Free agents and their contracts are the ones that steal the show during the NASCAR silly season, but just as important are the sponsorship announcements. Because while the drivers are the ones that make NASCAR go round (no pun intended), the teams need sponsors and their coveted cash in order to stay up and running.
There were plenty of sponsorship transactions during the offseason, which ranged from brand new sponsors to sponsors that left one team to join another.
Which teams left the offseason with the biggest gains, and which ones were left scrambling for replacements?
Legacy Motor Club
It there was an award for being champions of the offseason, it would easily go to Legacy Motor Club.
The team’s 2023 season was nothing short of a disaster between on-track performance and sponsorship. Erik Jones only scored one top five and had the worst average finish of his career, while the No. 42 (featuring multiple drivers after Noah Gragson‘s release) didn’t score a top-10 finish all season. Jimmie Johnson made his return behind the wheel for the first time since 2020, and he crashed out in all three races that he attempted.
To make matters worse, 55 of the 72 races between LMC’s two cars were sponsored by Allegiant or Sunseeker Resort, both of which are properties of team co-owner Maury Gallagher. Essentially, the team had to sponsor itself for more than three quarters of the year.
The poor performance makes sense when considering that it was a lame duck season with Chevrolet. With a talented driver in Jones and a new teammate in John Hunter Nemechek — who’s fresh off of a seven-win NASCAR Xfinity Series season and a Championship 4 appearance — the team is set for its Toyota debut, and it will have more manufacturer support and a foundation to build from now that all the pieces are in place.
But few expected just how much LMC would build in only one offseason.
The biggest sponsorship deal came in the form of Dollar Tree and Family Dollar. In an era when teams salivate at the possibility of a full-season sponsorship, LMC got one, as the two companies will cover an entire season’s worth of races between the cars of Nemechek, Jones and Johnson.
An interesting twist in this development is the addition of Matt Kenseth, who joined LMC as a competition advisor last fall. Dollar General was one of Kenseth’s primary sponsors at Joe Gibbs Racing from 2013 to 2016, and at the time, the company’s CEO was Rick Dreiling.
Who was hired as the CEO of Dollar Tree in January of 2023? None other than Rick Dreiling.
But the deals didn’t stop there, as it was announced that Gearwrench would leave Stewart-Haas Racing to join LMC for an unspecified number of races. The team also picked up a six-race deal with Advent Health, which departed from Ross Chastain and Trackhouse Racing.
Mobil 1, which has been a long-time sponsor for Toyota in Xfinity and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, will sponsor Nemechek for three Cup races in addition to select events for Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick and Bubba Wallace. Mobil 1 was a frequent guest on Nemechek’s Xfinity car last year, which is just one out of a half-dozen sponsors that will make the jump to Cup with Nemechek to the No. 42.
With a new manufacturer and new sponsors, LMC has all the pieces in place to make a splash in the win column for the 2024 season. One of the most intriguing mysteries of the offseason has been how they will stack up to the rest of the Cup field, and we are just weeks away from finding out the answer.
Trackhouse Racing has had no shortage of sponsors during its quick rise to a Cup powerhouse, but that didn’t stop the team from acquiring about a half dozen more.
The most high-profile acquisition came in the middle of the 2023 season, as it was announced that Busch would move to sponsor Chastain after Kevin Harvick’s retirement.
One of NASCAR’s four premier partners, Busch will appear on the No. 1 for 18 races this season.
Joining Trackhouse as a Cup driver is former Truck champion Zane Smith, who signed a multi-year contract with the team in the fall. Smith will compete in a third car for Spire Motorsports in 2024, but it’s a de facto third full-time entry for Trackhouse in terms of equipment and support.
And for Smith’s rookie year, Focused Health will adorn his No. 71 car for 20 races.
Smith will have WeatherTech as a primary sponsor for the Daytona 500. The company isn’t stopping there, however, as the WeatherTech colors will join Trackhouse development driver Shane van Gisbergen in 17 Xfinity races and four Cup events, all of which will come with Kaulig Racing.
In another partnership with two Trackhouse-affiliated drivers, Wendy’s will leave LMC in order to serve as a sponsor for van Gisbergen for three races and Daniel Suarez for one Xfinity start.
The latest news came toward the end of January, as it was announced that Choice Hotels will sponsor Suarez in four Cup races through its Choice Privileges rewards program.
Choice is the parent company of the Radisson, Comfort Suites, Quality Inn, Clarion Inn, EconoLodge and Rodeway Inn brands, among countless others.
Trackhouse has been in the Cup Series for less than four years, and it’s already building a foundation to become a powerhouse. The future is bright.
There’s only one team that took a major hit. Sponsors come and go, but not a single team this lost as many sponsors in one offseason as SHR did.
We knew that sponsorship was going to be an issue from the moment Tony Stewart announced that sponsorship on the No. 4 was completely open. Busch was first domino to fall in July, and Aric Almirola’s retirement from full-time competition meant the loss of Smithfield, who sponsored the No. 10 in 32 of the 36 races last year.
By January, seven companies that served as a primary sponsor for SHR’s cars last year were absent from the partners page on the team’s website: Busch, Hunt Brothers, Gearwrench, Smithfield, Go Bowling, Rheem and Magical Vacation Planner.
If SHR’s first-ever winless season in Cup wasn’t bad enough, the retirement of its winningest driver and the mass exodus of sponsors is a triple whammy.
Sunny D and Mobil 1 will return to sponsor Berry’s rookie year, and Harrison’s USA — which occasionally served as a sponsor for Berry at JR Motorsports — will foot two races as well. But unless Sunny D and Mobil 1 up their antes from the year before, something isn’t adding up.
The situation looks even more tedious for Noah Gragson and the No. 10 team, which only have Rush Truck Centers announced as a sponsor for 2024. And in the team’s recent photoshoot ahead of the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Gragson’s fire suit didn’t have any associate sponsor patches.
SHR’s sponsorship situation may be less than ideal, but it isn’t slowing the team down, at least on the surface. And while the team may be back in competition mode, there are opportunities to sign deals for the back half of the year. But unless those last-minute or mid-season deals are announced, anticipate more frequent appearances for Ford Performance and Haas Automation in SHR’s upcoming schedule.
Notable New Partnerships
While Trackhouse, LMC and SHR were in the news the most for sponsorship transactions this offseason, the following also occurred:
Chili’s Grill & Bar will sponsor Corey LaJoie and his Spire No. 7 in the Daytona 500.
US Air Force will move to sponsor Bubba Wallace in select races for 2024. It will be a reunion for Wallace, as he was previously by the Air Force in his 2017 to 2020 tenure with Richard Petty Motorsports.
Consumer Cellular will sponsor Brad Keselowski and RFK Racing in four races this season.
Zone, a company that sells nicotine pouches, will be a sponsor for Kyle Busch this season. While no specific races were revealed, RCR’s release states that Zone will serve as the anchor partner for the No. 8 car.
Rebel Bourbon will also sponsor Busch in an unspecified number of races at RCR, starting at Richmond Raceway on March 31. The partnership is a two-year deal extending into the 2025 season.
A sponsor for RCR’s Xfinity driver Austin Hill, Global Industrial, will also sponsor Busch in an unspecified number of Cup races.
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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