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Fire on Fridays: Honda in NASCAR? No, Really

Could Honda actually join NASCAR and be its fourth original equipment manufacturer?

It’s that rumor that seems to pop up every couple of years for at least the past decade. It’s that rumor that we’ve heard so many times that it’s become the racing world’s version of The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

But could it actually, finally be happening?

Talks of Honda coming to NASCAR reignited Feb. 28 when the Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern posted on X (formerly Twitter) a quote from The Marshall Pruett Podcast.

“If you’re a Honda fan and you like NASCAR, you’re probably going to be really happy here in the future,” Pruett said.

Pruett didn’t outright say that Honda is coming to NASCAR. But he hinted at it strongly enough to where if it doesn’t happen then it would come back to bite him. With a quote like that, Pruett is putting his reputation on the line.

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And for NASCAR fans not familiar with Pruett, he has a great reputation and a lot of connections in the NTT IndyCar Series garage.

Plus, anyone on NASCAR Twitter knows that when Stern posts something, it usually happens. Put these two guys together, and I feel more confident about Honda coming to NASCAR than at any point over the past decade.

It’s no secret that NASCAR has yearned for a new OEM to join ever since Dodge left at the end of 2012. NASCAR COO Steve O’Donnell said as much in the State of the Sport press conference at Phoenix Raceway last November.

“… To be able to see a new OEM or two with our car owners and bring some interest into the sport, it remains a goal,” O’Donnell said.

A big reason NASCAR won’t increase horsepower at the Cup level despite many drivers and fans clamoring for it is because it’s trying to entice new manufacturers. The switch to the Next Gen car also made it easier for new OEMs to join.

So after all that catering, NASCAR may finally be getting what it wanted. And that’s a great thing if Honda joins. It not only creates a buzz around the series, it will also get more money flowing all throughout the sport in a chain reaction.

Sure, there will be some fans yelling about how a foreign car is invading their American sport. But just remember, those same folks probably have a Honda Civic or Accord sitting in their driveway.

If Honda is on its way into NASCAR, things make a lot more sense over at Stewart-Haas Racing and Ford. It’s been widely rumored SHR will leave Ford after this season, as this is the last year of their contract together. In the meantime, Ford recently bumped Front Row Motorsports up to a Tier 1 partner. With SHR, FRM, Team Penske, Wood Brothers Racing and RFK Racing all at the Tier 1 level now, things are getting a little crowded at the Blue Oval.

SHR’s performance seems to have fallen to last among those four teams, so why not go join Honda and be its flagship team? Joe Gibbs Racing really didn’t become the megateam that it is now until it became the primary Toyota team, and likewise with Penske’s NASCAR program with Dodge.

Then again, maybe SHR is leaking these rumors to get more leverage with Ford — that certainly can’t be ruled out.

But Honda would want more than just one team, right? When Dodge entered in 2001 and Toyota in 2007, they brought in new ownership in the forms of Ray Evernham, Michael Waltrip, Red Bull, etc. So you’d think the same would happen if Honda came in.

The biggest difference is charters didn’t exist in the 2000s. Now, if you actually want your team to earn respectable purse money, you have to have one of the 36 charters. And with the market for those being over $40 million and none of the current owners seemingly being for sale, that’s quite a deterrent for both Honda and new owners that may want to come in with it.

But wait, there is a path. Apparently in the charter agreement, there is a stipulation that the amount of charters could expand should a new OEM join the fold.

Said charter agreement is expiring at the end of 2024, and the teams and NASCAR are working to re-up it. Maybe a new OEM bringing in new charters is one of the hangups where NASCAR and the teams currently don’t see eye-to-eye and the current teams want that taken out of the agreement. More cars on the track does equal a more spread-out purse, after all. That being the holdup is pure speculation, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

If Honda were to join NASCAR, I’ve got to believe neither SHR nor any other team will be in a Honda in 2025. Even if Honda announced tomorrow it was coming to NASCAR, 2025 feels like too tight a turnaround.

When Toyota entered the Cup Series in 2007, it announced its intentions to do so in January 2006. And Toyota had already been in NASCAR’s lower levels prior to that, so there was already a baseline.

Honda would be coming in from scratch. But the Next Gen car definitely makes it possible for a manufacturer to get NASCAR-ready faster than before. And NASCAR wants a new OEM so bad that perhaps it rushes some of the approval processes and whatnot to get Honda in quicker.

Of course, this is all subject to whether or not Honda even comes to NASCAR, which we don’t know yet — but I’m definitely not ruling out. Not this time.

About the author

Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.

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John

Interesting thoughts on Stewart-Haas. RFK was supposed to have been ‘Manufacturer shopping’ when their deal was up for renewal as well. Certainly any of the teams not receiving ‘Key Partner’ support from their OEM’s are ripe for the picking (that’s why Tony lost his bow tie and the same for Jimmie and Maury).
Has Toyota gotten return on its investment? They got in Cup in 2007 or 17 years ago. In 2007, they sold 2.62 million cars and trucks and, since the Nascar market is almost exclusively aimed at people that like trucks, The intro of the Toyota Tundra happened that year and the total sales surpassed Ford for the first time.
In 2023, Toyota sales were 2.25 million vehicles sold. I don’t know about profit for both those years which may be more telling. Again, this is USA sales only and includes both cars and trucks.
This, along with the undeniable trend in TV viewership (unless you are Nascar, of course), does not scream out to new manufacturers that this is a slam dunk for their advertising dollars. That said, I don’t know if there is anything better.
Another reason to not jump in is that Honda, like Toyota, sells no push rod engines in their products. Like Toyota, they would have to create an engine from scratch. They can’t even ‘size up’ their freaking lawn mowers or generators.
But Honda is looking to get out of Indy Car. This would free up resources. But Honda has a history of using racing to train future production car engineers and to develop new technologies for use in volume production. Going into Nascar doesn’t press those buttons. So I think they just meet with Nascar annually to get free Daytona 500 tickets..

Rodney

Your showcasing a Honda & showing Supposedly a Nascar style Honda Race car. But, Why does it have a TRD {Toyota Racing Development} sticker on the rear quarter fender?

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