoping the charter system disappears so they don’t need to spend money in order to buy a spot in the field? Feels like the NASCAR economic system is going through an important moment of transition right now. Either way, the charter system still has a long way to go in order to achieve the values ownership seeks; Earnhardt’s beloved Washington Commanders of the NFL are about to be sold for $6.05 billion.

See also
Only Yesterday: NASCAR's New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning's End

Did You Notice? … Quick hits before taking off …

  • The expectations feel sky high for the first North Wilkesboro Cup race since 1996. I’m hoping for the best but it feels like anything less than the best All-Star Race since Davey Allison’s “spin to win” in 1992 will be considered a disappointment.
  • Ross Chastain, Justin Marks and Trackhouse can apologize all they want and say Chastain needs to turn over a new leaf. But it feels like the No. 1 team is now resigned to having a target on its back for the rest of the season. As I said in my CBS Sports article this week, if Rick Hendrick’s speaking out on the situation, the most politically correct owner in the garage area … the horse has already left the barn.

Follow @NASCARBowles

About the author

Tom Bowles
 | Website

The author of Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 40+ staff members as its majority owner and Editor-in-Chief. Based outside Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild. He most recently consulted with SRX Racing, helping manage cutting-edge technology and graphics that appeared on their CBS broadcasts during 2021 and 2022.

You can find Tom’s writing here, at CBSSports.com and Athlonsports.com, where he’s been an editorial consultant for the annual racing magazine for 15 years.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

17 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
chastainfanbecausemoose

No wonder no new teams are joining. My beautiful sport is getting killed by rules and the stupid cars. Drivers are afraid of getting penalized, so they do not do anything. And also, why would a new team join, if only the top 36 cars actually get money. They should just use the cars cars or the arca cars and cut the stupid stages and playoffs, which make no sense

John

If megateams are having trouble balancing the books, start ups with no charter are highly unlikely. To even get in the game it takes expertise and/or money to buy into a real alliance. Its evident that 23XI and JRM have done the financial studies and tested the waters for possible funding of another Cup team. By my count, there are 25 car numbers that receive Manufacturer money and direct support. The remainder are either paying for it a floundering. Based on Nascar’s unwillingness to provide a measure of security to charter owners, a strike and/or development of an IRL/CART like split seems inevitable.
The car, per se, is not the problem. The poor job of sourcing the parts, managing the supply base, including controlling costs and quality have made this switch over costly.
This is a test to see if Nascar will ever act as a true partner with team owners or if that’s just the bull crap its always been. But if I were the RTA, I’d start paying someone to start pulling together a rival series…because that’s where its heading.

WJW Motorsports

They already did – and NASCAR (knew) knows it as well. His name is Tony Stewart.

Bill B

SRX is even closer to an IROC series than NASCAR. Tony Stewart isn’t our savior.

TiminPayson

It’s going to take a Marcus Smith. He has race tracks. Tony and Ray has two dirt venues.

Dawg

I was in favor of some kind of charter system long before it was implemented. The reason being that we were seeing owners who had supported the series for many years received fire sale, auction prices for their equipment when they stepped away.

One aspect I’m not in favor of is that a charter team is paid more that an open team for the same finishing position. This should not be the case.

It’s only been recently that charters have been really valuable, supply & demand has taken care of that.

If this car could actually save owners $$ then we might see new owners trying to buy their way in, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

DoninAjax

The RTA should demand that NA$CAR pay for repairs for their Cup creations that are damaged (destroyed) from GWCs, especially at Daytona. Talladega and now Atlanta.

Kurt Smith

This. Just hazarding a guess, but maybe smaller teams can’t afford to replace torn up equipment after every pack race and road course event with endless pileups. I wouldn’t want to invest millions in this clown show right now.

Bill B

I knew most of the promises NASCAR made about this wonderfully fantastic car wouldn’t come to fruition. How? Because I saw the same BS when the COT was introduced in 2007. As is often the case, history repeats itself because someone is unwilling to learn from their past.

Christopher

NASCAR as it’s been for 75 years will be dead within a decade. Manufacturers will withdraw, concentrating on EV’s. NASCAR will devolve to a regional series like CARS. It’s over.

TiminPayson

If a convicted felon who wrote a million dollar check to the Clinton foundation for his pardon. Secured a questionable leukemia diagnosis to avoid incarceration is your most politically correct owner you’ve got trouble in River City. OBTW. there were two late race wrecks last weekend and Kyle Larson was involved in both of them. Mr car control bounced off the wall and took out JHN Saturday and appeared to hook Chastain on Sunday. Larson is far and away the most talented current driver but to say he was wronged last weekend is BS.

