Race Weekend Central

4 Burning Questions: Would Selling Charters Benefit SHR?

1. Would selling charters benefit Stewart-Haas Racing?

The latest silly season rumor to hit the news reels is the possibility that Stewart-Haas Racing may sell one or two of its NASCAR Cup Series charters at season’s end.

Currently, the only SHR drivers under contract for 2024 are Josh Berry in the No. 4 and Chase Briscoe in the No. 14. If the team elects to downsize to a three- or two-car team for next season, Aric Almirola and Ryan Preece would be the odd ones out.

Indeed, there’s a realistic chance that Almirola retires and Smithfield leaves with him. And if that is the case, SHR would have to find sponsorship for both the Nos. 4 and 10 cars next season.

With impending sponsorship woes and a downward spiral in performance, running four cars may no longer be a viable option for the team.

But why would SHR want to sell? Well, there are ($)40-50 million reasons why, as that is purportedly the asking price for each charter.

If SHR downsized to half of its current strength, it would potentially pocket $100 million, a tidy sum that could be used to greater prioritize the remaining two cars.

But with such a high asking price, it’s not a guarantee that it would be able to find two buyers, let alone one. And if that is the case, the team will have plenty of questions regarding sponsorship and driver contracts to face in the upcoming months.

2. Is the Cup race at Watkins Glen too short?

Sunday’s (Aug. 20) Cup race at Watkins Glen International clocked in at one hour, 58 minutes and 44 seconds, the first race of the modern era to do so.

For fans that purchased tickets to go to the event, they weren’t able to see much of one; 90 laps is a pedestrian mark to reach.

Cup races are significantly longer than the other series, and NASCAR Xfinity Series races are typically between half to three-quarters of the corresponding Cup distances. The Xfinity race at Watkins Glen, however? It’s 82 laps, more than 90% of the scheduled distance in the Cup race.

In fact, Saturday’s (Aug. 19) race ran longer than Sunday’s. With five cautions and 86 laps due to overtime, the Xfinity race clocked in at two hours, 25 minutes and 33 seconds.

Watkins Glen may be 2.45 miles, but it’s the fastest road course on the schedule, as shown by Denny Hamlin’s qualifying speed north of 125 mph. Between 100 to 110 laps would do well, and if the track wanted an even number, 102 laps is equivalent to 249.9 miles.

See also
Stage Cautions Are a Band-Aid for a Much Larger Problem

3. Are there too many road courses on the schedule?

It’s not a surprise to see that the Cup race at Watkins Glen didn’t get the warmest reception. After years of wanting more road courses on the schedule, the racing product has taken a step back almost the moment more were added.

In the present day, are six road (and street) courses a year too many? Joey Logano would agree.

Only so much can be done to help dirty air on road courses at the moment, but while the problem persists, the Cup Series should take advantage of tracks at which the Next Gen car excels.

One way to achieve that is by switching the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL back to the oval. With the new car, the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend has become one of the most anticipated races once again. Thus, returning to a 400- or 500-mile race in the fall would likely receive the same response.

Another road course — one that is well known to be on the chopping block — is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, as it’s rumored that the Brickyard 400 on the track’s oval will return for 2024.

If both of those switches are made, that leaves Watkins Glen, Sonoma Raceway, Circuit of the Americas and a street course for a grand total of four.

There’s the potential for new tracks to be added, as the addition of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has been one of the rumors for the 2024 schedule.

Regardless, three to four road courses and one street course feels like more of a sweet spot than the current schedule of six.

4. How will Trevor Bayne perform in his return to Joe Gibbs Racing’s Xfinity team?

In nine Xfinity starts with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2022, Trevor Bayne impressed to the tune of two poles, two runner-up finishes, five top fives, seven top 10s and 176 laps led.

Sponsor Devotion Nutrition didn’t return, so Bayne — now 32 — was relegated to the JGR sidelines. Until now.

See also
Trevor Bayne Joins JGR for 3 Xfinity Races

Bayne’s first start for JGR’s No. 19 car will come in Friday’s (Aug. 25) Wawa 250 at Daytona International Speedway. His remaining two starts will come at his home track of Bristol Motor Speedway (Sept. 15) and Texas Motor Speedway (Sept. 23), the site of Bayne’s first Xfinity win in 2011.

With strong performances last season, will that continue for Bayne in 2023?

One would be unable to draw any conclusions off the first race at Daytona, as superspeedway races have the become the equivalent of playing Powerball.

But for Bristol and Texas, there’s no reason to expect anything different out of Bayne than what we saw last year. Plus, with Cup drivers locked out of his final two races thanks to the playoffs, Bayne should be expected to be competing toward the front of the field.

And if he catches eyes with performance, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Bayne back in a greater capacity for 2024.

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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8 Comments
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sb

I still don’t understand why they don’t run The Boot and take the entire course. Silly.

Charlie

Selling charters will not benefit SHR. Leasing them may, but he gains nothing by selling. I’m sure they don’t need the money.

TiminPayson

Too many road courses? Put ‘em back on the ovals at Indy and Charlotte.

DoninAjax

So there was a desire for more road courses. So NA$CAR in their infinte wisdom chose rovals to get money from their own tracks instead of real road courses and also their first street course. Be careful what you wish for because NA$CAR has their one way of making decisions…what the “fans” want. Oh, and $$$$$$$.

John

Too many road courses? Absolutely. Indy and Charlotte need to go oval, not oval. And, Chicago just needs to go. Road races need to be run on true road courses only.

Shayne

I need a refresher course on the charter system. Is it like bitcoin, worthless after you buy it? Chip Ganassi called it musical chairs. A good return isn’t pennies on the dollar.

Echo

Almirola has won “3” Cup races his whole career. For some reason Smithfield doesn’t mind blowing their money backing him. And SHR certainly needs that money. It’s a game of money talks.

kb

Amazed the lack of talent that ARIC has compared to other people, why is this company who shall be nameless supporting this LOSER, imo. What is the endgame? He for a high-profile sponsor has not provided with results that would justify that investment, IMO. Stop with the nice guy ARIC we see on TV, stop with the emotions, his record SUCKS. Grow the fluck up. His numbers stink!

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