Race Weekend Central

NASCAR 101: It’s All in the (Poor) Timing

Sheldon Creed will not return to Richard Childress Racing in the Xfinity Series for 2024.

Well, that was unexpected.

The announcement on Wednesday (Oct. 11) comes in the midst of a championship run for Creed and his No. 2 team, for which he’s competed with the past two seasons.

See also
Sheldon Creed Out at RCR After Season

However, based on the announcement given by RCR on X, it may have seemed like it wasn’t a mutual ending to the partnership.

With the announcement on Monday (Oct. 10) that Craftsman Truck Series driver Carson Hocevar would move up to the Cup Series in 2024, driving the No. 77 for Spire Motorsports, this announcement by RCR led fans to believe that Creed had been sacked for the outgoing driver of the No. 77, Ty Dillon — who, as we all know, is the grandson of RCR team owner Richard Childress.

While Dillon still may be a candidate for the now-vacant No. 2 car in 2024, this announcement doesn’t seem to display any notion that RCR kicked Creed to the curb. As my colleague Tanner Marlar eluded to, there was no well-wishes or “we thank him for all he’s done” in RCR’s announcement.

Later in the day, Creed posted a statement of his own, confirming that the split between himself and RCR was not a team decision, but rather his own.

Creed even noted that he is “extremely excited to share my 2024 plans with you all soon,” indicating he has a ride lined up already for next season. So in reality, Creed was the one who decided to leave RCR when everyone was led to believe he was canned by the team.

With three races left in the 2023 season, everyone has to be solidifying their 2024 plans soon. You can’t wait until the end of the season to figure out the next, because most of the rides will be unavailable by that point. Full-time deals with a new team usually are worked out months in advance. It’s the way business goes. The moment a new year starts, businesses are already looking to the following year so they can hit the ground running.

But there seems to be a growing issue concerning common decency in the garage.

Announcing next season’s plans has always been a thing. Hell, there have already been a lot this year regarding 2024. But more often than not, announcing next season’s plans usually takes some planning. You want to let your fans know what you are doing next season, but typically drivers want to do it in a way that doesn’t detract from their current season.

Especially if you are a playoff contender.

Matt DiBenedetto announced that he was leaving Rackley-W.A.R. at the end of the 2023 Truck Series season. That announcement came two races into the 2023 Truck Series playoffs, for which DiBenedetto and Rackley had both qualified for the first time.

However, one race later, DiBenedetto was out of the playoffs. A few weeks later, he was canned from Rackley entirely to audition drivers for the 2024 season.

RCR has even been in this situation before. Tyler Reddick announced last season that he was leaving RCR for 23XI Racing in 2024 — a whole year and a half before actually heading to the team.

As such, RCR was bitter about the announcement, putting out an X post that has now been circulated as an internet meme since it dropped.

This post right here might be why RCR was so short with Creed’s departure post.

Reddick’s announcement was quite a surprise at the time. He had won his first career Cup Series race a few weeks prior at Road America and was finally finding his stride with RCR, only to ditch them after 2023 (which would later turn out to be after 2022, as 23XI bought out Reddick’s contract to let him move over a year early).

A similar situation arose in 2010, when Kasey Kahne announced in April of that year that he would be moving from Richard Petty Motorsports to Hendrick Motorsports in 2012. The 2012 Daytona 500 was still 21.5 months away at that time. RPM ended up releasing Kahne with a few races left in 2010, and Kahne spent a year and change driving for Red Bull Racing in anticipation of his Hendrick ride opening up.

See also
Here's Where Frankie Muniz Could Drive in 2024

The distraction of announcing a departure mid-season can leave a poor taste in people’s mouths. Look at Legacy Motor Club for example. The team will jump ship to Toyota next season, and after LMC made that announcement in May, the team’s performance dipped drastically compared to 2022, leading many to believe the team was in a lame duck year (until Erik Jones came alive once the fall months hit).

But for drivers like Creed, DiBenedetto and Reddick, why announce your departure in the middle of a championship quest? DiBenedetto could’ve waited one more race to announce his departure. He practically needed a win at Kansas Speedway to move on to the next round, and he didn’t get that. He could have easily made the announcement in the week after Kansas.

The issue with why these drivers in particular made their announcement at the wrong time is because of the media frenzy that surrounds them. Creed will surely have to face a whirlwind of questions from the media at Las Vegas Motor Speedway asking why he’s leaving, why he announced it when he did, or having someone try to pry his 2024 plans out of him.

It creates a distraction. It always has.

When Kahne made his Hendrick announcement, RPM cut him before the end of 2010 because, well, why keep a driver who is just going to ride out his contract before bolting from the team the minute the checkered flag flies in 2011, when the team could work to get another driver ready for 2011? I’m sure Rackley had the same idea when it nixed DiBenedetto.

There is a difference between these guys and other driver announcements. Kyle Busch‘s departure from Joe Gibbs Racing to RCR came as a result of a lack of sponsorship combined with no new deal for himself for 2023. Joey Logano jumped from JGR to Team Penske in 2013 for the same lack of contract that Busch faced.

Any driver who will be a rookie in a series (Hocevar, Zane Smith, Hailie Deegan and Josh Berry, to name a few) shouldn’t be a target for criticism because they are receiving a promotion to help them further their careers. Their team owners knew the likelihood that they would stay was very slim due to their talent, so announcements are made with heartfelt congratulatory thanks from the team they are departing.

Listen, these things happen. At some point, you have to bite the bullet to make sure next season is secure. But it can create a distraction, and if a driver is a championship contender, it can potentially derail a playoff run.

Sometimes, as a great race team once said, the timing of an announcement could not be any worse.

About the author

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is now a grad student. He is a theatre actor and fight-choreographer-in-training in his free time. He is a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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2 Comments
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Steve

Whole lot of speculation in this article, with not a lot of facts to back it up.

Last edited 7 months ago by Steve
Christopher

Drivers need to announce they are on the market. That the writer does not understand this or is simply ignoring it does not reflect well on him.

Last edited 7 months ago by Christopher
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