A Brand New DealIt’s been months in the making. The negotiations between NASCAR and the owners of Sprint Cup Series teams has been intense. The goal for both was a system where the owners can have more of a stance in the sport. They wanted to know their investments were sound and would be protected. NASCAR wanted to know they would have teams and cars for racing. Both sides would use the union to be more marketable for everything from corporate partners to TV networks.
“The new team owner agreements will offer a more appealing environment for both current and prospective team owners at the NASCAR premier series level,” said NASCAR CEO Brian France. “I’ve always stressed that if we can do things to improve the business of our stakeholders, we will pursue it. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished today with this agreement.”
The underlying idea was to make better, longer term deals with and for everyone involved. Similar systems are already in place in other major sports. However, NASCAR’s new Charter system is a long term agreement, and will run nine years and end up coinciding with the 10 year TV packages recently signed.
There are several visible changes. The Daytona 500 (and all races from here on out) will roll off with a new number of entrants. Only 40 will start instead of the usual 43. And of those starting 40 spots, 36 will be Charter members or holders. That means only four cars will be allowed in to round out the starting field. Of those 36 charters, 19 teams will hold those charters.
The criteria for being awarded a charter was the performance of a team for the past three years. As such, new teams in the past two years were not included. Two notable ones were the Joe Gibbs team of Carl Edwards and the Stewart Haas team of Kurt Busch. They were able to buy charters earned by the now defunct Waltrip Racing. The charters were sold by Waltrip’s principle partner to Gibbs and Stewart so they are now locked in. Another team that earned a charter, Premium Motorsports, worked out a deal with HScott Motorsports.
One very famous team that was, in effect, hung out to dry, was the Wood Brothers. They’ve been a part-time team for more than three years and did not receive a Charter. The exclusion of one of NASCAR’s oldest team was not well received by fans. And as the Wood Brothers return to full time racing this season, they’ll have to make their way into every race on speed as one of the four fastest, non-Charter teams.
A Charter guarantees entry into the field of every Sprint Cup Series points race. Starting lineups will still be determined by qualifying speeds. The system is believed by most to have come about as a result of the creation of the Race Team Alliance (RTA) and the desire by owners to have a say in what goes on and how they can consolidate expenses. The timing was right as NASCAR needs to be more open and involved with the teams to fix problems as soon as they surface.
Other changes that came about with the Charter system are a little harder to see. Charter owners can transfer their Charter to another team, for one full season, once over the first five years of the agreement. Charters can also be sold and bought. Charter teams have a performance standard to maintain and any team finishing in the bottom three of the 36 Charter teams for three straight seasons may lose their charter. The winnings of each team from races will no longer be posted. Speaking of winnings, the Charter system promises to include higher race purses, performance/consistency based rewards and a better points payoff at the end of the season.
“The new Charter program strengthens each of our businesses individually and the team model as a whole, which is good for NASCAR, our fans, drivers, sponsors and the thousands of people who we employ,” said Rob Kauffman, co-owner of Chip Ganassi Racing. “This will give us more stability and predictability, and it will allow us to take a more progressive, long-term approach to issues.”
As NASCAR seems to be climbing out of their personal attendance basement of the past few years, this could stabilize and help long term growth. NASCAR is continuing to work on presenting more and better racing to the fans so the potential for growth once again seems possible. A strong late season drive is hoped to continue into the new season. And, as the search for a new series sponsor for 2017 is ongoing, the new Charter system should help provide greater stabilization and fan interest.