Race Weekend Central

CW Motorsports Scaling Back ARCA Effort

After a career-best ninth-place finish at Dover Motor Speedway, Caleb Costner is not competing at Kansas Speedway. In fact, CW Motorsports will only compete in select races throughout the rest of the season, Costner confirmed to Frontstretch.

At the heart of that reason is the lack of money from team partner Aaron Weaver. Weaver owns Innovative Tiny Homes and the team’s funding depended on a large project as his company is doing affordable housing in Michigan for the state, he tells Frontstretch.

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“We ramped up for 2024,” Weaver says. “Yet things often get prolonged when you’re working with the state for a grant. Unfortunately, our funding that we were supposed to get in January is not in our pockets yet. We still have the contract to do the work but our full funding grant is not here. They’re telling us May 15. So in the last couple of months, we’ve been struggling. I support our team.

“Caleb has been the one who’s held this all together. Financial situations have caused things to back out. We made some decisions – not going full time like we wanted to. I felt the need that in that situation, I backed out of coming to the races and backed out on dealing with much of the stuff. When I get the money from this contract, I will fulfill my duty of paying him his contract. When I can put that money back into the race team, I’ll be back at the racetrack.

“Caleb is doing his best to keep racing and keep CW Motorsports running. I still believe in the team. I believe in the goal of where we’re going and what we’re doing and it still has my full support. But how could I live with myself going to a racetrack, spending money going there, if I can’t do that for other people on my team?”

Weaver’s response and his alleged lack of communication have affected the organization. Costner says he is unhappy about it and former crew chief Darrell Phillips left after a lack of payment.

“Weaver was a big contributor and sponsor for me for a long time,” Costner tells Frontstretch. “He was a very loyal supporter. However, he got involved and made promises to people that he couldn’t keep on behalf of his name. So, therefore, CW Motorsports is CW Motorsports. You can say the C for Costner and the W for [DL] Wilson, I don’t care, but there is no Costner Weaver Motorsports.

“Personally, Darrell and I are on great terms, but he and Aaron have an issue that they have yet to work out, and that is between those two. I hate that things happened the way they did. That’s why I stayed out of it. I support Darrell in what he needs to do to handle things between him and Weaver.”

Phillips joined the team eager to crew chief full time in ARCA. He served as Costner’s crew chief for the first two races at Daytona International Speedway and Phoenix Raceway. When Phillips’ first paycheck was late, it began snowballing from there.

“By the time we got to Phoenix I was already way behind on getting paid,” he tells Frontstretch. “And I was still onboard, pulling to go in the right direction, just really taking priority on how to get me some money. But I was still all in at Phoenix. Really everything fell apart the week of Five Flags [Speedway]. I got to a point where I had bills that were going to collections and all kinds of stuff because they were so far behind on paying me. And I worked up until 2 a.m. the day that they were leaving for Five Flags. And then the next day I decided I wasn’t going to Five Flags because I wasn’t getting paid.”

Five Flags Speedway was the first ARCA Menards Series East race of the season. Wilson finished ninth and Colton Collins ended up 11th in the No. 93. Phillips had left the organization at that point.

“I sat down with Caleb and told him that I had to do something different because I had to pay my bills,” he says. “Caleb was very understanding of it. He knew the situation. And the money guy, Aaron, I’ve hardly talked to because he just won’t answer his phone. He knew he put us in a bad spot, and because of that, you couldn’t even get him to respond to you at that point. Caleb and I both were trying to get me paid, but Aaron went off the grid.”

Costner worked with Phillips to get him paid, but the lack of it combined with no contact from Weaver forced Phillips’ hand.

“The week that I told Caleb that I was leaving, Aaron only paid me $1,900 the whole time I worked there,” he says. “The rest came from Caleb because he wanted me to stay, he saw the value in having me there, I was working my ass off and still wasn’t getting paid. So Caleb was doing everything he could to compensate me as best he could toward what Aaron owed me.

“At the beginning of that week, Caleb said he would try to get me at least a week of back pay, by the end of that week. When it came to that point, I received an offer to go back to TRICON [Garage]. And when I informed Caleb of that, him trying to pay me stopped and it became an issue between me and Aaron at that point. Caleb wasn’t going to put it in anymore personally because I was leaving.

“I’m upset about it, but I understand Caleb put a lot of money in to try to get me paid when he wasn’t really required to. But at the same time, the money guy is in Michigan and yes, he is the one who is supposed to be paying me, but I’m working for the team that you own. That could’ve been handled better. It should have been taken care of by either of them and it didn’t end up being that way.”