CEEGEE

Take a deep breath. We are four months into year two of a car that wasn’t expected to break even until at least the end of year three. Team owners, in the midst of a contract negotiation, knowing a fat new TV contract is on the horizon, sadly have elected to use fans, often peripheral at best on specifics, and the media as a tool in that negotiation. Yes, one group in that negotiation voices are getting louder. It’s by design. Notice that NASCAR, SMI, and independent track owners have said very little publicity. Other than NASCAR’s reassurance to negotiate fairly, and Marcus Smith’s comment that he was disappointed that team owners elected to go public, prior to any attempt whatsoever to sit down, discuss, and learn the basics of each other’s businesses, we’ve heard nothing from those two sides. Negotiations, at least the public portion of negotiations, are about narratives. As we have seen with the handling of the appeal process, NASCAR has always seemed to struggle with controlling the narrative, even when they hold the high ground. The penalties and the new car are a great example. The owners lobbied for this car, knowing full well that any attempt to fool with vendor parts would undermine the purpose of the very car that they themselves wanted. But promises are cheap, and culture change is difficult. NASCAR’s slow public response in defending what were most often, well deserved penalties, left them with yet another black eye before finally fixing an obvious deficiency in the appeal process, and to return to the historic “table of shame,” where everyone could openly see the altered parts. (Notice we haven’t seen those altered parts issues of late?) I’m sure stuff like this doesn’t go unnoticed by smart business people like team owners, and their consultant, The Wasserman Media Group. However, poor narrative control, shouldn’t be confused with being in a poor position behind closed doors. Nor should fans project their own bias’s into what may or may not be real issues, verses negotiating smoke screens. Simply because an team owner says something, doesn’t make it any truer than a what a crew chief may say after getting caught with an altered part. So, at least from my perspective, much of this comes down to two items. The fight for share size in the the upcoming TV contract, which by many accounts is expected to be larger than the existing, and a likely contributer to teams not interested in selling a charter until that contract is complete. And the permanency of charters. The charters, possibly the single most misunderstood thing by the fan base, are likely one of NASCAR’s biggest pieces of leverage. Having already dipped their toe in that pool, NASCAR is unlikely to refuse the request to make charters permanent, especially with so much money already spent by team owners. NASCAR easily realizes the financial importance of this to team owners, and to the sport. But if they give in to that now could be foolish this early in the negotiation. All the rest of the stuff is a storm in a teacup. How quickly we forget that NASCAR just came through a period of the most interest in team ownership in possibly a generation. A year long pause isn’t a sky is falling moment some in the media would like to make it out to be, especially in the midst of a contract negotiation. Neither is the cost of a charter, now beginning to do exactly what they were intended to do. Neither are the additional cars in the field. From a practical standpoint, most of those teams in the past purchased used cars to compete. The transition to a new gen car, has made sparser numbers of used cars available. That is a short term issue. The fan base, and some in the media are still looking at NASCAR through the prism of 30 years ago. Those days are gone. It’s big boy pro sports now, with big boy costs, and big boy team owners, and far bigger complexities that Bill France would have never dreamed to exist. It’s time to accept that fact. The never ending quest by teams to find the next advantage, often supported by out of control spending in that quest, made the possibility of small teams rising up as they did thirty or forty years ago nearly non existent. It wasn’t a result of charters. Rather, charters are an acceptance of that fact. That doesn’t mean small teams won’t happen, it simply means it will happen differently. NASCAR is in a transition phase, that is true. It’s also a sport with a lot of momentum. Those that are still fixated on the pro sports and entertainment environment of 25 years ago, which looks nothing like today, won’t see it. The people involved, the people with the money, from NASCAR, to the team owners, to the broadcast partners, and other stakeholders, see it and are jockeying for position. The best thing we fans can do, is what we have always done, and that is enjoy the racing. As a near fifty year fan, it’s pretty darn good right now. That is if you like racing as close or closer than it’s ever been, close margins of victory, a deeper field of talent than ever before, and a point system that rewards winning. The rest….let the billionaires and multi millionaires many times over, fight that out. Like many big contract negotiations, they often get ugly before they get resolved. As fans that isn’t our problem, and in truth, we’ll likely never real know the full story anyway, at least not while they’re in the midst negotiating. I’d rather root for drivers, than spend time rooting for one side of the negotiation or the other. It means little to us fans, even though we’re being told it should. Don’t believe it.

Alfred in AZ

Whether or not you agree with all of the comments, the most intelligent, thoughtful comment I’ve ever seen on this website.
Personally I have concern about the future of NASCAR as a relevant marketing tool for the OEMs. With the (ill-advised, in my opinion) stampede towards EVs, how much longer will the current OEMs have a reason to continue in the sport. Perhaps if the foot-dragging towards a hybrid-ICE picks up speed, the manufacturers will have a reason to stay in the sport.

Echo

A deeper field of talent ! Hope you aren’t basing that on who finished in the top 10. That order is determined by attrition after multiple GWC take out the better half of the field. Glad someone is enjoying pretty darn good racing nowadays.

Bill B

A lot of good points and insights but I have to ask, regarding….
“The fight for share size in the the upcoming TV contract, which by many accounts is expected to be larger than the existing,”

Where are those many accounts you speak of. Do you have some links?
Because I’d like to read them. I can’t see how NASCAR gets a bigger TV contract. It just defies logic that it could be larger. Just about every metric that would measure the value the sport has to advertising and overall revenue has been trending down since the last contract was negotiated.

Bill B

Well, that will be the final bullet to kill the sport. They are having trouble attracting viewers even when it’s on broadcast TV, so they conclude that people will be willing to pay to watch the race? cuk-koo…cuk-koo

Especially given that their demographic skews older than most other sports, which means many existing fans will be unwilling to deal with the whole streaming deal, so more fans evaporating. Good luck with that NASCAR.

I’ve got to say, I will be very, very reluctant to pay a subscription to watch NASCAR races. Maybe,,,, but maybe not. The only way I would be somewhat interested is if that meant no commercials, at all, during green flag conditions.

Share via