NASCAR Cup Series
Where NASCAR charter talks, driver silly season currently stand
NASCAR Cup Series

Where NASCAR charter talks, driver silly season currently stand

Published May. 6, 2024 11:41 a.m. ET

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — NASCAR free agency in 2024 is as much about the teams as it is the drivers.

NASCAR's charter agreement — its version of a franchise — with the team owners expires after the 2024 season. When — if? — a new agreement is signed will impact when and where drivers who are on the move can make decisions.

So in addition to keeping an eye on driver-team negotiations, there is a lot of focus on the team owner-NASCAR negotiations when looking at potential movement in the sport. Here are the key elements to follow, as the month of May typically is the time teams start making decisions about any openings they need to fill on the driver or sponsorship side.

Negotiations between the team owners and NASCAR have been at a standstill since January, so when NASCAR Chief Operating Officer Steve O'Donnell said at a sports business conference last month that they were "very close," it took some owners by surprise.


NASCAR met with the Team Owners Council on Wednesday, and those in attendance indicated there was no progress. The 36 charter team owners all voluntarily contribute — there is no requirement to join — to the Race Team Alliance to give them a collective voice and operate programs to benefit the teams.

They also have designated four team executives — Hendrick vice chairman Jeff Gordon, Joe Gibbs Racing president David Alpern, RFK Racing president Steve Newmark and 23XI co-owner/Michael Jordan business manager Curtis Polk — as their "team negotiating committee" — but NASCAR has opted to talk to individual owners rather than the committee in recent months.

The teams want a higher percentage of media rights (currently they get 25 percent through the purse) and a percentage of future revenues (such as gambling rights) that NASCAR brings in. But they also want permanent charters, which NASCAR has told the teams that it won't do since its media rights deals aren't permanent.

The key for the teams will be staying united in a sport where the sanctioning body, track owners, teams and drivers all feel they should receive a certain share of revenues.

"It's just a tough situation," said driver/team co-owner Denny Hamlin. "Every team does want alittle different things here and there. ... This is such an important thing — we've had 11 teams go out of business since 2016. That's not good.

"And certainly, if we continue on the trend on a couple stakeholders doing really well and one not, that will continue and that's not good for our sport."

As charter negotiations continue to seem stalled, how are the teams going to remain united?

NASCAR declined comment on the talks.

Teams that want to sell charters obviously are having discussions with buyers assuming that the deal eventually gets done.

The biggest team that is at least listening to offers to sell charters is Stewart-Haas Racing. Currently, a four-car team, the organization has not renewed its Ford deal yet for next year, and it has sent prospective buyers information on what it would take to purchase a charter.

There are several teams that want charters to expand. Those include Trackouse Racing, Legacy Motor Club, 23XI Racing and possibly Front Row Motorsports.

Front Row, if it expands, also likely would need more space. SHR, which has two big buildings (one a Cup shop, the other that has served as the Haas Formula 1 U.S headquarters), also could sell one of its buildings if it downsizes.

Trackhouse is the one organization that might need charters the most as it currently has four drivers under contract but only two Cup charters. It has loaned Zane Smith to Spire Motorsports for this year and Shane van Gisbergen is doing a full Xfinity Series and partial Cup schedule on loan to Kaulig Racing.

As far as drivers, these are the ones with the most uncertainty about next season:

--Martin Truex Jr. is in his annual "do I return or don't I" phase. A decision isn't expected soon. If he retires, it does open up a spot at JGR with no definitive replacement in the JGR pipeline. Chandler Smith (Xfinity) and Corey Heim (trucks) are the top JGR/Toyota prospects.

--All of the SHR drivers (Chase Briscoe, Josh Berry, Noah Gragson and Ryan Preece). Without knowing what will happen to the organization, there will be questions. Briscoe and Berry would be the most likely ones to stay if the team downsizes, and Gragson has surged over the last month. Preece is in the last year of his SHR deal. 

--Daniel Suarez is in an option year, but the win at Atlanta should help. His only issue could be if Trackhouse doesn't land additional charters and wants both Smith and van Gisbergen in Cup next year. 

--Michael McDowell talked to other teams last year, but Front Row picked up his option. If he looks to make a move for 2025, among the teams looking would be Spire, assuming that Trackhouse brings Smith in-house next year.

--Harrison Burton is in the last year of his contract and with his continued struggles, his return to Wood Brothers Racing (which has an alliance with Team Penske) seems unlikely at the moment.

Chase Elliot on the transition to NASCAR’s Next-Gen car

--Of the drivers looking to go Cup racing from the Xfinity or trucks, the most likely ones who would be candidates for rides would be Chandler Smith, Riley Herbst, Cole Custer, Sam Mayer and possibly Sammy Smith as well as van Gisbergen, depending on his development.

One driver who is off the market is Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who last week signed a multiyear contract extension with JTG Daugherty Racing.

JTG Daugherty appears to be a team in transition. Team founder Tad Geschickter was not quoted in the news release announcing Stenhouse and has repeatedly declined comment since October on the ownership structure and his involvement with the team.

Gordon Smith, who has been a co-owner and investor in the team, was quoted as the "owner" in the Stenhouse news release with former NBA star Brad Daugherty continuing as a co-owner. The team said they had no comment on the ownership structure.

"I like where we're at," Stenhouse said. "We've got a solid plan moving forward. It's nice to get that done. ... I can't comment exactly what is going on with sponsorship stuff, but the race team is working very hard on that.

"My main focus right now, and my team's focus right now, is to continue to run well."

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including over 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.


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