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Hiring a lawyer is currently not on Phillips’ horizon.

“I can’t even afford to hire a lawyer right now because of how far in debt I am because they didn’t pay me,” he says. “I have reached out to Aaron several times. He claimed he was going to send it on Venmo, then that didn’t work so then he was going to do PayPal, then that wasn’t working. Then he told me he sent a check out on April 3, I texted him on the 8th saying I had not received it, and how much it was supposed to be, and I have not heard anything from him since.

“Obviously, he lied that he sent me a check and he hasn’t responded to me via phone call, text, or even Facebook messenger. So he has decided he isn’t going to pay me. I’m in a position now where I’m screwed about that money unless something changes.

“Me and Caleb still get along. We talked last night (April 28). It’s just that Aaron has messed everything up. Caleb is not at fault. We’re on the same page.”

Regardless of the outcome of his back pay, Phillips has no desire to return to CWM. He is now with TRICON Garage as the rear-end specialist for Dean Thompson’s No. 5.

Costner says he shares Phillips’ frustration about Weaver’s lack of communication.

“Between the end-of-year party and now, I’ve talked to him about five or six times,” Costner says. “He would say, ‘I’ll call you later,’ and he wouldn’t. I appreciate his backing from last year, but I cannot do this anymore. The last conversation we had, I said, ‘If you make things right with everyone else, then we can have a conversation.’”

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Acknowledging he is a hard person to contact, Weaver contests their displeasure with his communication. He claims he has talked to both Costner and Phillips within the last month; he spoke to Costner the night Frontstretch interviewed him, minutes after this interview ended. He says still intends to pay his bills.

“When you deal with state funding, our season was based on this large project,” Weaver says. “I don’t have control of when I will get that check. Darrell is a great guy, I have nothing bad to say about the guy. He is owed a couple of paychecks. I’ve let him know where we stand on finances. I know that he has been told where we stand and I know he has been told he will get paid when that money comes in.

“I’ve had conversations with him about that. I don’t talk to him regularly because the answer is going to be the same every time. I made it pretty clear on that. Again, I respect how he feels and what he thinks about it. Let’s talk about this again three months down the road; let’s see if everybody gets paid, ’cause I know they will. I am obligated to pay what I need to pay, and I’ve always said that I will.

“My business must keep going, so when I’m waiting on certain deals in development, I’m scraping bottom for a while. There are people who will be loyal to you and understand it, and there will be people who aren’t loyal to you and don’t understand it. At the end of the day, regardless of whether someone is owed money, loyal or not loyal, they’ll still get paid by me. I’ve never not paid a person before in my life.”

Weaver says he budgeted $500,000 to spend on the team, but Costner says he has funded the whole season thus far. According to Costner, he legally owns everything of the team sans Wilson’s equipment in the organization. Money was not going to be a problem, according to what the team budgeted for the season.

“Even when Aaron sent money, he sent it to Costner Motorsports,” Costner adds. “Aaron did not fulfill something with the crew chief, he left Caleb and the team hanging. The money was supposed to come from a different avenue. When it didn’t come, it had to be supplemented with funds that weren’t planned to be spent. I’ve made it last a little longer than I thought I could or would, and I’m thankful for all the people who’ve worked with me. I was left fumbling when I normally am a prepared person. Aaron is the one who has caused this entire thing.”

Costner will pilot the No. 93 in the upcoming East race at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway with a full sponsor onboard. That entry, and Wilson in the No. 39, will remain full time in East. Costner will run other select national tour races, including Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“We’re going to show up to every race that we can and compete at the highest level that we can,” Costner says.

Weaver attests he too would have done things differently in hindsight.

“If I did things again, I would have committed to what we did last year and I wouldn’t have hired a full-time crew chief,” he says. “I would have done it exactly the way we did last year, maybe run a couple of extra races, and I then would have budgeted into next year that we had secured our funding, we had it in the bank, and maybe increased the funding for this year then too.

“If I got that check wired into my bank tomorrow, I’d be calling Caleb up first thing. I would tell him, ‘Remember when I told you I would pay you? This came through and I’m here.’ Who’s going to turn down money, right? I’d pay Darrell his money and we’d move on. That’s what money does to people.”

About the author

Mark Kristl joined Frontstretch at the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season. He is the site's ARCA Menards Series editor. Kristl is also an Eagle Scout and a proud University of Dayton alum.

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